The House On Sorority Row (1983)

Mark Rosman

Kate McNeil - Katherine Rose
Eileen Davidson - Vicki
Janis Ward - Liz
Robin Meloy - Jeanie
Harley Jane Kozak - Diane
Jodi Draigie - Morgan
Ellen Dorsher - Stevie
Lois Kelso Hunt - Dorothy Slater
Christopher Lawrence - Dr. Nelson Beck

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 92 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4

Sororities suffer several stereotypes. Some say that sororities are made up of dumb girls, mainly blondes, who flaunt their sexuality to get ahead in college life. Others say that sororities are nothing more than glorified pageantry and modernized domesticity. And then there are some who believe sororities consist of snobby, bitchy girls who do nothing but party, get drunk, and have promiscuous sex. Now I have nothing against the last one. As a matter of fact, I promote it. What I don't promote is pulling pranks on the House Mother and accidentally killing her instead. Unless the girls do it naked. Then I could turn a blind eye and let it slide.

Wait, what was I talking about again?

Oh right...my review for THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW. So yeah, these seven sorority babes accidentally murder their bitchy House Mother and try to cover it up before a party. Girls will be girls, ya know? Unfortunately a killer appears and seems to be targeting just these seven girls? Hmm, I wonder who the killer could be? Cliched, predictable, and silly at times, this 1983 slasher flick still manages to be a fun time. And fun times always win out for me every time, especially when it centers on cute "murderous" girls.

We start on June 19, 1961 where a woman undergoes an emergency Caesarean during a difficult labor, only tragically losing her baby. The woman would be Mrs. Dorothy Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt), who 22 years later would become the bitchy Housemother for Theti Pi Sorority. Seven of the "sisters" have graduated college and want to throw a party at the sorority house. Unfortunately, Mrs. Slater finds out and prohibits the party from happening. Despite this, the girls decide to have the party anyway.

Things get worse when one of the girls, Vicki (Eileen Davidson), decides to bring her boyfriend to the house for some "one-on-one" on a waterbed, which Mrs. Slater stops immediately by destroying the bed with her cane. This prompts Vicki to set up a prank on Mrs. Slater as an act of revenge, to which the girls agree to. They pull off the prank the day after, with Vicki pointing a gun on Mrs. Slater to scare her. While the other girls are oblivious to this part of the prank, Mrs. Slater and Vicki fight for the gun - setting the gun off and murdering Mrs. Slater. Katherine (Kate McNeil) wants to call an ambulance and the cops to end this game, but the girls convince Kate to dump the corpse inside the dirty pool that hasn't been cleaned in years. Unfortunately for the girls, the corpse rises to the surface to be seen by anyone nearby.

The same night, the girls decide to have their Graduation Party but feel more paranoid than festive. The paranoia starts to ring true when the girls start getting killed one by one with Mrs. Slater's trademark cane with the sharp tip at the end of it. Is Mrs. Slater back from the dead? Or is there more to this story and Mrs. Slater's past than meets the eye?

is a slasher film that slipped by for all these years until a good friend of mine informed me of a remake called SORORITY ROW would be released in October of this year. So I decided to check the original out before the remake was released. And I'm glad I did because THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW is a pretty cool slasher gem that I'm sure not many have seen or even heard of. It's got T, A, impalements, a decapitated head in a toilet, and a pop/rock group that just cracked me up with its cheesiness. All in all, an entertaining slasher.

The story is pretty generic if you've seen 80s slashers. But at least it's pretty interesting and fun to watch play out. We get the usual set up of the stereotypical characters. We get the crime that leads towards the climax. And then we have the mystery killer who sets up the twist ending with the final girl. Nothing new at all, but at least it's done in a good way. What was also interesting is that the story never centers on creating the goriest kills or even exposing a lot of skin to keep viewers captivated. Writer/director Mark Rosman makes sure to flesh out the characters just enough for viewers to either relate to them or want them dead. He also doesn't create over-the-top situations that would be quite implausible like in some other slasher films. There's a genuine feeling that Rosman was trying to make a good suspenseful horror film here and I liked that.

The only things that bothered me within the narrative:

- What was that scene with the three tighty-whities guys and the pool about? Was that really necessary? It added nothing to the film at all but maybe nausea on my part. Now I know why I switched to boxers.

- I admire the attempt of pairing Katherine and Peter on a blind date, but it just seemed really awkward. In fact, the Peter character did nothing for me until the end, where I guessed he gets killed or something. I understand that the situation wouldn't have allowed the relationship to really blossom anyway, but maybe that's why it should have been subtracted from the film. And if Rosman was trying to make Peter a red herring for the murders, it certainly didn't work.

THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW isn't a gory film for you slasher fans. There is blood and some cool impalements via a sharp cane. There's also a siluohette scene where some chick gets whacked to death. Why Cane-Fu never caught on, I'll never know. There are also a lot of throats getting slashed, with SFX so fake looking that I actually laughed. So it just raised the entertainment value for me. And then we have the classic head in the toilet, which is just too awesome for words. THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW feels more like a thriller than an actual slasher, but it doesn't take away it's watchability at all.

