(A.k.a. THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW)
Six girl friends of Theta Pi sorority house play a prank on Garrett (Matt O'Leary), the cheating younger brother of one of the group. Convincing him that he's killed his girlfriend Megan (Audrina Partridge) by feeding her too many sex-enhancing drugs, the girls offer to help him dispose of the body so he can avoid going to prison.
They drive out to a mineshaft and suggest that Megan's corpse needs to be hacked apart and dumped down the shaft, so they can stick to the story of her going missing. Garrett is in such a state of shock that he doesn't notice Megan giggling on the floor. As the remaining girls continue to wind him up by searching for something sharp to "cut" Megan up with, Garrett suddenly shocks them all by plunging a tyre iron into her chest. Mass panic ensues as the girls reveal their prank to the horrified Garrett, before deciding that now they really must dump Megan's dead body in the shaft to protect their own futures. The group perform this deed and, after much moral debate and squabbling, agree to take this sordid secret to their collective graves.
Which may be sooner than they think ...
The film then skips to eight months later, and the girls are graduating in senior year. Super bitch Jessica (Leah Pipes) has continued to preside over geeky Ellie (Rumer Willis), bookish Claire (Jamie Chung) and Garrett's slutty older sister Chugs (Margo Harshman). Meanwhile Cassidy (Briana Evigan), the most reserved and morally balanced of the group, has distanced herself from her "sisters" and instead found comfort in goody-goody boyfriend Andy (Julian Morris).
But a series of sinister events start to bring the group back together. They begin with Ellie seeing what she believes to be Megan wandering through the graduation crowd. Shortly afterwards, the girls and Garrett each receive a sinister I KNOW WHAT YOU DID-style text from Megan's mobile telephone.
And then the killings begin, perpetrated by a figure in a graduation cloak and brandishing a tyre iron that's been fashioned into a knife-like killing implement. The list of suspects grows as the friends and their acquaintances begin to make up the escalating body count.
Could it be that Megan is not actually dead? Or perhaps it's Garrett who's murdering the deserving lasses, considering he's gone decidedly weird in the time that's lapsed since the fateful mineshaft event? It could even be Maggie (Caroline D'Amore), Megan's pretty younger sister who turns up to annoy the life out of Jessica with her oddly astute questions.
Come to think of it, Jessica's boyfriend Kyle (Matt Lanter) seems suspicious in his own right. And even house mistress Mrs Crenshaw (Carrie Fisher) appears to be hiding something in that creepy glint in her eye ...
"The best horror film since SCREAM", states the front cover blurb from Gorezone magazine. Which is debatable as a recommendation, depending upon your view of SCREAM (or whether you truly rate it over and above the post-SCREAM likes of [REC], MARTYRS, THE MIST, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE etc).
Anyhow, taking Gorezone's statement as being a comparison between SORORITY ROW and all the insipid "post-modern" slasher parodies that have shat across the big screen in the wake of Wes Craven's 1996 hit, they do perhaps have a point. When pinned up against the likes of the URBAN LEGEND and I KNOW WHAT YOU DID franchises (not to mention the shite FRIDAY THE 13TH and HALLOWEEN makeovers), this film does indeed come out on top.
It's still a pretty much 'by-the-numbers' affair, and consequently doesn't really achieve an identity of it's own. The interviews in the extra features, mentioned below, highlight how the filmmakers went to great pains to stay true to the conventions of the slasher genre. They've arguably done this too successfully, right down to a hackneyed array of two-dimensional protagonists (the slut; the bitch; the bookworm; the virgin), a clumsy "Scooby Doo"-type killer's motive and the ludicrous final frame that makes room for a sequel, should one be required.
But the film still entertains thanks to director Stewart Hendler's unpretentious treatment of Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger's screenplay (based loosely on the 1983 film THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW). Hendler has fun ridiculing the ludicrous excesses of Frat life (the drunken parties, promiscuous sex, teenage girls obsessed with losing weight etc) while making sure the unflagging pace is further bolstered by regular shots of firm female semi-nudity in-between the screams and minor gore.
The film isn't particularly bloody but does enjoy a couple of inventively nasty kill scenes, the favourite being an early death in which one girl has a wine bottle forcefully rammed down her throat. Literally.
A wise-cracking script remains largely aware of it's own inert silliness without ever derailing into out-and-out parody, while the performances hold everything together in enjoyably spunky fashion. Fisher is great but underused, while Pipes steals the show with her fantastically loathsome Jessica.
Not high art, not remotely original and not even particularly memorable, but SORORITY ROW is stylish fun with no pretentions. It may play it too safe in the gore stakes (the MY BLOODY VALENTINE overhaul is better in this respect), but if you want to see a bunch of pretty girls getting "wrung through the ringer" (as co-writer Goldfinger puts it in the extras) - and thoroughly deserve everything that comes to them - then this delivers that, and does so with some gusto.
For fans of the original, I have to say this bears little relation to it. Although it is nice to see the original's director and co-writer Mark Rosman credited as executive producer on this remake.
E1 Entertainment's disc presents the film in its fully uncut version. While not exactly dripping in gore, this is at least the same as the R-rated version that was released Stateside (after the distributors considered and then dismissed the notion of trimming it for a PG-13 release). Interestingly, the BBFC had originally given this version of the film an 18 rating but, in a rare move, lowered the rating to a 15 without cuts following an appeal from E1. In fairness, an 18 rating would've been far too harsh as the film simply doesn't merit one.
SORORITY ROW comes in a healthy anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer that exhibits fine detail, solid blacks and a pleasing amount of depth in picture. Colours are somewhat muted but this appears to be a stylistic decision of the filmmakers, rather than a disc defect. Flesh tones remain accurate throughout and the picture presentation is consistently clean without ever comprising its natural film look.
English audio is proffered in a rousing and well-balanced 5.1 mix. All channels are clean and clear, offering a nicely mixed playback that successfully accentuates all the right moments throughout the film's set-piece scenes. Optional subtitles are provided in English for the Hard of Hearing.
An energetic animated main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 18 chapters.
Extras kick off with "Sorority Secrets: Stories From The Set". This 10-minute featurette includes talking head-style interviews with each of the actresses, interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage. It's odd to see the actresses speaking with so much sincerity about their respective character motivations, as they all comes across as shallow and unlikeable in the film. Still, we learn that Pipes' breasts were significantly padded out for her role, Willis is a super screamer and the filmmakers had a certain fetish when it came to dispensing of their leading ladies.
"Killer 101" looks at the film from the director and co-writers' point of view. Riddled with spoilers, this is nevertheless a good look at how they approached this particular remake and how the genre conventions were considered through every step of the writing process. This is an enjoyable 13-minute expose.
"Kill Switch" is a 9-minute featurette that allows the viewer direct access to each of the film's kills. There are ten in total.
Six deleted scenes follow. These include an alternate ending and come with their own menu, allowing you to watch each one individually or as a single whole by selecting the "Play All" option.
5 minutes of timecoded outtakes (mainly the cast giggling) round out the film-related extras.
The disc opens with a trailer for TWILIGHT: NEW MOON.
Perhaps it's sheer coincidence, but this remake release seems cannily timed to coincide with Liberation Entertainment's Region 1 Special Edition of the 1983 original due on 12 January 2010 (although perhaps the timing is more down to Liberation cashing in on this superior production).
Also available on Blu-ray.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by E1 Entertainment|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|