Another in the spate of remakes of 1980s slasher movies—it’s based on 1983’s “The House on Sorority Row,” though the credits obscure that fact—this one is as bad as most of them (just think “Prom Night,” “When A Stranger Calls” and “Black Christmas”). But you have to admit that it’s faithful to its source. The original was lousy, and so is this retread.
The plot, redesigned by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger from Mark Rosman’s first take, followed the pattern of post-“Halloween” garbage. A bunch of yahoos accidentally kills (or humiliates) somebody, only to find themselves stalked by some maniacal killer out for vengeance afterward. In this case, a group of sorority babes pull a prank which leads to the death of one of their sisters. They stow the body in a convenient mine shaft, but at their post-graduation party a hooded figure appears, threatening both to reveal their secret and to knock them all off with a tire iron, his weapon of choice. (One or the other would seem sufficient, but never mind logic.)
The whole movie consists in the nubile girls, and some of their male friends, being impaled by the killer while they try to figure out who the murderer might be. Has the dead girl come back to life? Is her old boyfriend, who was the target of the deadly prank, come out of his mental funk to take revenge? Is the victim’s younger sister responsible? Or is it somebody else entirely?
There’s not much positive to say about the movie, other than that it avoids the excesses of gore so commonplace nowadays and cuts the number of girls in the killer’s sights from seven to five (unfortunately, despite that it’s longer that its model). The script is frankly idiotic, with the revelations at the close so absurd that they’re more likely to leave you shaking with derisive laughter than with goosebumps. The direction (by Stewart Hendler) is barely competent, and Ken Seng’s cinematography is mediocre, with many scenes poorly lit and/or afflicted with the hand-held jerkiness that suggests a bad case of palsy. Lucian Piane’s score tries to build suspense where none exists.
And the acting is dreadful. The girls are bad enough—bitch Jessica (Leah Pipes) and good girl Cassidy (Briana Evigan) tend to italicize everything, playing to the rafters, and as the others in the pack Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Audrina Patridge and Margo Harshman are no better. But the guys are worse. Julian Morris, as Cassidy’s boyfriend (the class valedictorian, no less), and Matt Lanter (as Jessica’s, an ambitious senator’s son) both have to play last-act scenes that are way beyond embarrassing. (It may be the fault of the plot rather than the actors, but it’s still not pretty.) And Matt O’Leary, as the dead girl’s old boyfriend, is terrible too.
One other cast member makes an impression—not good one. That’s Carrie Fisher as the tough housemother. Stout and grim-faced, she makes one very glad that George Lucas never got around to making that third trilogy, the one where an older Princess Leia would have appeared.
A quarter-century ago, “Sorority Row” would have been junky fodder for a one-week run, like all the other wretched slasher movies that trashed the “Halloween” mold back then. As a matter of fact, it was precisely that under its longer title in 1983. This remake is a fossil unworthy of being unearthed, a movie that’s not so much actively awful as simply and irremediably outdated and redundant.