CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS: Whenever I revert to my slasher habit, I always worry about all of the delicate little flowers out there I'm going to offend by spending blog energy on "that trash." It's low culture, it's juvenile, etc., etc. But now I just figure: those bitches don't read past the blog post title anyway, so fuck 'em. This is for those who, like myself, appreciate the subtle nuances and artistry of the slasher genre.Budgeted at a mere $425K and later raking in nearly $4.5M within a month of its initial release, this oft-forgotten slasher nugget is, like most in the genre, flawed. The acting from many actresses is questionable, and the role of the house mother, which is one of the main characters, was completely (and noticeably) dubbed. However, the director of this film obviously had high aspirations. Unlike most slasher films, the set-up is quite gothic (a house mother with a secret; a crazy mongoloid in the attic) and the director seemed to be going for a Dario Argento type atmosphere. Argento is an Italian director known (by me at least) for his over the top Giallo slasher operas (the best known in America is probably Suspiria) which don't make much sense but look stunning. To balance out the bad you've got a film with a sense of humor, several comedic scenes, and some great chase and murder sequences, all followed by the obligatory final girl showdown and ambiguous ending. Also, in this film you at least buy into the premise: a group of stupid sorority girls, led like sheep by their bitchy head sorority sister, make a really bad decision after a prank goes awry and wind up paying the ultimate price for their bad choice. The rest of the film takes place on the day of the big graduation party being held at the sorority house, so you've got a lot of funny 80s hair, an insufferable 80s party band, and a group of sorority sisters with the most ridiculously convoluted sense of 80s fashion I've ever witnessed in one film. It's a good romp through to the end, and it contains the critical element of all the great 80s slasher films: it's FUN.
Fast forward to 9/11/2009 and the hot flaming mess that is Sorority Row. Loosely based on the original, it too is flawed, which, when it comes to this genre, is beside the point. This movie has the same sheen as I Know What You Did Last Summer and films of that ilk: its frame of reference appears to be the mid 90s. I mean, look at that poster for heaven's sake; you don't get more 90s than that. In its favor, there are some creative kills and quite a bit of man candy running around drunk and nearly naked. Also, it stars Carrie Fisher as the house mother, and any movie that stars Carrie Fisher as anything is all right in my book. Primary problems with this film are as follows: 1. The characters are all vile, so you never care which ones get bumped off and which ones don't. Since the sorority sisters are all skanky ho bags that appear to hate one another from the get go, the whole premise of them "sticking together to keep a secret to cover each others' asses" doesn't add up, and doesn't carry the movie. 2. It comes off as a vehicle for Rumer Willis, when the character she plays is only marginal until, inexplicably at the end, after sniveling and shrieking and being annoyingly weak throughout the entire movie, she experiences a last-minute power girl transformation, turns Die Hard and blows somebody away, for no apparent reason other than she's Bruce Willis's daughter. 3. While the film gives a couple of nods to the original, some story elements are obvious parallels, and there's some attempt at comedy with funny dialogue ("I'm going to the basement to turn on the power." "Ok, well I'm gonna go take a shower then."), it's played completely straight and nasty, so it's hard to tell where the irony is supposed to be planted, or if it's supposed to be there at all. 4. While some of the kills are respectably unique and gross, most of them are L-A-M-E! Never good for a slasher movie. Also, CGI kills (when done badly, as they are in this movie) just aren't that entertaining or disturbing. They seem watered down, and since this is a SLASHER movie, the kills need to be disturbing, not easy to digest. 5. Final problem is, it's one of those 90s-styled "slasher mysteries" where there are a dozen twists and turns until the end, when finally the killer is revealed, then there's a final battle, not between a Final Girl and the killer, but between the killer and 1. the Final Girl, 2. a friend, and 3. a random character thrown in to ensure a sequel. During the final battle, the killer all of sudden can't fight for shit and gets offed.
And herein lies the rub for me: I realize it's a generational thing. Those of us from Gen X and the original wave of slasher flicks liked our solo Final Girls because we're self-directed, results oriented latch key kids and we like to finish the job on our own. Gen Y, on the other hand, are all collaborative and shit, and they like to solve their problems (including their psycho killer problems) together. So, since Sorority Row is not aimed at a middle aged homosexual like myself, but at Millenials who totally have a whole different way of approaching the world and problem solving, and also apparently need everything carefully explained to them, and also apparently can't deal with ambiguity in their endings, I can't really apparently, in good faith, fault it for messing with the Final Girl thing. Even though the Final Girl is one of the primary tropes of the genre, but whatever, have it your way Gen Y you little wimps. Ultimately, the film approaches High Camp because it's pretty ridiculous, and for a slasher film, that's a GOOD THING! But in the final slasher analysis, the film fails because the scariness diminishes (instead of builds) as the film progresses, and any fun derived from it comes from the camp factor, which was unintentional.
WINNER: THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1983). Put it in your Netflix queue! It doesn't appear to be available to rent on dvd, but you can stream it on your PS3 or Xbox! :)