Sorority Row (2009)

AUGUST 28, 2009


A lot of my fellow journalists (I use the term incredibly loosely on both accounts) were annoyed about having back to back screenings for back to back junkets, but I think it was pretty brilliant on Summit Entertainment’s part. After the crushing bore that was Whiteout, a goddamn documentary about telephone wire would seem fun, let alone something like Sorority Row, which followed the Black Xmas template of hiring 5-6 incredibly cute CW-ready stars, putting them in a house where they act catty with one another, and then having someone kill them in a film that borrows the concept but little else from an old-school slasher film.

But unlike Black Christmas (the original I mean), the original House On Sorority Row isn’t often heralded as one of the all time best entries in the sub-genre, so hopefully people won’t be as harsh toward this one. It’s nothing spectacular, but like Xmas, it offers up traditional slasher fun without any of the Scream-type humor of the late 90s films (which this often feels like) or excessive brutality like a lot of modern ones. The kills are bloody, yes, but not vicious. After seeing H2’s overkill (“Why stab someone once when you can stab them 34 times?” Rob Zombie seems to be thinking), it’s nice to see a simple impaling every now and then.

It’s also refreshingly fast-paced. The prank that sets up the I Know What You Did Last Summer-esque plot occurs in the first 5 minutes, with the slasher claiming his/her first kill a few scenes later. The original took FOREVER to get to this point, and there was a lot of dilly-dally after that (then again, it had a slightly more complicated plot). And at first I was afraid that the compact cast (six girls) would mean a low body count, but it’s actually about double that (and they’re not extraneous kills either, given the killer’s motive).

I do have two issues. This first one isn’t spoiler-y, but the next one is, so a heads up now (I will warn you again later). My biggest problem with the original was that the killer had this really creepy Jester costume that you never saw until the end of the film. I was hoping that the remake would make up for this and put him in a few scenes at least. But no! The costume isn’t used at all, and worse - it’s just a big hooded coat like in Urban Legend. I don’t know why so many modern slashers are so reluctant to even try to make an interesting, costume-worthy killer, but that seems to be the case. Then again, I guess it makes the occasional memorable killer (like Chromeskull from Laid To Rest, or Babyface from The Hills Run Red) look even more badass in comparison.

OK, here’s the sort of spoiler-y part. Without actually saying who it is, I just want to say that the identity of the killer is a bit of a letdown. It’s not a cheat, like Ben Willis from IKWYDLS (a character who was never even mentioned until about two minutes before his reveal), but it’s equally as anticlimactic, because it’s someone we didn’t really give a shit about; a red herring character at best who most slasher fans will probably assume will be found dead as a surprise (like Pacey in Urban Legend). Oddly, I had actually guessed the motive for the killer, but the wrong person. It’s nice to be wrong with these things, but I’d rather have it be someone I canceled out as a suspect for being too obvious (Billy in Scream, for example) than someone I never even considered because I couldn’t even remember the character’s name.

As for the surprising R rating (I thought for sure this would be a PG-13 deal), it’s well-earned, though if you’re hoping for lots of nudity you’re shit out of luck. None of the main girls disrobe (though Jamie Chung offers a brief side boob), instead only a couple of the random house girls are seen topless. Some of the deaths are pretty gory, and follow Happy Birthday To Me’s template of being somewhat goofy (there are at least two deaths via something being forced in someone’s mouth). And (and this is what really won me over), the girls swear like sailors. Hell, even Carrie Fisher has a potty mouth. But unlike Zombie’s Halloween, the girls (particularly Harshman) sound natural when they swear, and don’t get excessive with it. Plus, some of them ARE bitches, so it makes sense to call each other that every now and then.

I know this won’t be a favorite among anyone, because it’s so by the numbers, but dammit, I miss this sort of “nothing special” slasher movie. So many of them nowadays are fixed on gimmicks, or 3D, or trying to outdo one of the other films - it’s nice to see one that’s simply a traditional slasher movie. It even has a nonsensical sequel setup, another tradition that’s been somewhat phased out. Well played.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. YES! This is exactly what I wanted Sorority Row to be, I can't wait to see this.

