The House on Sorority Row (1983)
US (dir. Mark Rosman)
Cast: Christopher Lawrence, Eileen Davidson, Janis Zido, Kate McNeil, Lois Kelso Hunt, Robin Meloy
Synopsis: After a confrontation with their housemother, seven sorority sisters plot revenge — which leads to an accidental death. Despite the girls’ efforts to cover up their crime, they find themselves targeted by someone — or something — who knows what they did.
Review: “The House on Sorority Row” starts off as an awkward, 1980s horror film, that is reminiscent of “Black Christmas” (except it’s not as good). It takes a bit of time in the beginning to come into its own, but it eventually pulls it off with surprisingly scary results! This is the type of movie that just screams remake. It has a lot of potential to be better than itself if certain things were altered or embellished (i.e. story background, dialogue, lighting, etc.). Now while it’s not the best ’80s horror movie out there, it has a lot of great scenes that work very well to create some fear in its audience.
The movie is about a group of sorority sisters and the conflicts that arise when their hard-partying ways clash drastically with their strict house mother with a secretive past. The conflict come to a head during graduation week when the house mother rips up a sorority girl’s water-bed while she is banging her creepy, pornstar-esque boyfriend. The sorority girl is slightly pissed, to put it mildly, and plans a complicated revenge plot whereby she threatens the house mother with a loaded gun. Of course, it’s all just fun and games until someone accidentally gets shot and dies, which is of course what happens. The sorority sisters, in a state of shock, decide to dump the body in the bottom of the algae infested pool before the grad party that night, and then the mayhem begins. I was mildly amused at how the “accidental” shooting took place after the pissed off sorority girl spent a little while at the shooting range, thus making me wonder if she really did plan to load the gun with real bullets and shoot the house mother.
As the party kicks off, the sorority girls spend time either planning where to dump the body next, moping around the house debating the moral dilemma of murder, or just partying to the sounds of some VERY cheesy new wave band (I really cannot stress the absolute cheesiness of this band – the camera literally pans to this band like more than enough times to show how utterly crappy they are; I’m confused as to whether this band was supposed to be a joke or if they legitimately were a 1980s band specializing in the crappiest music ever made). A bunch of the girls end up getting killed off, most of them get their throat’s slashed (unfortunately the special effects are clearly fake, thus killing the mood) and a few random people die as well. It is eventually revealed that the house mother’s body is missing, and she is considered a likely suspect.
A new character emerges, a doctor/psychiatrist who was treating the house mother, and he warns the surviving girl (the mopey one who felt the whole dumping the body in the pool gig was bad – there’s always a girl like this in every horror movie) that the house mother is deranged and whatever. He ends up double crossing her, and sets her up as bait to catch the real killer who it turns out is the house mother’s deranged son who had been kept locked in the sorority house for so many years. Apparently he developed a weird fascination with clowns, so the only scene in which we fully see him attempt to kill is one where he is dressed as a huge-ass, freaky looking clown. The girl ends up in a very short showdown (too short!) with the shut-in clown dude and has to fight him off all while under the influence of some weird, semi-hallucinogenic sedative given to her by the two-timing doctor. In the scenes where the girl is drugged, we get some CRAZY, off the-charts bizarre, hallucinations where the girl has visions of severed heads talking to her, dead sorority sisters doing a weird zombie dance, and the sorority mother’s cane doing crazy spins. These little bits were very effectively scary and had they been worked into the whole movie, maybe the overall result would have been better.
Overall, I thought this movie was a great example of 1980s horror that maybe could have used a better beginning to kick the movie off right. I’m surprised that the film’s director (Mark Rosman) went Disney after making this sole horror film and I think that he could have made at least a few more decent films in the horror genre if he had been given the chance to.