*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- Where Nothing Is Off Limits
Release Date- January 21st, 1983
Running Time- 91-Minutes
Writer/Director- Mark Rosman
Starring- Kate McNeil, Eileen Davidson, Robin Meloy, Jodi Draigie, Harley Jane Kozak, Ellen Dorsher, Lois Kelso Hunt, Christopher Lawrence
By the time The House on Sorority Row was released in 1983 the slasher film, while still going strong was starting to hit a slight decline. After the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978 the slasher craze started and after the success of Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th in 1980 if anyone had any doubts on how financially successful these movies could be were erased. The 80s was very much the decade of the slasher flick with 1981 being the golden year with some of the post popular of the sub-genre being released and while the slasher film would continue through the 80s by the time House on Sorority Row came out these films were already heavily cliched even if still enjoyable. The House on Sorority Row was sort of middle of the pack when it comes to early 80s slasher flicks and while the film is fairly well made, but its bogged down by too many clichés that were starting to take their toll on the slasher flick by this time. I think even the biggest fans of the slasher even have to admit by this time things were getting a little stale, but House on Sorority Row has gained a nice cult following and while I don’t hold it in as high regard as some its still an entertaining flick despite any flaws.
After a few sorority sisters play a prank on the house mother and she ends up dead and the accidental death is attempted to be covered up and now the sorority sisters are being stalked and killed by an unseen killer could it the house mother Dorothy Slater (Hunt) whose body is now missing? The prank gone wrong plot is one of the more popular plots for these movies as it was something seen in The Burning, Terror Train & To All a Goodnight as well as a whole bunch more, but it’s still an interesting premise even if not original.
The screenplay by Mark Rosman has its moments, but the characters are a bit weak in general and are only there to add to the body count. Rosman wanted to a slasher movie that avoided the graphic violence and nudity, which isn’t such a bad idea, but the characters aren’t strong enough to fully carry the movie. In general they lack their own identity and are mostly interchangeable. Granted slasher movies aren’t known for having deep and complex characters, which is ok when making a splatter flick, but the lack of depth for the characters do at times hinder the script. Katherine (McNeil) makes for a solid if not a little boring final girl. I liked the character, but she’s the typical final girl. Vicki (Davidson) is the most entertaining character and no matter how cliched the bitchy character always seems to work. While the idea isn’t original, Rosman is able to make it work better than perhaps it should have and despite the shortcomings of the script it is stronger than the bulk of 80s slashers.
As director Mark Rosman delivers a fairly well made if not a bit underwhelming film. At only 93-minutes the film is a bit sluggish in its pacing at times and overall the film is a bit un-even. House on Sorority Row does lack some of the excitement often found in these films and it also mostly lack gore, which isn’t a must, but something this film could have benefited from. Rosman does make more out of the movie than there was and I liked what he was attempting to do. Rather than make a gore filled movie he focuses more on characters and suspense, but by 1983 all that could have been explored in these films had been done and the movie probably would have worked far better if it came out a couple of years earlier. Also as stated the characters weren’t strong enough to carry the picture when there are lulls in the action. There is some decent suspense and it also serves as a decent mystery as well. The 2nd half of the film does get a bit gorier, but only problem was the F/X weren’t all that great and it does hurt the death scenes. Overall despite the problems I had with the film, Rosman delivers a solid film and even with the flaws I enjoyed it for the most part.
Overall despite any complaints I have with the House on Sorority Row I do enjoy the film and while I wouldn’t rate it as one of the best 80s slasher films it is a solid and enjoyable movie. My review may not be overly glowing, but its worth a watch and again despite my problems with the film I do enjoy it and I think most slasher fans will also find enjoyment out of the movie.