  2. Wow between this review and a few other positives I saw on it, I've totally changed my mind on seeing this. I thought for sure it'd be a clunker but now it sounds like it'll be right up my alley.

  3. I really liked this movie, too! It was a solid throwback to that early '80s slasher style with some snappy, snarky dialogue and nasty kills to go with it.

  4. I was hoping for a little more nudity considering how much we were treated to in F13th and My Bloody Valentine. Oh well, I'm sure I'll like it anyway. Thanks for the heads up I will have to go see this instead of Whiteout this week.

  5. "By the numbers", "Nothing special", "Nonsensical"...and you LIKED IT!?!?!?! Now I know you're hatin on Zombie just to hate!!!

  6. A big mac is nothing special and by the numbers... doesn't mean I won't devour one. I'm merely pointing out that the film knows what it is and doesn't try to be anything but. And compared to something like H2, where a hillbilly writer thinks he's being artsy by throwing a fucking white horse into the movie, then yeah, it's generic-ness was actually appreciated.

    And since I've said numerous times that I like both remakes (obviously) and Rob Zombie's other films (Devils Rejects being my favorite film of 2005) then I'm not sure how you figure I am hating on him just to hate. If anything I've given him more of benefit of the doubt than anyone else. You know anyone else who went to see H2 3x in theaters despite not really liking it that much? Christ.

  7. Nobody goes to see a movie they don't like 3 times in the theater. Your mind is telling you to hate it but your heart tells you that this is love. Follow your's okay to open up...I'm here for ya!

    And...a Big Mac is something special! But if you went to Bob's Burger Shack and he handed you a burger with the same exact 2 all beef patties, special sauce, etc, etc...and called it a Big Bob, you'd be like, "Motherfucker!? Why you trying to pass this shit off as your own with the same shit in it? At least put some hot peppers on it, or some bacon!"

    Rob Zombie took HALLOWEEN and added the peppers and definitely add the motherfuckin bacon!

    By the way...I DO like your site!

  8. Agreed. It's a hell of a lot of fun and it's nice to just see a dumb fun slasher flick for a change rather than all these horror flicks that are trying so hard to be serious and failing. This one knows exactly what it is and it's not ashamed to admit it.

  9. Great review. I felt the same as you did BC. I hated the motive but still found it to be a fun ride. I Hope more people give it a chance as I would love to see a sequel.

  10. Great, I was banking on this to be total crap, but I guess I am going to have to buy it when it inevitably drops below a $1 on Amazon..

    I 100% agree with the nostalgic appeal of by the books Slasher films, where would we all be without Happy Birthday to Me, the original House on Sorority Row, or even The Prowler, none of which stray from the path? I had no intention of checking this one out, but Ill take your word on it BC

  11. Completely on board with you about this one. It was refreshing to watch a classic slasher setup that had it's own sense of style and clever moments, despite the generic nature of it all. I had a good time with it, but it could have been shorter. :)

  12. I just watched this movie the other day and while I agree with what you said about it being fast paced, I think towards the end of the movie dragged on a bit. I was ready to find out who the killer was. Then you supposedly find out. But no it's someone else. By that time I just wanted it to end.

  13. Having just watched it, I can appreciate this review. Sorrority Row is nothing special and seems like a IKWYDLS knock-off with a 'wtf' killer, a lousy drawn-out ending and clearly, not enough skin but it was a fun watch.

  14. I was hoping I'd find a review on this movie in this (can I just say) awesome blog. Truly hoping that it would reflect on the movie as I did. I was also thoroughly surprised by this movie. I got it and thought "mwah, it was cheap so don't really care if I don't really like it". But me and a friend I was watching this were in awe by the opening, which was really well worked out. After that it became more of a slasher but that was ok cuz that is what I expected. The ending was indeed crappy but most things that happened before that were well worked out! Thanks for reviewing this movie.


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