Sorority Row

Image result for sorority row 2009 carrie fisherAs the tough-talking, shotgun-toting house mother in Sorority Row, Carrie Fisher seems to be angling for a camp-classic performance, something to laugh about with her many, much-referenced gay friends. But the movie, stupid without a pause, fails her every time. Sorority Row throws Fisher away, but then Sorority Row throws itself away, too. A loose remake of the dull House on Sorority Row (1983), the film has to do with a prank gone awry — that creaky standard of teen slasher flicks — and the stalking of five Theta Pi girls by someone who, uh, knows what they did last summer. Or fall, or whenever.

I can’t remember the last widely-released movie that looked this dingy and grainy, and I assume the look wasn’t intentional, as in Grindhouse or the cinema of Rob Zombie. For that reason, I was with Sorority Row for a little while, even if only visually, as a throwback to ‘80s slashers. But the teenagers in those movies were generally allowed a bit more personality — even House on Sorority Row (whose director, Mark Rosman, gets to have the college in this film named after him; I’m sure he’d rather have the money) had Harley Jane Kozak and Eileen Davidson. And the earlier film’s plot synopsis on Wikipedia contains one of the most awesome sentences ever written: “Katey grabs the hand gun that was used on Mrs. Slater and flees from the clown-costumed Eric, which is when she discovers Jeanie’s severed head in the toilet.”

No heads in the toilet in the new movie, except perhaps off-camera bulimics. That isn’t a joke; Sorority Row fumbles for relevance by showing how cruel girls can be about each others’ bodies, and the logical extension of this is the rough treatment of one Theta Pi member during and after the poorly thought-out prank. With Carrie Fisher tippling her way through her small corner of the plot, and with Leah Pipes snarking her way through her performance as the self-anointed sorority queen with an eye to marrying into a major political family, Sorority Row actually could’ve been the anti-House Bunny (Rumer Willis, apparently everyone’s idea of a Greek sister, appears in both films), a dark satire that also worked as horror. (There’s a hint of this when Pipes’ character goes to lunch with her boyfriend and her prospective father-in-law, who worries that she’ll embarrass him and damage his shot at the vice-presidency; we see her realizing that, if her life stays on this track, her days of fun are over.)

Instead, we get a numbingly bland lowest-common-denominator snooze with the usual structure. (Could a case be made for Agatha Christie being the great-grandmother of the slasher subgenre? It all started with And Then There Were None.) One attends a motion picture such as Sorority Row for gore and nudity as much as anything else, but both are in short supply here. The killer employs a modified cross wrench, thrown across the room into someone’s skull and then yanked out with a cord. This mode of murder gets boring fast, although one unfortunate sister is obliged to swallow a bottle of wine more forcefully than she’d intended, and another finds herself on the wrong end of a flare gun. The whole mess starts when the surviving, upwardly-mobile sisters uneasily agree that if the truth about the prank went public, their lives would be ruined. I’d rather see an honest film about exactly what would happen if they’d told the truth. Failing that, a competent, scary, witty horror film might’ve been nice. Briana Evigan, as the most moral of the sisters, has a casual appeal and seems to back away from the movie as much as her character backs away from her sisters’ willingness to cover up inadvertent murder. She, unlike most everyone else here, might have a future.

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