Popular Sorority Slasher

A group of sorority sisters are killed off one by one at a graduation party as a deadly prank they pull comes back to haunt them in The House On Sorority Row. Starring Kate McNeil and Eileen Davidson (The Young and the Restless), the fresh-faced cast of young actresses cheerfully bounce off the elderly house mother they resent for canceling their graduation party. The gleefully fun 1983 slasher by director Mark Rosman doesn’t reinvent the genre but skillfully executes a premise heavily inspired by such films as Black Christmas, Prom Night, and a touch of Diabolique.

Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt) is the matronly house mother for Pi Theta sorority. The lovely girls of Pi Theta are looking to host one last party before leaving college behind. The vivacious Vicki (Eileen Davidson) is their ring leader who butts heads with Mrs. Slater when the elderly woman demands the co-eds call off their party for mysterious reasons. A haunting opening scene hints at deeper psychological problems for Mrs. Slater after a failed pregnancy years ago left her mentally scarred from the trauma.

The House On Sorority Row has maintained its popularity over the decades as a cult classic in the slasher genre thanks to a lively cast and the fine direction

Looking for retaliation, Vicki and her friends pull off a prank on Mrs. Slater that goes disastrously wrong, resulting in an accidental death. Thinking of her future, Vicki stupidly believes covering up the death makes more sense than reporting it. Katie (Kate McNeil) is the only member who strongly disagrees. The wild graduation party proceeds forward in full swing as the sorority sisters start getting killed off by a mysterious figure dressed up in a clown costume.

Despite using familiar tropes and hewing closely to the usual slasher formula, The House On Sorority Row has surprisingly decent character development backed with a solid cast. The well-paced screenplay sets up the basic premise with panache while a few nice twists keeps the audience guessing. Sorority houses are a great setting for slashers and this movie is a first-rate example of that trend. A wild college party makes fertile territory for fresh kills and several memorable death traps.

The House On Sorority Row has maintained its popularity over the decades as a cult favorite in the slasher genre thanks to a lively cast and the fine direction from Mark Rosman.

Video

Scorpion Releasing put out The House on Sorority Row on Blu-ray just three years ago with a new 2K scan from the original camera negative with extensive color correction. MVD tries upping the ante by including both the theatrical cut (91:47 in length) and seen here for the first time on home video, director Mark Rosman’s preferred re-timed opening sequence in black-and-white.The alternate version runs a tick longer at 91:53.

What’s most interesting is that each version appears to be from different film scans. The elements are serviceable at best and almost appear unrestored in the theatrical version. While purists may want the pure grindhouse slasher vibe given off by the decidedly less impressive looking theatrical cut, there’s no doubt the raw video quality is far better on the director’s alternate version. Leave it to MVD to barely spotlight the more aesthetically pleasing alternate version, placed in the special features menu.

For either version, the raw elements show their age with average definition, telecine wobble and even jitter. Damage is often apparent with nicks and scratches. Poor detail and mildly flat colors produce a realistic but muddy film. This is not eye candy and the film transfers are organically authentic but limited reproductions of troubled source material.

Without having the Scorpion disc at my disposal, I can’t tell you if this MVD presentation is a marked improvement. Going by everything I know, the theatrical presentation doesn’t look great or even good, while the alternate version may actually be sourced from the excellent 2018 Scorpion work.

Audio

Dropping the surround remix from Scorpion’s limited edition Blu-ray, the theatrical movie version receives adequate 2.0 PCM in stereo. Composer Richard Band’s score and the New Wave rock band playing in the party scenes are heard in crisp fidelity with few limitations beyond slightly timid higher frequencies. This is a warm and mostly smooth recording. The sound design is fairly lackluster and primitive by today’s standards but fits the low-budget slasher’s grittier production ethos.

More disappointing is the mono audio on the alternate director’s version, heard in lossy Dolby Digital. I guess the audio wasn’t available to MVD in lossless quality. It lacks the presence and punch found in the PCM audio heard on the other version.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a yellow font.

Extras

The House On Sorority Row is #29 in MVD’s Rewind Collection. The single Blu-ray edition includes a fold-out mini-poster and a cardboard slipcover made up in the art style of an old VHS cover.

This isn’t the first time the slasher has come out on BD. Scorpion Releasing put out two prior Blu-ray editions, including a limited 2018 release which boasted a new transfer, a 5.1 surround mix, and an isolated score missing from MVD’s disc. Cult UK distributor 88 Films also put out a Region B release with completely different special features.

Long story short, owners of the 2018 Scorpion Releasing disc probably don’t need this special edition from MVD. MVD does port over all the special features from Scorpion Releasing’s BD.

The lure for MVD’s edition is the director’s preferred re-timed, pre-credits sequence in black and white appended to the film’s opening, though MVD for some reason includes the original monaural soundtrack for that version in lossy quality. It’s also hidden away in the special features menu when it should have been given more prominence.

Director-approved Alternate Movie Version with re-timed credit sequence (91:53 in HD; 2.0 mono Dolby Digital) – Practically hidden away in the special features is the first version I’d recommend most fans watch on this disc. This is a completely different grading for most of the movie and may even be a different film scan of virtually the same theatrical cut. The big difference besides improved picture quality is weaker lossy audio and the opening scene corrected for black and white.

Audio Commentary on the theatrical version by director Mark Rosman moderated by Katarina Leigh Waters – A 2012 commentary.

Audio Commentary by writer/director Mark Rosman & actresses Eileen Davidson and Kathryn McNeil – Archival commentary on the theatrical version.

Interview With Director Mark Rosman (21:24 in SD)

Interview With Actress Harley Jane Kozak (41:39 in HD)

Interview With Star Eileen Davidson (07:14 in SD)

Interview With Star Kathryn McNeil (14:24 in SD)

Interview With Composer Richard Band (45:18 in SD)

Interview With Co-Producer Igo Kantor (10:11 in SD)

Original Pre-Credit Sequence (02:06 in HD)

Alternate Ending With Commentary By Director Mark Rosman (07:11 in HD)

The House On Sorority Row Theatrical Trailer (03:10 in HD)

The House On Sorority Row TV Spots (04:36 in HD) – Three spots in total.

MVD Trailers for Mortuary, Dahmer, Mikey, and Mind Games

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The House on Sorority Row
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

The cult slasher has only grown in esteem and popularity since its 1983 debut thanks to the young cast and smooth story.

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User Review
4.5 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 45 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: