Blu-ray Review: Sorority Row (2009)

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Operas have divas and horror movies have scream queens but when your bloody thriller casts an operatically trained singer (actress Rumer Willis) to unleash countless bloodcurdling screams, the result is twice as scary for the audience.

As the requisite bookish virgin, Willis' Ellie is one of very few characters in director Stewart Hendler's reinterpretation of the script Seven Sisters that became the '80s slash-a-thon House on Sorority Row, with whom the audience can identify.

Similar to its rushed trailer, the movie opens way too quickly by hurdling through character introductions and in place of keeping the young women straight, we're instead trying to keep up with the breakneck pace as a mean-spirited and frankly disgusting prank goes awry.

Trying to teach the player brother of one of the girls a lesson not to cheat on their sorority sister Megan (Audrina Partridge), the women of Theta Pi pull a Godfather style stunt of having Megan pretend to foam at the mouth from a faux “roofie” and die during foreplay.

Hoping to further shock some sense into him as cruelly as possible, the meanest and most ambitious senior girl of them all, Jessica (Leah Pipes) escorts all the sisters and the devastated boy in an SUV as commanding as she is before she lays down the fake law telling the group that they have to dispose of Megan's “body.”

As the girls try to keep it together and Megan's cell phone video camera keeps capturing everything, the sole male in the group loses any sense of sanity he has left and impales Megan with a tire iron so her body would sink in the quarry. Although the honest Cassidy (Briana Evigan) wants to run for help, Jessica reminds her that she will be destroying her future since Megan's body is wrapped in her now blood-stained jacket.

Leaving their fallen sister behind, the girls vow secrecy to get through the next eight months of senior year. However, the past resurfaces in a brutally shocking way when a killer stalking coeds in a graduation gown begins exacting revenge on all involved and then some, this time when the murders are intentional and nothing is staged a la a particularly gruesome form of college candid camera.

Although the trailer for Hendler's movie made it essentially look like gore plus T&A or The House Bunny meets I Know What You Did Last Summer and admittedly given his background as a beer commercial director comes in handy in soaking up the Greek life and lusty abandon of the MTV style set, still by the time the last act rolls around, I was surprised by just how ingenious the whodunnit segment of the movie had become.

Going down every horror movie character archetype in my mind including thoughts of double and triple pranks or red herrings, Sorority Row managed to “get” me truly and startlingly in two intense twists that make this film that's admittedly Death Proof like short on character likability or development vastly superior to the overrated I Know What You Did Last Summer.

While again, you won't care much for the characters overall as you're barely introduced to them before they go barreling down a dark moonlight road with Megan in tow and as individuals, they're exactly the type of girls most of us tried to stay away from in school, Hendler's movie works because it has no pretenses about what it is and attempts to add in more self-involved stereotypically cliched “Barbie girl” humor than over-the-top carnage.

Featuring Carrie Fisher in a killer small part as the shotgun wielding boozy house mother who's ready to turn into Rambo against anyone who crosses Theta Pi, Sorority Row sets itself up for a franchise I wouldn't advise.

Yet sequel possibilities aside, Hendler's movie is scream-worthy fun with or without the opera training and surprising enough that just when you think you can check your brain at the door completely, you'll discover it kicks back in gear during the bravura ending.

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FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.