Sorority Row 2009 Review
Sorority Row 2009
Directed by: Stewart Hendler
Starring: Briana Evigan, Audrina Partridge, Carrie Fisher
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Now I am somewhat of a fence sitter when it comes to remakes. Whilst I quite enjoyed My Bloody Valentine 3D, I still haven’t seen the rehash of Halloween and I don’t intend to. For me, the original was a masterpiece and with all due respect, giving Rob Zombie the reins for a new version is almost like giving Henry Hill the chance to do a remake of The Godfather. Somehow, modern-day teens seem far more arrogant than they used to and the MTV generation are a lot less alluring body count material for splatter flicks.
The House on Sorority Row was one of my favourite genre pieces of the peak period. A great story with a compelling mystery and razor sharp direction gave it an advantage on its brethren from the same era. That eerie final sequence is a postcard from the greatest period of the stalk and slasher and I hoped that if there’s any justice in the kingdom of moviedom, Sorority Row would pay not just homage, but respect to its grandfather. Having Mark Rosman on board as executive producer, was a good move, because I felt sure that he would really want to guide the way in terms of representing the brand he created.
After a poorly-planned prank goes wrong, a group of sorority sisters are left with an incriminating secret that could cost them their lives. After some on the spot soul searching they decide to keep it between themselves and dispose of any remaining evidence. Eight months pass and the group have mostly put the events behind them and are looking forward to graduation. Things take a turn for the worse when someone begins targeting the girls with evidence linking them to their earlier endeavours. Before long a hooded killer turns up and begins working his way through the group one-by-one…
The film kicks off weakly and by the ten-minute mark, I was expecting the worst. After the prank backfires, there’s a panic-stricken scene which was a golden opportunity for the junior thesps to show that they had the talent to build some rapport with the audience. Unfortunately, they don’t take it and there’s a clearly visible lack of chemistry and cohesiveness as they scream at each other unconvincingly and sink to further depths of banal dramatics.
I found it hard at first glance to like these characters and for an avid fan of eighties slashers, the words Facebook and YouTube seemed bizarre in this kind of flick. Well I have just turned thirty, so maybe I am getting too long in the tooth now. My view is admittedly dated as social networking plays such a large part of the youth culture of today that I guess I should credit the necessary attempt to pull the category forward in to more modern surroundings. In fairness, as a critic I should have given this a chance on its own to impress from the start, but it was impossible for me not to think of comparisons with the original. I hadn’t seen it for a while, but I remembered the ominous opening and the haunting score that set the tone so early on. Here we are given a bouncing ‘Hip-Hop’ baseline, conceited characters and zero recognition that this is a horror film rather than yet another dumb teen comedy.
Then suddenly and most unexpectedly things began to improve. Now I’m not sure if it’s because the aforementioned poorly-acted sequence was the first that they shot and they hadn’t yet found their footing. But after an uncomfortable and disorientated opening, the plot began to tighten, the dramatics improved and the river of intrigue began to flow. The killer’s guise was nothing special (how many cloaked maniacs have there been since Urban Legends?) but using a lug wrench as a weapon allowed for some inventive slayings and the film found the right balance of subtle parody and engaging plot.
Stewart Hendler’s energetic and ambitious direction is exactly what the film needed and the fluid cinematography adds to the party-like vibe. Briana Evigan grew in to her role as the plot thickened and there’s a good mix of characteristics on display so that you can chose those that you like or those you want to see gruesomely impaled on the tyre iron. The mystery is a tough one to crack, but in effect is a bit disappointing once revealed. I mean, where did that come from?
Nowadays MTV horror movies are targeted at a younger generation of viewers, so in order to get a wider target audience they don’t invest in gratuitous gore, which would probably result in a stringent rating from the censors. Sorority Row, unlike the appalling Prom Night remake, does at least pack some blood and creativity in to its murders and although there’s never any really solid fear factor on display, Hendler does produce moments of suspense.
So is Sorority Row worthy to share the brand of one of the best films of the golden period? I would say just about, yes. Don’t get me wrong this is nowhere near as good as the film it redesigns, but compared to the amount of plop we get nowadays that describes itself as horror, Hendler’s slasher does enough to separate itself from the masses.
The only negatives are the large amount of ‘hard-to-like’ characters, an insignificant bogeyman (they don’t even try to make an iconic Jason/Michael Myers type) and no real scares.
It pains me to say it, but slasher films of modern times are the chick-flicks of the horror genre and that’s why they need to do the little that is expected of them to the best of their ability. Row does exactly that and boasts a frantic pace, some cool kills, a good mystery and a divine final girl. Fairly good global box office meant there’s life in the cycle yet…
Final Girl: √√√