The Row (2018)

OCTOBER 15, 2020


If they could have just held out a few more months, Moviepass could have saved some face and blamed the pandemic for their bankruptcy and total shutdown of operations. Years from now it'll be a punchline on par with Qwikster and the Virtual Boy, but those of us who lived through it (I was an original member, from the days where we got printed vouchers to use instead of the debit card) might recall that at one point things were looking so bright for them that they helped finance a few movies. One of them was Gotti, which was the most high profile, but they also found time to toss a few bucks into The Row, a sorority slasher starring Randy Couture, a phrase that should already send up the red flags. If your high profile star for a sorority-set movie is a 55 year old bald man, you're doing something wrong and deserve to be a footnote in Moviepass' laughable history.

Sadly this is not a movie where the fighting legend has to don a disguise and join a sorority, because that would have at least been so awful/wrong on a conceptual level that the movie would inspire the same kind of ironic love that has benefited, well, Gotti. No, he's just the father of one of the sorority pledges, and also a cop on suspension after a botched drug bust left one of his fellow officers dead. The amount of time spent on this early sequence had me thinking that one of the drug dealers would turn slasher and go after his daughter (and her friends, of course) for revenge, but no - I think it was just added to give Couture some traditional action beats to play out. It certainly doesn't have any real bearing on the plot; his suspension means he has to do his investigation on the down low, but it barely affects anything. At one point his daughter even visits him at the station - imagine getting suspended but still going to your office!

As for the slasher stuff, the killer is naturally going after sorority girls, and seems to be making some kind of doll from their body parts, as the various girls are found without a leg or whatever. Couture's daughter, Riley (Lala Kent from Vanderpump Rules) finds one body during a hazing ritual, but is otherwise pretty disconnected from the killer's deeds, barely even knowing the victims (makes sense since she's a pledge). Instead she spends most of the movie trying to find out more about her mother, who was in that same sorority and later committed suicide. Whenever she grills Couture about it he clams up, and the house mother also looks troubled when Riley asks about her - COULD IT BE CONNECTED TO THE PRESENT DAY MURDERS?

Only the dimmest viewer could have any other theories, and you don't need to be much smarter to instantly identify the killer when he is introduced, because he's nice. Despite how obvious it is, they still do that thing where the killer is injured during one of his attacks and later the character has a cut in the same spot, yet the script by (who cares) still feels the need to wait another five minutes to actually have him come out and admit he's the murderer. There's some nonsense about an app (described as "Tinder but for greeks") that requires an invite, which pegs the app developer as a potential suspect because he was seen with some of the girls, but I can't imagine anyone ever believing it for a second. And that's the BEST of its attempts at subterfuge.

But the real problem isn't the easy mystery, because I've been able to quickly peg the murderer for several slashers I still enjoyed (Happy Death Day comes to mind, and the recent School Spirit) and the movie doesn't even try to come up with too many other possibilities anyway. No, the real issue is that it completely bungles the slasher element AND the setting, to the extent where it feels more like a serial killer thriller than a traditional slasher. So much time is spent on Couture looking at photographs and butting heads with other cops that we barely spend any time in the sorority house, and in turn/more importantly, its residents are also left by the wayside. There aren't a lot of kill scenes, but they're all pretty much the same - a girl comes home and gets killed fairly quickly. No chasing, no stalking, and worst of all, no other victims - at one point the killer waits until the guy leaves to make his move, which gives the film a misogynist slant that does it no favors. Unless he has a specific beef with each of his victims, there's no excuse to not have some collateral damage - not only does it curb the body count, it denies us the sight of a few dead frat guys in the process! But the killer here only really has an issue with Riley, and she doesn't even really know most of the girls he kills, so it makes no sense that he doesn't off a few bros as well.

So it's either a slasher without any good stalk scenes, a serial killer thriller without a pulse, or a mystery where most children could peg the killer. No matter what it's wholly unsatisfying, ugly to look at (perhaps it's because of Kent's presence that it often resembles an overly lit reality show?), and a waste of money Moviepass could have used to keep the lights on for another week or two. The most interesting thing about it is how many of its actors ("actors") have appeared in those terrible Bruce Willis VOD movies where he shows up for like five scenes because this shares some producers, which got me thinking that it's very possible he was offered Couture's role at one point. If so he probably balked at having to appear in more than two locations (if you watch any of that crap, take note of how Willis' scenes tend to keep him confined to one or two primary locations, because they usually only have him for a couple days and don't want to waste precious time shuttling him around). And sadly it wouldn't have even been the worst thing on his resume if he took the check.

The killer's mask is pretty cool though, I'll give it that much. Kind of ironic since he didn't need it.

What say you?


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