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After a wayward prank leaves one of their own dead, a group of sorority sisters try to cover it up, only to be stalked by a serial killer.
For more about Sorority Row and the Sorority Row Blu-ray release, see the Sorority Row Blu-ray Review
Starring: Jamie Chung, Leah Pipes, Briana Evigan, Rumer Willis, Audrina Patridge, Carrie Fisher
Director: Stewart Hendler
» See full cast & crew
Sorority Row Blu-ray Review
Theta Pi! Theta Pi! Die! Die! Die!
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, March 15, 2010
The slasher is perhaps horror's most codified sub-genre. Yes, zombies and werewolves and vampires all have their mythologies and cinematic rules, but the slasher film is a different beast altogether. They're usually simple morality tales about reckless youth on the cusp of adulthood, an age rife with sex and drugs and rebellion. Often, they're staged around holidays or special events. The masked killer, armed with some kind of iconic weapon, whittles down a group of attractive, unsupervised youngsters in an isolated location until he gets to The Final Girl, who survives but is somehow traumatized or trapped by what she's seen and done. Okay, so let's see how Sorority Row stacks up against its predecessors: It's about a clique of sorority seniors—cusp of adulthood, check— who cover up the death of one of their own—morality tale, check—get stalked and killed during a graduation party—special event, check, booze and sex, check, no supervision, check—by a hooded figure with a tire iron—iconic weapon, check—until our vaguely morally superior heroine—Final Girl, check—faces off against the killer and makes it through the night. I think my figurative pen just ran out of ink. With all the boxes checked, you may ask, what is there to differentiate Sorority Row from the bloody slew of prior slashers? Absolutely nothing. Is it still worth watching? That all depends on how loosely you define "entertainment."
If my barebones synopsis sounds vaguely familiar—and not just because all slasher plots are similar—it's because Sorority Row is a loose remake of 1983 cult semi-classic The House on Sorority Row. In this new version, five Theta Pi seniors, led by Jessica (Leah Pipes) —a social aesthete, potential future trophy wife, and stone cold bitch—fake a friend's death by overdose to freak out her cheating boyfriend, who then stabs the girl in the chest for reals in one of those unrealistic horror movie moments where a character totally overreacts. (His rationale was that he needed to puncture her lungs so they could sink her body to the bottom of the local quarry. At least he's a fast thinker.) Bonded by the Theta Pi motto of "Trust, Respect, Honor, Secrecy, and Solidarity," the girls unanimously agree to dump the body down a well and never tell a soul. Well, almost unanimously. Mousy, bespectacled Ellie (Rumer Willis) and conscientious objector Cassidy (Briana Evigan) would've rather gone to the cops, but they remain silent to protect their sisters. Early candidates for Final Girl, perhaps? Fast-forward eight months to graduation day and the final party of the year, the parting bacchanalian blast of their college careers, and for most of them, the last night of their lives. A hooded figure wearing a graduation gown is on the prowl, taking down Theta Pi sisters and their meathead boyfriends with a tire iron tricked out with wicked blades.
Since slasher films adhere so stringently to the formula, the only differentiation is to have a unique killer, ingeniously brutal kills, or an ante-upping kill count. Sorority Row plays it much too safe here, and the outcome is horror movie mediocrity. In these kinds of films, the killer usually rises to the level of an anti-hero—you can't wait to see what he does next, as he's much more interesting than the disposable teenagers getting axed—but Sorority Row's shrouded avenger is easily the least threatening, least memorable villain in years, a half-hearted amalgam of the baddies from Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer (Sorority Row also stole most of its plot points from the latter.) Worse, the big reveal of the killer's identity—complete with a ridiculously overdrawn speech about his/her motives—will likely illicit either rolled eyes, shrugged shoulders, or a loud pssshhhh. The ten or so kills are all relatively tame and mostly orally fixated—one girl gets a wine bottle shoved down her throat, another gets shot in the mouth with a flare gun—and the phallic obviousness quickly grows tiresome and repetitive. As expected from a film called Sorority Row, there are also a few furtive T&A shots, courtesy of girls jumping on a trampoline wearing pajamas with the butt-flaps open, and the obligatory gratuitous shower scene.
Few will object, I assume, as the cast includes enough eye candy to give your pupil's cavities. The quintet of young starlets here is at least, on the whole, more talented than the knife fodder of most slasher films, but they don't have much to do besides get into catty arguments, pussyfoot around in the dark, and, well, die. Despite the script's insistence on giving each character a minor sub-plot—an attempt to obfuscate the simplicity of the story—few of the girls are developed beyond mere stereotype. The two exceptions would be Leah Pipes' Jessica, an ice queen with social-ladder-climbing ambitions, and Briana Evigan's Cassidy, who has grown jaded of sorority life. To contrast, we have Chugs (Margo Harshman), a wanton slut who imbibes lots of alcohol and, presumably, other fluids. It should be no spoiler to tell you that Chugs doesn't last the night. Director Stewart Hendler shows some gracefulness with the camerawork during the excellently staged opening party scene, and the accidental death of the first sorority sis is a genuinely tense sequence, but the intensity quickly flags once the killer gets down to business. There's little tension, suspense slogs, and few surprises await—aside from the occasional jump scare—leaving Sorority Row largely free of the visceral thrills expected from a slasher.
Sorority Row Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sorority Row comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's strong but inconsistent, sometimes as stunning as Jamie Chung in a towel, and other times looking like a pledge with a post-hazing hangover. Clarity varies between tack-sharp close-ups—see the beads of water on Claire's face as she gets out of the shower, and notice the fine details of her skin texture— to sequences that look somewhat soft and indistinct, like the scene with Cassidy and her boyfriend lying in bed together. I haven't seen the DVD to make a comparison, but I'm sure the Blu-ray presents a modest but appreciable upgrade. The party sequence at the beginning of the film shows off a lot of bright, bold colors, and as the film wears on, the palette is appropriately reigned in until we have a stark and slightly gritty nighttime image as we tiptoe through the sorority house's deserted hallways. Black levels are mostly deep without becoming oppressive, and while grain spikes a bit during the darker moments, it's never distracting, as it's all part of the low-budget horror aesthetic. Likewise, skin tones jump from ultra-tan to super pasty from scene to scene, but this is mostly due to stylized lighting choices. With a clean print and no overt technical troubles to nitpick over, this transfer seems to represent the film well, even if Sorority Row isn't the best- looking horror title to appear on Blu-ray.
Sorority Row Blu-ray, Audio Quality
When things go bump in the night at a sorority house, it's usually because one of the girls has snuck her boyfriend in, but in Sorority Row's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, you're more likely to hear a killer's blade whistling through the air than a headboard smacking rhythmically against the wall. Audio is an essential part of most horror films, and though Sorority Row doesn't use sound as intricately as other genre entries, this is still a solid track, with booming dynamics, a strong sense of detail, and a modest but appreciated use of the rear channels for ambience and effects. The party scenes come to life with chatter and the deep LFE pulse of blasted dance music. The killer's tricked-out tire iron spins between channels and plunges with a sickening squish into a victim's face. The overused but effective jump scares jolt with sudden musical stabs. And while voices are sometimes hard to make out during the mammoth parties— realistically—the dialogue is easy to make out the rest of the time. Overall, this track is almost exactly what you'd expect—loud, jarring, and full-blooded.
Sorority Row Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
PIP Feature Commentary with Director and Cast
Director Stewart Hendler and four of his sorority beauties—Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, and Margo Harshman—give a video commentary that's extremely, perhaps overly chatty, which is unsurprising considering the number of participants. The picture-in-picture window is kind of small, though, so unless you have a 100" screen, you'll have to be sitting pretty close to really see the actors' expressions.
Sorority Secrets: Stories from the Set (1080p, 10:27)
Briana Evigan, Stewart Hendler, Leah Pipes, Jamie Chung, Rumer Willis, and Margo Harshman each say a few words about their characters and reminisce about the sheer amount of estrogen on set.
Killer 101 (1080p, 13:59)
Director Stewart Hendler and screenwriters Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger discuss the conventions of the horror genre—the final girl, going foolishly into dark places, the killer's motive speech, etc.—and basically, with the help of some clips from the film, show how Sorority Girls adheres unfailingly to each of them. At least they know they're being derivative, I guess. Don't watch this before the film unless you want every reveal spoiled.
Kill Switch (1080p, 10:24)
Don't feel like watching the entirety of a ho-hum horror movie but still want some gruesome, visceral thrills? Okay, you sicko, here you go. Kill Switch fastforwards through what passes in Sorority Girls for plot and simply shows each of the film's kills.
Deleted Scenes (1080p, 6:53)
Includes five deleted scenes and a lame alternate ending, all available with optional introductions by the director.
Outtakes (1080p, 5:27)
Your average assortment of flubbed lines and improvised silliness.
Sorority Row Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Less discerning genre fans might take to Sorority Row, the latest paint-by-the-numbers slasher to bloody up Blu-ray, but more demanding horrorphiles will find it endlessly derivative and lacking in both intensity and innovation. Not every horror film has to raise the bar or change the rules, but Sorority Row sticks so staunchly to convention that it all but disappears into the plots, kills, and characters of its predecessors. If you're planning on pledging to this Sorority, please be responsible and temper your expectations accordingly.
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