The House on Sorority Row - 1983
Mark Rossman wrote and directed this slasher cult classic, that flew under the radar during his box-office run, but throughout the following years has gain a large following. Seven sorority sister pull a prank on their house mother (Miss Slater) and it goes horribly wrong the day of their graduation party. Mysteriously the sisters start to disappear one by one and… you know where this is going, it’s a slasher movie.
One of the things I loved about this movie was its female centric cast. The seven-sorority sister each have their own unique styles and personalities. The leader of the group is the mastermind behind both the prank and the plan to hide the body. She is always demanding the spotlight of the group and constantly reminding them who is in charge. The leader has a rocky relationship with the house mother to say the least, since she is always trying to break the rules set by her and is in constant conflict due to her personality.
The main protagonist of the story is straight forward in her way of thinking. She just graduated and is being forced to move back home by her mother, even though she wants to maintain her independence. Throughout the entire movie, we see her struggle with what is right and what is wrong, caught between her duty to her sisters and her conscience. As the movie progresses we see her lean more towards her conscience and star taking matter into her own hands.
The House Mother, Miss Salter, is an old-bitter woman, tired of running a house for ungrateful girls. She is always seen carrying her sharp cane and sporting a death stare that I wouldn’t want to be on its receiving end. What I enjoyed about her character is her unwillingness to backdown from nobody. This attribute is shown multiple times throughout the film, during her conversation with the doctor and when confronting the sisters about them having to leave the house. The best example of how though and rigid her character is, comes when she enters the room of the leader (when she was having sex with her boyfriend) and destroys her water-bed with her sharp cane. After doing that, she calmly walks away as the girl is screaming insults and death threats at her.
The House on Sorority Row is taking a lot from the slasher movies that came before it (Black Christmas and Halloween). We see all the classic tropes we have come to love in a slasher movie; knife slashing throat, the killer hiding the bodies, the protagonist finding the bodies towards the end of the movie and off-course sex scenes. While it follows the classic formulas of a slasher movie, Rossman added a few touches that made this movie far more enjoyable.
Rossman wrote some very creative killings for his main villain to perform. He allowed his killer to be fast and efficient, while still being believable that a human is capable of this murderous streak. My favorite murder scene is one of the first ones, having one of the sisters go down to check the fuse box (another classic trope). The killer is never shown and we only see their shadows interacting with one-another, as the sister is stab multiple times, the loud and relentless sounds puts all the gruesome scenes in your head without having to show them to you.
Now towards the end, after the protagonist was drugged by the doctor who is trying to capture the killer. As she sits on a chair (being used as bait), staring out at the pool and she stars to hallucinate. First, we see the house mother giving her trademark death-stare and then she disappears leaving her cane spinning in place. The following hallucinations are a mixture of the house mother, her dead sorority sisters and the cane, all appearing and disappearing without a pattern creating the senses of despair our protagonist is feeling. Honestly wasn’t expecting this type of imagery or storytelling from this movie, but I welcomed it none the less.
The final sequence truly caught me off-guard and I won’t ruin it for the people that haven’t watched the movie. While the movie followed all the slasher tropes, it always kept me engage in the story and I was very entertained. They tried to make a remake a few years back, but it failed to capture that unique vibe and look of the original. Despite knowing (for the most part) where the story was going, I still had a great time visiting this cult classic, and that’s why I love movies.
The House on Sorority Row is currently streaming on Amazon, watch it if you want.
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