FEBRUARY 22, 2010
If you recall my review of Sorority Row from when I saw it in theaters, you'd know that I thought the film was better than expected; a fun, mildly anachronistic (in a good way) slasher that, like Black Xmas, delivered some mean-spirited laughs and slightly kooky deaths via a cast of women I have no problem looking at for 90 minutes (which is one of the film's minor problems, as it's an occasionally sluggish 104). Does it contribute anything meaningful to the genre? No. Did anyone involved think that they WERE? Absolutely not, and the DVD's bonus features prove it.
The meatiest of the supplemental materials (save the commentary, obviously) is a just-under 20 minute look at the film's inception/production/themes, courtesy of director Stewart Hendler and screenwriters Josh Stolberg & Pete Goldfinger. I was initially ready to smack these guys, especially when one of them, when discussing iconic costumes (which the film sorely lacks), mentions "Freddy Krueger and his hockey mask". But they prove to have an enjoyable sense of humor and lack of pretension about the whole thing (don't bother knocking the rather forced shower scene and subsequent kill - they agree it makes no sense, and it was apparently a studio demanded addition to get another kill in the first act). Note, as is the case with pretty much all of the supplements, there are major spoilers, so don't watch them before the film (I know, I've never heard of anyone doing such a thing, but in a world where people like Zombie's Halloween more than the original, I can't count on anything being "obvious" anymore).
The other big one is a piece featuring most of the female cast, which awkwardly shifts from the girls being "in character" to not and back again. It's mildly enjoyable seeing them discuss how different they are from their characters (Leah Pipes plays a mega-bitch, but one of the other girls reveals that Pipes likes to sit quietly knitting in her free time), but the schizo editing dampens its appeal.
Then we get a handful of deleted scenes and outtakes, none of which are essential/funny. Summit has also provided a handy "Kill Switch" in which you can watch all of the film's kill scenes back to back, which unfortunately just reminds you of how rather tame they are with regards to blood and splatter. For what I think has to be the first time ever, this modern studio slasher film does not have an "Unrated" version for its DVD release, so I guess it was always a bit on the tame side. The kills themselves are good (everyone gets something to the mouth - heh), but they lack that over-the-top quality that made Black Xmas and My Bloody Valentine 3D such a joy.
And of course, the commentary track, which is provided by Hendler as well as Pipes, Briana Evigan, Rumer Willis, and Margo Harshman. As much as the idea of getting four attractive women in a room together might sound great, I wish they had let Hendler do his own track, because more often than not, he is trying to point something out and is interrupted by one (or more) of the girl saying something rather silly. The talking over each other mixed with the audio of the film makes it a bit hard to concentrate on ANYTHING being said, and making things worse, the commentary is presented Picture In Picture, which cannot be turned off as far as I can tell. So you get this little window with the 5 of them next to each other, which is so tiny it's impossible to see their features (I couldn't tell Evigan from Willis unless they went for a closeup, which is still too tiny). Mallrats did this sort of thing much better, ten years ago! And apparently some players don't even have the PiP capability, so I don't know if that means those folks can just listen to the commentary normally, or not at all. Either way, it's entertaining for a little while, but you're going to spare yourself some annoyances by skipping around and taking it in small doses.
So it's a pretty average package for a JUST slightly above average modern slasher. Not sure if the standard def DVD has the same extras, but Summit did a fantastic job with the AV presentation (but not the cover art - where's the awesome "pile of bodies" theatrical art?). Not only are all of the extras in high def (yay!) but the film itself looks incredible, and the DTS master audio track is clear and engaging, particularly during the inferno climax. Based on the comments I got on my original review, it seems a lot of fans enjoyed the film's old-school approach, and, as I said then, remaking a less-than-memorable original seems to remove most of the instant-anger that clouds the judgment of many when they watch remakes, allowing them to enjoy it on its own merits instead of constantly comparing it to a "classic" film. It's not a movie you'll want to watch over and over, but it's a fun flick all the same. And since the entire thing is set in a house, it should play great at home.
What say you?