A common complaint about this series of editorials is that we are apparently defending movies that don’t need a defense. I would just like to point out that we are writing these “In Defense Of” pieces not because we think they are bad movies, but because we really enjoy them and have had personal experience with people bashing them to our faces (or in the comments section of a message board). So today I will defend Sorority Row, a movie that is not beloved by even those of us in the horror community. It received a slightly above-average review right here on Bloody-Disgusting but it currently stands at a paltry 22% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 24 score on Metacritic. And I love it. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
Sorority Row has a pretty generic plot that has been use several times before (think I Know What You Did Last Summer), but the plot isn’t really the point of the film. This is a funny, bitchy and gory film that exists solely to entertain and I would argue is better than about 80% of the slashers that have come out in the past decade. I know the whole “it’s not trying to be good” is kind of a lame defense but hear me out: if you think of this movie as a cross between Mean Girls and Scream I think you might be able to see it in a different light and really enjoy it. I believe Sorority Row suffers from the same issue that Drag Me to Hell suffered from upon its release earlier that year: being marketed with a trailer that made it look like a legitimate horror film. Also, The Hills alum Audrina Partridge was in it (although she dies about 15 minutes into the film).
I really love the trailer, but it definitely makes it look like more of a straightforward slasher than it actually is. Like I mentioned in my defense of Drag Me to Hell, Sorority Row is a horror comedy that was marketed as a scary movie. Studios need to learn that you cannot do that because, while the horror fans may get it (though clearly they didn’t make it to the theater for this one), the mainstream does not. At least DMTH made some money. Sorority Row only made $11.96 million domestically on a $12.5 million budget (international box office was $15.24 million which is something, I guess).
I only happened to catch Sorority Row in theaters because I got free tickets for it. I took two of my friends and we pretty much all went in with zero expectations. Once the credits started rolling I looked at one of my friends and asked him if he thought it was as much fun as I did. His response was a very reluctant (but equally enthusiastic) “YES. But no one is going to believe me.” True story. The film never caught on and it has yet to become a cult hit (and I don’t think it will).
The cast is mostly great, thanks to all of the female actresses involved (they certainly look the part of sorority girls). The male characters in the film are reduced to horny douchebags but the girls all have their own distinct personalities (or stereotypes if you want to go negative) and none of them got on my nerves (except maybe Rumer Willis’ Ellie, but at least the movie makes fun of her constant whining). I get that self-aware films are not to everyone’s taste but I think it’s better when a movie can take the criticisms that an audience member would throw at it and lampoon them. Sorority Row does just that.
Leah Pipes is a revelation in Sorority Row and I’m kind of bummed she hasn’t gotten more steady work. She channels her inner Heather Chandler/Regina George to play Jessica and delivers most of the film’s acidic one-liners. My personal favorite being this exchange when her and Cassidy (Briana Evigan) are hiding in a bathroom only to find Megan’s (Audrina Partridge) rotting corpse in the shower:
Cassidy: Oh my God it’s Megan!
Jessica: Oh she looks terrible…
That doesn’t really do the scene justice but I busted out laughing the first time I saw that. The dialogue is fantastic in this movie and there are SO MANY biting quips that I don’t know how anyone is not entertained by it. Then again, that may be part of the reason why people weren’t such huge fans. I actually thought the dialogue was really witty and clever, but maybe I’m just easy to please.
One thing I would like to suggest all of you do (if you like the movie) is watch the commentary with director Stewart Hendler and actresses Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis and Margo Harshman (Jamie Chung was unable to attend because she was filming Grown Ups, of all things). It’s very conversational and shows that the crew had a good time working on it. I just think it’s refreshing to see the actresses be so down to earth and really into the film.
Oh and the KILLS! One thing that I’ve found in a lot of post-2000 slashers are that the deaths aren’t really that creative (excluding the Final Destination series, of course). While the deaths in Sorority Row aren’t the best ever, they at least show some imagination. Also, since it’s R-rated, they can actually show some gore (though the film isn’t really what I’d call super gory). Sadly, the film does peak early with Chugs’ death, involving a Riesling bottle being shoved down her throat. It’s shame this moment was ruined in the trailer (and that Chugs was the funniest character in the film). That aside, there are flares in mouths, axes in heads and tire irons blades in mouths and shoved up chins. They didn’t hold back on this one.
As for the ending, I can honestly say that I did not see the reveal of the killer coming. The entire time I was in the theater I thought it was going to be Kyle, Jessica’s politically-motivated boyfriend who had clearly been set up to be the killer. Looking back, this was obviously a red herring, but because I went into Sorority Row thinking that it was going to be another dumb slasher I thought that was all the ambition the filmmakers had so they were just going to take the obvious route. They even have a whole bit at the end with Kyle actually having a mental breakdown and chasing Jessica and Cassidy with an ax. When Cassidy’s boyfriend Andy “saves the day” and kills Kyle with said ax, I was really let down and kind of bummed that that was the big reveal I had spent the whole movie waiting for. Then BAM! Andy’s actually the killer and his motive is that he wants to get rid of all the people involved in Megan’s murder so she can have a bright future with him.
It is completely ridiculous makes no sense but I think it’s fantastic. It’s not the best motive or reveal ever but I think that because I was really expecting something predictable, I had the rug pulled out from under me. I read a lot of reviews and comments saying that the movie was predictable and I just didn’t feel that way. But maybe it’s just me? I hope you don’t think I’m a fool for falling for Sorority Row’s trick, but I confess to being taken completely off guard.
So what say you? If you have seen the Sorority Row but weren’t that impressed, feel free to tell me why. And if you saw it and were as surprised as I was at how much fun it was, feel free to offer me some validation in the comments. Let’s try to be nice and avoid any rudeness or sarcasm though, because: