80’s Slasher Throwback: “The House on Sorority Row” Review

From the kid-friendly director of “Lizzie McGuire” and “The Perfect Man” comes one of the most acclaimed horror films from the slasher era? Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right? Well that somewhere in the early eighties was horror, specifically the under-appreciated slasher sub-genre. “The House on Sorority Row” began as writer-director Mark Rosman’s calling card in Hollywood, and it was for Stewart Hendler, who directed 2009’s deliciously nasty remake “Sorority Row.” That remake didn’t receive the respect it deserved from audiences or critics and is a fine tribute the world of 80’s slashers. Nonetheless, 30 years later how does the original revenge slasher stack up? Is “House on Sorority Row” worth pledging Delta Delta Die to attend?

The plot, like the plot for many an 80’s slasher, is quite simple. A group of girls staying at a sorority house clash with the house’s owner (the evil Mrs. Slater who sadly isn’t given anything really evil to do) who wants them out of the house. They decide to play a prank on her, but it goes awry and she winds up dead. The plan involving blanks, a pool, and the old lady’s cane is actually pretty lame and the details of the prank don’t make a whole lot sense even after watching the scene two time. Panicking, the girls try to hide the body, but someone (or something) witnessed the crime and begins to stalk them. Has Mrs. Slater returned from the dead for revenge or was she not even dead to began with? Cut to scary music.

“The House on Sorority Row” is an interesting addition to the slasher genre. Interesting in the way that for everything I really enjoyed about this film, I can think of at least something that I also didn’t felt worked at all. The prank, as stated before, is so badly directed that I had no idea what was even happening let alone what the prank was supposed to be. Also, it is hard to hate Mrs. Slater as she is only given two scenes before she is killed off. Also, speaking of killed of…how are the deaths here? Sadly, fairly lackluster. Yes, my fellow slasher fans, this is one of those movies in which almost all of the deaths occur off screen so the heroine can be surprised when she finds her dead friend. Love the reveal of the dead bodies but to do this for ALL of the deaths is a pretty easy way out. That being said, the story is fairly strong and the actresses are all quite good in their roles. If you are a fan of early 80’s revenge/college slasher films, you could do a lot worse than what is on display here. Sadly, it could have also have been a lot better with another rewrite or two.

Make sure to order your copy today. Only 2200 in print and once they sell out, they are gone: House on Sorority Row (remastered special 2 disc edition) (1982)

Underrated Slasher of the Week: Deadly Friend

In the mid 80’s Wes Craven was on top of the world. After just completing the groundbreaking “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, the horror director pretty much had his pick of horror projects to choose from. The project that he would choose next would be in some ways a drastic departure from his usual slasher self. The movie would feature a talking robot, a girl suffering from abuse from a father, and a bright young boy years ahead of his time. The project was called “Deadly Friend” and it would be soon come to be known as one of the worst movies in Craven’s career. But, is the film really THAT bad? Does it deserve a larger audience than it would ultimately receive?

The plot is relatively complex for what seems like, at least on the outside, an ordinary run-of-the-mill slasher. A 15 year old scientific whiz kid named Paul Conway, just moved to a new town with his mother. He also has a yellow robot named Beebee which is his friend and protector. Paul befriends the girl next door named Samantha, and she lives with her abusive father who knocks her down some stairs one night and severely injures her. She was on life support in the local hospital, but after a certain amount of time, they pulled the plug on her and she was dead. Paul disguises himself as a hospital worker and takes Samantha’s body from the hospital over to the local university. As an attempt to save her life, he implants Beebee’s robot microchips into her brain, but discovers not too long after that she is out of control.

“Deadly Friend” certainly has its share of problems but it is just so sweet and kind in its heart. Paul is a good kid that tries to do a good deed when everything else has failed. He is the only one to actually take action in this story to try to make something positive happen. The film’s moral seems to be that evil will not disappear just because we turn our head from it. It is a sad story with many touching moments. As a seasoned slasher fan, I will even admit that the ending has been known to shed a tear or two from me. It’s funny that coming from Craven, that the horror is the only thing that really doesn’t work in the movie. Stories from behind the scenes say that there was a lot of studio interference in this film and it is not hard to tell where it lies. The gore scenes just don’t work, they seemed borrowed from another film entirely. Nonetheless, the performances are strong and this is a story worth telling. It’s no masterpiece but I think those who hated on this film when it first came out should give it another look. Samantha, as well as the film, deserves it.