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Mike’s Review: House on Sorority Row (1983)


★★.5 out of ★★★★★

College isn’t for everyone.  There’s peer pressure, there’s social acclimatization, there’s the freshman 15, there’s the daily grind of keeping one’s grades in check to maintain that almighty scholarship, and then there’s the relationships. The social bond that’s created can be a lasting and spiritually satisfying affinity, but the bond can go so deep that it’ll eventually turn collegiate relations sour and crazy. 

The deed is done.

In the slightly over-complicated 1982 film, House on Sorority Row, the scholastic friendships were just that — a little crazy and a little sour.  The film, directed by Mark Rosman (Mutant and many episodes of Lizzie Maguire) begins as so many early 80s films did, a little exposition, a little flashback, and a little glimpse of things to come later in the film.  The opening montage quickly gives way to the end of the school year as were introduced to seven sorority sisters – Katey, Vicki, Liz, Jeanie, Diane, Morgan, and Stevie.  

The school year is over and the girls decided that the time is ripe to roil in boys, new wave, coke, champagne, pools, and stacks of People magazine.  Director Rosman employees an interesting drinking game device where he has the girls unfold their character types by disclosing their deepest secrets, their desires, and their heavily clouded wants and needs.  Of course no good post college party goes unpunished and the girls (Katey, Vicki, Liz, Jeanie, Diane, Morgan, and Stevie) are quickly interrupted by their imperious house mother, Mrs. Slater.  The old and ratchety Mrs. Slater rudely informs the girls that their summer party plan to occupy the sorority house is not going to be coming to fruition.  

Vicki, the unofficial sorority alpha queen, decides that it’s time to get back at Mrs. Slater in the prankiest of all pranks — stealing her old and ratchety cane. The girls, somewhat unbelievably, obtain and gun and force Mrs. Slater to hunt for her cane near the outdoor sorority house pool.  Pranks are, of course, only as good as their execution, and Vicki’s coke-addled synapses don’t have the wherewithal to implement the frolicking tomfoolery. The gun goes off and the girls (Katey, Vicki, Liz, Jeanie, Diane, Morgan, and Stevie) inadvertently shoot Mrs. Sleater dead — well maybe. 

School’s out for summer!

The girls hide Slater’s body and in an Edgar Allen Poe-esque Telltale Heart evolution, the girls begin to become paranoid all the while dealing with a killing-by-numbers killer who’s out to kill them. House on Sorority Row unfolds with a solid 40+ minutes of torture, mayhem, and murder where Katey, Vicki, Liz, Jeanie, Diane, Morgan, and Stevie ultimately get what’s coming to them.  Try as they might, the ghost (?) of Mrs. Slater, or her proxy, will not let them off the hook for their dastardly deed. 

The finally act of House on Sorority Row folds in on itself by resurrecting the flashback exposition from the beginning of the film.  In a somewhat clumsy and honestly confusing fashion, Director Rosman, exposes the convoluted motives of the killer, the killer’s identity, and leaves open just enough room for a House on Sorority Row II.  Sadly, while we’d never see House on Sorority Row II, we did at least get a middling remake of House on Sorority Row, so that’s something. 

For an early 1980s teen/college slasher romp, House on Sorority Row is a class act. Replete with awesome power pop courtesy of D.C. band 4 Out Of 5 Doctors, hip fashion choices, and a pile of grisly gore.  House on Sorority Row gives you everything you need to know about the travails and stresses of college, without having to spend $200K on a journey where you might wind up DEAD!

House on Sorority Row is Rated R and streaming everywhere.

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