The music was pretty cool in this film too. Richard Band, who did the scores for RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND, does a great job with the help of the London Philharmonic Orchestra [!!!] to set up the film's mood and atmosphere. I definitely dug the score to this flick and it was nice to see a slasher film not rip off John Carpenter's legendary HALLOWEEN score and butcher it by changing into something similar that could also pass for nails on a chalkboard. The only music that was almost unbearable was by some band called 4 Out of 5 Doctors, who performed at the Graduation party. Now I love cheesy 80s music as much as anyone, but this almost reached my saturation point. And none of them got killed! No fair!

The direction by Mark Rosman is very nicely done. Being the protege of Brian De Palma, Rosman definitely learned something and you can tell from this film. There's a nice level of suspense and tension, especially during the murder sequences. Rosman creates a nice pace that builds up thickly until the act is finally done. Most horror directors seem to have forgotten that art these days. The editing is also quite good, except for the shots of the dummies filling in for the actors during their murder scenes. And the cinematography was okay as well. Rosman has moved on to family/Hilary Duff flicks these days. Nice to see he's still making "horror" films...

The acting isn't THE HOUSE OF SORORITY ROW's strong suit, but it doesn't hurt the film all that much. The big name to come out of this is Eileen Davidson, who plays the bitchy Vicki. Davidson, an Emmy-nominated soap opera actress who's currently on The Young & The Restless and did great work previously on Days of Our Lives, pretty much cements her future soap career with a dramatic performance as the instigator of the whole situation that kind of makes you want to hate her. She also shows her ta-tas and I have no complaints about. Davidson was quite fetching in 1983. Kate McNeil did a nice job as the final girl, playing the stereotypical level-headed and intelligent character well. I didn't root for her as much as other final girls out there, but she was cool. Lois Kelso Hunt played the bitchy Mrs. Slater well. I understood why her character acted the way she did but then again, I probably would have pulled pranks on her as well to get her to chill out. Harley Kozak, another soap actress, was okay as the mousey Diane. Her toilet scene is very memorable though.

The rest of the girls were "eh", especially the blonde chick, Jodi Draige, who really was a bad actress. And a bad singer. And a bad drunk. Wow, she wasn't really good at anything, was she? I will commend on whoever casted this film on picking women that actually looked realistic and not like plastic Barbie dolls. I guess Ms. Draige has one redeeming quality after all!


- The sorority babes wore white graduation caps and gowns. If you know anything about college or initiations into sororities, white is the last color these chicks should be wearing.

- Vicki is great at shooting a pistol. So good in fact that she made my gun shoot without even touching it. Damn, I wish she had waited until laundry day...

- Vicki likes having sex on her water bed. I can admire a girl who doesn't mind getting wet and giving her man motion sickness. Sigh...

- The band at the party was called 4 Out of 5 Doctors. How fitting since 4 out of 5 doctors said their crappy music had side effects such as headache, nausea, liver damage, deafness, and herpes. Pregnant women should not listen to 4 Out of 5 Doctors, if prevented.

- If you ever want to distract a girl from her task at hand, give her a ball. After all, most girls love playing with balls. And if they're lucky, they may receive some sharp penetration! But then again, I'm only speaking from experience.

- If you're a drunk, dumb bimbo, don't distract yourself with a spelling block that's really a jack-in-a-box. You'll probably get impaled from behind. Then again, you're probably already used to getting impaled from behind at a nightly basis. So just ignore this one.

- Don't try and bury the evidence in a nearby cemetary. The ghosts of your murderous past will mark you to death. That's what happens when you're both young and restless.

- Katherine saw a head in a toilet. I heard about shitting a log or a brick, but a head? A bit too extreme for me.

is an underrated slasher film that will no doubt get more mainstream attention as the release of the remake approaches in October. It's not the greatest, or bloodiest, or even best looking slasher in the world - but it has style and heart. 80s slasher fans will be entertained by this film. Definitely worth a look.



  2. Thanks, Patch. Yeah, I really dug this film and I do believe it should be up there with the better horror slashers. And you're right - it's hard to pinpoint what really makes this film different. Maybe because it relies more on mystery and suspense than actual nudity and gore. I dunno. But I think it's definitely worth a rental and possibly a buy when [most likely] a special edition DVD of this flick is released before the remake in October.

  3. WOW! The picture of the head in the toilet has sold me. I have to find a copy of this one right away.


  4. LOL! Yeah that head in the toilet bit is probably the most memorable scene in the entire film. I'm sure there's a Special Edition DVD coming out because of the upcoming remake in October. But if you have Netflix, you can definitely rent it there.

  5. I discovered this one after watching Going to Pieces, which I ABSOLUTELY recommend, tons of great clips and interviews. Back to the film, you summed it up excellently Fred, this one deserves much more credit than it ever received and is perhaps my favorite of the Greek slashers. Very suspenseful, and captures all of the best elements of the 80s slashers

  6. GOING TO PIECES is a fantastic documentary and I forgot that this was mentioned somewhere. Yeah, it definitely deserves more notice than some other 80s slashers out there. I was very satisfied at how intelligent and suspenseful it was, even though I did figure out what was going on. I'm very curious about the remake.

  7. Remake = anal rape judging by the previews


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