Thursday, September 17, 2009


A prank gone wrong in “Whisper” director Stewart Hendler’s “Sorority Row,” an unsavory, sometimes savage, but smirking R-rated remake of the vintage 1983 slasher “The House on Sorority Row,” sets off a succession of sadistic slayings. “Good Luck Chuck” scenarist Josh Stolberg and TV writer Peter Goldfinger have adapted and updated Mark Rosman’s screenplay about blood, gore, and babes and supplemented the savagery with sardonic “Heathers” humor. Not only has Hendler orchestrated the butchery and bitchery with style but he has also conjured up an atmospheric slash-a-thon that delivers several shocks and surprises. These gals and guys aren’t as idiotic as the usual slasher movie victims. Indeed, more than one girl survives.

“Quarantine” lenser Ken Sing enhances the grisly quality of this mass murderer melodrama with his grainy, raw-edged widescreen cinematography and he wobbles his camera to heighten the suspense. At the same time, editor Elliot Greenberg carves up the action with such rhythm that each jolt delivers stop-in-your-tracks impact. You’ll jump at most of these bolts from the black, especially the sound effects of sharp objects either penetrating or caroming off bodies. Little of this would register were it not for superb sound engineering. The ensemble cast that includes Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, and Jamie Chung constitute all the pretty maids in this “Row” that the mysterious slayer sets out to slay. This mass murderer doesn’t discriminate when it comes to killing, even innocent bystanders succumb to the villain’s pimped out four-way tire iron weapon. The worst thing that you can say about “Sorority Row” is that the fire department takes their own sweet time responding to the fiery finale. Of course, if they had arrived earlier, they’d have interfered with the showdown between the killer and victims. Nevertheless, the last quarter hour serves up thrills and chills that pay off with a clever ending that likely may yield a sequel.

The action unfolds at a bacchanal off campus at a sorority house. Five mischievous wenches of the sorority Theta Pi decide to humiliate a guy, Garrett (Matt O’Leary of “Brick”), who has cheated on his girlfriend with the prank to end all pranks. They have supplied Garrett with what he believes are roofies, and he has dosed Megan (Audrina Patridge of “Into the Blue 2”) with them so that she appears to have passed out. She awakens as Garrett is about to take advantage of her and then apparently dies while her devoted sisters gaze on in horror. The queen bee of the bunch, Jessica (Leah Pipes of “Fingerprints”), knows that Megan is playing possum. Jessica, Cassidy (Briana Evigan of “Step Up 2: The Streets”), Claire (Jamie Chung of “Dragonball: Evolution”) and Ellie (Rumer Willis of “Wild Cherry”) pile into a van with Megan’s limp body and a distraught Garrett. They head off to a mine in the middle of nowhere. Once they arrive, Jessica suggests that they hack the body up into pieces so it will be harder for anybody to find. Meanwhile, Megan records the scene with her cell phone. The girls spread out to collect rocks while Garrett empties his stomach on the ground. He musters his nerve and seizes a four-way tire iron from the van. When nobody is watching him, he sinks one end of it into Megan’s chest before anybody can stop him. The horrified girls close ranks in the name of ‘sisterhood and solidarity’ and cover up the crime. Unceremoniously, they dump Megan’s bloody body into an abandoned well.

Eight months later, at a graduation reception at the Theta Pi house, one of the girls in on the conspiracy, Ellie, shrieks when she thinks that she has seen the dead girl Megan walking among them. In fact, Ellie saw Megan’s younger sister Maggie (Caroline D’Amore of “Daydreamer”) who is visiting the sorority. The girls plan to celebrate another bacchanalian revelry that evening once their crusty house mother, Mrs. Crenshaw (Carrie Fisher of the first “Star Wars” trilogy) vacates the premises. Meantime, the mysterious killer dons a “Scream” monk’s robe with hood and wields a four-way tire iron modified with other forms of cutlery. This weapon compares favorably to the weapons that other serial killers in slasher movies have armed themselves with over the years. This cunning individual follows Chugs (Margo Harshman of “Fired Up”) to her shrink’s office where she plans to score prescription drugs after she performs oral sex on the crooked physician. When Chugs isn’t looking, the killer sends his exotic weapon spinning through the air tomahawk style so it lodges in the good doctor’s forehead. The killer sneaks up on Chugs while she is lying on her back with an expensive bottle of liquor in her lips and shoves a bottle down her throat and then shatters it. Another girl has a spear run through her mouth pinning her head to a wall. Yet another dies from a flare gun cartridge that melts in her mouth and turns her face into bubble wrap.

Leah Pipes takes the cake as the nastiest sister of the bunch, while Briana Evigan qualifies as the nicest. She is the one who wanted to call the authorities while the others bundled Megan up in Cassidy’s coat and tossed her in the well. Meanwhile, elderly Carrie Fisher has a couple of scenes as the cantankerous Theta Pi house mother, but she cannot hit the side of barn with a pump action shotgun. The writers throw in a couple of red herrings to keep us guessing about the identity of the killer. The cast is persuasive even when the action is not. There is a whole lot of stabbing going on along with irresponsible drinking and bare breasted babes in a shower scene. In the original “House on Sorority Row,” seven girls covered up the crime while only five try to here. “Sorority Row” is a good slasher movie that is worth watching more than once.