Sorority Row (2009)
By: Craig Villinger on April 25, 2010  | 
Sony | Region B | 2.35:1, 1080p | English DTS HD Master 5.1 | 101 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Stewart Hendler
Starring: Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Margo Harshman
Screenplay: Josh Stolberg, Peter Goldfinger
Country: USA
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The members of the Theta Pi sorority take their vows of trust, secrecy and solidarity seriously. So much so that when a prank takes an unexpectedly fatal turn and one of the sisters ends up punctured by a tire iron they collude to dispose of the body and hush up the misdeed, lest their promising futures (which appear to consist primarily of finding rich husbands) be flushed down the crapper.

Eight months later, some of the more resilient (and shallow) girls have put the events behind them, while those with scruples are still struggling to come to terms with their role in the death of a fellow sister. All get a shock however when they receive a text message suggesting someone knows their dirty secret, and when bits and pieces of evidence from the calamitous evening begin showing up around the sorority house confusion and speculation run rampant, with the wilder theories suggesting their sorority sister may not have been as dead as they originally believed! Nonetheless, despite several ominous signs of impending doom the college year is coming to an end and the girls of Theta Pi must do what the girls of Theta Pi do best: throw a raging party! But with a hooded killer periodically emerging to impale fine young strumpets and obnoxious jocks with a "pimped out" tire iron their final night of college might just be their final night, full stop.

If you're expecting the foreboding atmosphere of Halloween or the visceral violence of Friday the 13th from this new millenium spin on 1983's The House on Sorority Row you'll be sorely disappointed. Right from the opening steady cam shot that glides gracefully through a frivolity filled house party it's obvious we're in for a stylised modern slasher, but while Sorority Row is clearly aimed at those who were born around the time the latter instalments of the Friday the 13th series were playing in cinemas rather than those that were actually in the cinemas watching said movies there's not a lot to dislike about this formulaic slasher that shamelessly panders to the basest male instincts: namely our love of violence and scantily clad young women.

While not overly graphic the kill scenes are staged with imaginative gusto, and if you enjoy ogling female flesh the easy on the eye main cast, along with bit players who are happy to drop their towel at a moments notice, should stop your eyes straying from the screen too often.

The characters are, for the most part, likeable enough as well. We get a good mix of slasher archetypes here: the bitch (Leah Pipes), the nerdy geek (Rumer Willis), the boozy slut (Margo Harshman), the token non-anglo (Jamie Chung), and of course the final girl (Briana Evigan), who we know is going to be the final girl simply because she's not as promiscuous, superficial, bitchy, or mentally insecure as the rest of the pack. Briana Evigan gives us a grounded, if slightly bland final girl, but Leah Pipes as the uppity queen bitch who struggles to keep the sorority's secret under wraps while simultaneously taking care of more pressing issues like organising the end of year party is sure to be the audience favourite, stealing most of the best lines in the final act. Carrie Fisher also puts in a brief but memorable performance as the crotchety house mother.

Sorority Row is unoriginal and often has an IQ lower than its characters who dimly stroll into situations that will surely result in their own deaths (note: when a killer is running loose and a wildly malfunctioning hot tub has covered your backyard with a six foot high bubble cloud, do not venture into the centre of the bubble mass to switch the hot tub off), but its flaws are tempered with an endearing sense of self awareness. With hot women and cold blooded kills appearing on screen regularly the filmmakers were clearly striving to make nothing more than a proudly conventional slasher movie, and it gleefully serves up all the clichés one would expect. It doesn't do anything we haven't seen before but it does it well enough to make Sorority Row one of the more enjoyable slashers of the past decade.
Sorority Row's 1080p high-definition video presentation is a mixed bag. Framed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio the picture is razor sharp, with flawless blacks that give the many scenes shot in semi-darkness much greater clarity. However it's also a little grainy in more than one scene, and at times the video quality didn't look like a major step-up from DVD. It's certainly not a bad transfer, but it does lack the wow factor you'd expect from the next generation video format.
The 5.1 DTS HD master audio track is loud and dynamic, with great separation between dialogue, music and sound effects. The rear channels are used sparingly, but roar to life during boisterous parties or when the killer's weapon is hurled across the screen.
Extra Features
First up is a picture-in-picture video commentary with director Stuart Hendler and stars Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, and Margo Harshman. To be honest I find the picture-in-picture window distracting as it blocks a good portion of the frame, and as attractive as the young female cast is I can only stare at a group of people sitting on chairs for so long. The discussion is lively at least, though you won't find an over-abundance of technical info here.

Sorority Secrets: Stories From the Set is a ten minute fluff piece filled with mutual back-slapping, though the female cast does at least show a lot of personality and aren't above poking fun at themselves or the movie. Leah Pipes jokes about the amount of tissues needed to give her a bustier look and the girls suggests Sorority Row's writers might have an oral fetish as several characters die by having objects rammed down their gobs. It also reveals spoilers, so wait until after you've seen the main feature.

In Killer 101 the director and writers talk about the conventions and clichés of the slasher genre and how these elements were purposefully included in Sorority Row's screenplay.

Don't want to sit through all the dialogue and threadbare plotting? Kill Switch shows us every kill from Sorority Row back-to-back.

Deleted Scenes features six deleted and extended scenes, introduced by Stuart Hendler.

Outakes is five minutes of fluffed takes and on set tomfoolery

Lastly trailers for Twilight: New Moon, The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day and Zombieland are kind enough to play automatically at start-up with or without your prior consent.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
In terms of atmosphere, violence, and sheer entertainment value Sorority Row can't hold its own against the slasher gems from the 70s and 80s, but while it's not trying to be a throwback to the likes of The Burning or The Prowler it does at least appear to be aware of their existence and is doing its best to keep the slasher flame alight. It's not great, but it's good, and as a non-discerning slasher fan that's good enough for me.

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