Horror aficionados expect a select set of conventions to be executed well for a slasher film to be considered “good.” We expect certain types: the slut, the jock, the token ethnic person (Asian, in this case) and their early demise, the “final girl,” etc. We expect a number of red herrings. We expect some exploitative elements–the nudity and violence. We even appreciate a few genuine scares, though even that’s not crucial (horror aficionados are too jaded to get genuinely scared anyway).
So does Sorority Row deliver on these counts? The answer’s less simple than you think. Find out why after the jump.
Sorority Row opens with six sisters of Theta Pi playing a prank on a boy visiting the house: they trick him into thinking he roofied one of the house’s girls to death. Unfortunately, and in true slasher fashion, once he finds out he’s killed somebody, he proceeds to assist in disposing of the evidence. In this case, that means driving a tire iron through the “dead” girl’s chest to relieve air from her lungs, and likewise prevent her body from floating in the well they are to dump her in. Needless to say, this causes the sister to actually die.
The meat of the film takes place one year later, as the girls of Theta Pi are graduating from their unnamed college. They begin to receive haunting text messages from the phone of their dead friend, and over the course of one evening, the sisters are knocked off one at a time in contrived and satisfying ways.
Now back to the criteria of a good slasher film. Are the archetypes satisfied here? Yes. Are there red herrings? Yes. Is there exploitation? Absolutely. Are there scares? Yeah, kind of. But are these criteria executed well? Actually, they are. Quite well. And yet, Sorority Row still defies being a good slasher flick. It understands the mechanics that make a good slasher film, but it doesn’t add anything to the subgenre that wasn’t already there. Sorority Row doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel; it just keeps rolling on it until the audience gets dizzy.
The DVD has a number of featurettes, some interesting some not. “Sorority Secrets: Stories from the Set” is full of largely uninformative and uninteresting tidbits from the cast. “Killer 101” has the filmmakers discussing the conventions and iconography of the slasher subgenre, which is cool, but most of what they discuss is just pulled from Carol Clover’s Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, among other academic analyses. And to be frank, a budding film scholar is better off reading the book. “Kill Switch” is a cut of the film that only features the gorily satisfying murders–which is perfect for showing a highlight reel of the film to friends who aren’t invested enough to digest plot. Finally, there are deleted scenes and outtakes that were very clearly cut for a reason.
It probably goes without saying, but this film is not a “buy.” However, I will say I do recommend a rental of the film for anyone who really enjoys slasher movies. Sorority Row doesn’t do anything new or different, but it does what it does quite well. And it’s remarkably entertaining, even if a little contrived.
Not a fan of slasher films? Avoid Sorority Row. Avoid it completely.