Tuesday, 7 March 2017

BITE-SIZED REVIEW: The House On Sorority Row (1983)

Written and directed by Marc Rosman, The House On Sorority Row is a late entry in the first wave of slasher flicks in the early eighties. A mix of Hitchcockian suspense and slasher tropes, The House On Sorority Row is more successful when it is doing its own thing rather than following the slasher formula.

A sorority house prepares for its final party before the members head off to adulthood. Their angry, eccentric house mother Mrs Slater is tired of their shenanigans and demands that they leave the house.

The girls play a prank on the old woman, which causes her to have a heart attack and die. While the party cranks up, the girls try to get rid of the old woman's body by hiding it at the bottom of the dirty disused pool out back.

As the party cranks up, the girls discover Ms Slater's body has disappeared. And then the girls begin to disappear, one by one...

Far more elegant than its exploitive poster would suggest, the movie is pretty stylish (Rosman had  worked with Brian De Palma beforehand, and that influence is pretty clear), and boasts solid performances from the young cast. It also possesses a few dashes of dark wit (there's a scene where the girls try to get the body off the property in the rubbish bin -- until they accidentally push it into a police car).

The movie's story is basically a take-off on Bob Clarke's 1974 proto-slasher Black Christmas. It's not as good as that movie, but Rosman manages to throw in some interesting twists to stop the movie getting predictable.

The third act provides a nice twist on the Dr Lomis character, with a maniacal shrink who drugs the final girl to trap the villain. It's a nice twist, and the fact that she is incapacitated adds a nice dose of tension to the final showdown (Rosman throws in some creepy hallucinations of the dead housemates mocking her which adds to the atmosphere).

On its own terms The House On Sorority Row is a pretty enjoyable watch. Its digressions from the cookie cutter formula of its sub genre ensure that it is far more entertaining (and scary) than the usual 'horny teens chased by a maniac' plots of most slashers.

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