Sorority Row (2009) (DVD)

Every movie should have a character named “Chugs.”

It’s all fun and games until someone gets stabbed with a tire iron. (It actually says this on the back of the box.)

Here we have Sorority Row, another Hollywood remake that’s…wait, is this really a remake? At first glace, it appears to be a do-over of the 1983 cult fave The House on Sorority Row, but the credits state that it’s “Based on the original screenplay, Seven Sisters.” Well, a quick trip around the Internet and back reveals that Seven Sisters was crafted by Mark Rosman, writer and director of the 1983 film, and is executive producer of this new one. So, yeah. Another Hollywood remake.

A bunch of cliché-ridden sorority girls play a cliché-ridden prank on a cliché-ridden guy, and it all goes wrong in a deadly yet cliché-ridden way. Cut to the end of the school year, at a cliché-ridden graduation party, in which a black-robed cliché-ridden killer is stalking and murdering the cliché-ridden girls, one by cliché-ridden one.

At first I thought there was some kind of disconnect happening among the movie’s creators, in that the writers thought they were spoofing horror flicks, while the director believed he was making a genuine suspense film. But then, watching the bonus features, I saw the writers go on and on about their love of slasher movies and how they’ve tried to honor the classics of the genre in this film. Then, one of the writers describes Freddy Kruger as wearing a hockey mask, and I just want to punch the guy.

Horror and humor have always been strange bedfellows, we all know that. It’s just that finding the right balance between the two can be tricky. Sorority Row tries the “50/50” approach, giving the entire movie a combo of attempted frights and attempted laughs. This means that the characters will go from terrified for their lives at one moment, to making sarcastic quips the next. Sometimes they make this switch in a single scene. I didn’t find this funny, and instead shook my head and thought that no one would ever act like this. Again, if the movie was intended as a spoof, maybe the filmmakers could have gotten away with this, but that’s just not the case.

What about those sorority girls? This movie is another that raises the question of the “unlikable protagonist” and whether that has any viability in storytelling. These girls have clearly been created to be unlikable, with all of their bitching and sniping at one another, making their talk of friendship and sisterhood a total lie. I think the idea is that we’re supposed to dislike the characters, and that makes it “fun” to see them get killed. Instead, disliking the characters will have audiences just wanting to change the channel. My pet theory is that unlikable protagonists can work, but only if viewers see something of themselves in the characters. In Sorority Row, the characters act reprehensible for the sake of being reprehensible, without any “down to Earth” qualities that would allow viewers to stick with them throughout this movie.

Leah Pipes (Her Best Move) hams it up as the head mean girl, and Margo Harshman (Fired Up) also goes for over-the-top as the resident party girl, a character appropriately named “Chugs.” The other characters lean toward blandness, and didn’t stand out at all. Carrie Fisher (Star Wars) has a small role, and even gets a scene where she goes nuts with a shotgun, but it just ends up boring. You hear that? The filmmakers have Carrie Fisher going nuts with a shotgun, and they made it boring. What else do you need to know?

The DVD picture and audio are clean and clear, as expected from a recently made release. A handful of featurettes have some jokey interviews with the cast and a chance for the director and writers to embarrass themselves. There are also some deleted scenes with introductions by the director, and an outtake reel.

Since this is a “sort-of” remake, maybe there are other ways that it can be “sort-of” remade:

Sorority Snow: The psycho killer stalks the girls during winter.

Sorority Grow: The psycho killer stalks the girls’ Chia Pets.

Sorority Flo: The psycho killer kisses my grits.

Sorority Crow: The psycho killer is defeated by either a dark vengeance seeker with weird makeup or a wisecracking gold robot.

Sorority Ho: Nah, I’m not going there.

Sorority Blow: I’m not going there, either.

Sorority G.L.O.W.: The psycho killer is defeated by the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. (Whatever happened to Gremlina?)

Why am I making these stupid jokes? Because I have nothing else to say about this movie. It’s God-awful.

The Verdict

Theta Pi? Theta guilty.

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