When Glen Morgan remade Black Christmas in 2006, he was burned at the stake. Bob Clark’s original is a classic, and it didn’t deserve to be part of the remake machine (I am curious how it would fare had it come along AFTER Rob Zombie’s Halloween). I, however, liked his film. It wasn’t better but any means, but I liked the approach: putting a bunch of cute girls in a house, deriving humor from the characters instead of referencing horror movies, and dishing up a lot of over-the-top and gory kills. Fine by me. Well, now we have Sorority Row, which takes the same approach, except the original House On Sorority Row isn’t quite as lauded as Christmas, so hopefully this time folks will go easy on it.
What I most appreciated was that it offers up traditional slasher fun without any of the excessive brutality that a lot of modern slasher films have. The kills are bloody, yes, but not viciously so. After seeing H2’s overkill (“Why stab someone once when you can stab them 34 times?” Rob Zombie seems to be thinking), it’s nice to see a simple impaling every now and then.
It’s also refreshingly fast-paced. The prank that sets up the I Know What You Did Last Summer-esque plot occurs in the first 5 minutes, with the slasher claiming his/her first kill a few scenes later. The original took FOREVER to get to this point, and there was a lot of dilly-dally after that (then again, it had a slightly more complicated plot). And at first I was afraid that the compact main cast (six girls) would mean a low body count, but it’s actually about double that.
I do have one major issue. My biggest problem with the original was that the killer had this really creepy Jester costume that you never saw until the end of the film. I was hoping that the remake would make up for this and put him in a few scenes at least. But no! The costume isn’t used at all, and worse – now it’s just a big hooded coat like in Urban Legend. I don’t know why so many modern slashers are so reluctant to even try to make an interesting, costume-worthy killer, but that seems to be the case. Then again, I guess it makes the occasional memorable killer (like Chromeskull from Laid To Rest, or Babyface from The Hills Run Red) look even more badass in comparison.
As for the surprising R rating (I thought for sure this would be a PG-13 deal), it’s well-earned, though if you’re hoping for lots of nudity you’re shit out of luck. None of the main girls disrobe, instead only a couple of the random house girls are seen topless. More importantly, some of the deaths are pretty splattery, and follow Happy Birthday To Me’s template of being somewhat goofy (there are at least two deaths via something being forced in someone’s mouth). And (and this is what really won me over), the girls swear like sailors. Hell, even Carrie Fisher has a potty mouth. But unlike Zombie’s Halloween, the girls (particularly Margo Harshman) sound natural when they swear, and don’t get excessive with it. Plus, some of them ARE bitches, so when one calls another a bitch, it actually makes sense.
I know this won’t be a favorite among anyone, because it’s so by the numbers, but dammit, I miss this sort of “nothing special” slasher movie. So many of them nowadays are fixed on gimmicks, or 3D, or trying to outdo one of the other films – it’s nice to see one that’s simply a traditional slasher movie. It even has a nonsensical sequel setup, another tradition that’s been somewhat phased out. Well played.