Sorority Row Review

To its limited credit, Sorority Row does try some unique things. Director Stewart Hendler plays with the camera, over exposes film, utilizes different film stocks, and gives each scene a unique feel. This is a slasher film that is, at the least, interesting to look at.

Behind the cinematic pizzazz is everything you would expect. Aside from the interesting premise, that of a sorority prank gone wrong leading to the murder of Theta Pi sister Megan (Audrina Partdridge), Sorority Row is terribly confused. The dialogue, at least in spots, is entirely tongue-in-cheek. Jessica (Leah Pipes) is the predictable stuck-up leader of this guilty group, flawlessly delivering lines that are implausible yet goofy fun.

Unfortunately for the film as a whole, her unlikable, absurd attitude makes everything else too over the top to buy. The tension derived from a fun chase through a swamp of bubble bath caused by a hot tub is negated when Jessica opens her mouth. The dark humor, if played correctly, had the potential to lift Sorority Row over the countless other recent horror remakes. It is a shame someone tried to take this schlocky material seriously.

It makes every plotting issue stand out, including the ridiculousness of the killer, and the hilarity of his/her weapon. A tire iron turned into an improvised utility knife? Credit for uniqueness, minus 10 for the incredibly quick turn around in learning how to use it, plus spin it like a revolver in the old west. Someone was practicing.

The murders themselves, the only thing anyone came to see (along with gratuitous nudity and the close-up of a girl giving another girl mouth-to-mouth), go for the throat. The killer has unparalleled precision, even if he/she is unable to see his victim who is stuck inside a clothes chute. One would think some variety would have been appreciated, as the special effects crew undoubtedly became bored showing sharp objects plunge into the throat.

The real issue with Sorority Row is not that it is unoriginal, uninspired, or familiar. This is a film that has the script of Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger with flashes of brilliance. They even have Carrie Fisher running around with a shotgun trying pop the killer in the head, and yet have no fun with the concept. It’s almost a shame when Jessica gets her comeuppance, as she is the only part of the script that seems to understand what is going on.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

With all of its color timing changes, film stock decisions, and lighting conditions, this AVC encode from Summit does what it can to keep up. The contrast can run hot, causing some blooming (some obviously intentional) and washed out black levels. On that same note, the black levels can vary wildly, from crushing significant detail out of the frame due to their depth, to appearing flat and uninspired.

Colors swap between rich warm hues to steely blues, both handled equally well. Saturation is entirely dependent on the scene, ranging from the vibrancy of parties to the nearly black & white of the first scene with Carrie Fisher in the kitchen. The grain structure is maintained with few flaws, spiking inside the car on the way to the mine, likely a 16MM sequence if the grain is an indicator. Some banding is evident, at its worst on the door at 1:24:52.

Close-ups can reveal fully resolved detail, which typically disappears when the camera moves back, even slightly. Clothing and facial textures are just inconsistent. Environments are sharp and stable, if unimpressive in terms of definition when you are spoiled by this format.

Video ★★★★☆ 

The parties are undoubtedly the highlight of this DTS-HD effort. Opening the film is a booming soundtrack, filled with countless drunk college kids screaming and yelling in all channels. Some fun subtle uses are notable too, including a girl throwing beer on a guy, tossing the cup over her shoulder, and you clearly hear it hit the floor in the rear channel despite the aggressive nature of the music.

Scene transitions can deliver a punishing low end push when they try to elicit a scare. Most of the kills, or at least those scene-building pre-kill sequences, rely on subtlety. The killer stupidly announces his presence by knocking on walls or vents with his tire iron/utility knife combo, and the mix clearly offers the appropriately directional audio. Other minor ambiance includes the scene inside the car, where debris can be heard clanging on the undercarriage, and the slight crackling of flames in the finale.

One line of dialogue comes through scratchy, spoken late around 1:30:00 by the killer. All other dialogue maintains the expected modern level of fidelity.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Extras start with a picture-in-picture commentary, including director Stewart Hendler and four of his cast members alongside him. Sorority Secrets has the cast discussing their time on the set while behind-the-scenes footage is edited in. Killer 101 discusses how to write a slasher movie for modern horror audiences, with some discussion also focused on the history of the genre. Together, the two featurettes run about 24-minutes.

Kill Switch is a time saver, a feature that takes you directly to each kill. Six deleted scene each include a director’s introduction, while an alternate ending only changes in terms of style. Outtakes, five and a half minutes of them, remain.

One thing to note is that all of the deleted scenes are presented in 1.78:1, while the film is 2.35:1. Random, but it seems important to note.

Extras ★★★☆☆