Blu-ray Review: The Row (2018)

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Rush Week turns into Hurry Up and Run Week when a serial killer starts targeting members of a top group on campus described early on by our virginal heroine Riley's (Lala Kent) stereotypically slutty best friend Becks (Mia Rose Frampton) as "if Victoria's Secret was a sorority" in director Matty Beckerman's lackluster, low-budget slasher movie.

Shot and styled like a Girls Gone Wild video with an emphasis on skin and sin in the social media era, this feeble attempt to deliver a new spin on classic horror loses its audience almost as soon as it starts.

Hindered not only by its one-dimensional characters and wooden acting, The Row is also as generic as it is predictable as most people, with the exception of the purportedly brainy Riley – who's supposed to be a natural at this thanks to her police officer father (Randy Couture) – will have no trouble identifying the obvious killer within the first twenty minutes of the movie.

But instead of keeping her guard up after she finds the first dead body in a late night game of hide and seek, as she navigates college as an incoming freshman, Riley takes a walk on the kegger side.

Plunging head-first into Greek life, after Riley discovers that her late mother – about whom she knows very little – had also been a member of the same exclusive sorority, she dives in even deeper.

Paying homage to the genre’s obsession with mother issues – starting as far back as Hitchcock's Psycho and then crystallizing in subsequent generations with Friday the 13th and ScreamThe Row attempts to serve up an interesting enough mystery to keep us invested in the classic horror trope.

And while to her credit, screenwriter Sarah Scougal drops a few threads and red herrings along the way that could've led to a more complex denouement, instead of following through on its promised twists, she gives in and opts for the easiest solution.

It's a shame too because with a stronger cast, more self-awareness, humor, and imagination (think Heathers meets Mean Girls, and Scream), this could've been an entertainingly campy thriller.

However, with otherwise talented cinematographer Jamie Barber's camera seemingly devoted to zooming in on women's bodies to the point that sometimes all we see is a rear and a colorful thong to introduce us to a new soon-to-be dead character, The Row never rises above the obsessive mindset of our predator killer who opts to treat the coeds like interchangeable dolls. Thus, it's trash instead of camp.

When you combine this approach with its laughable opening sequence in which Randy Couture almost runs down a key character who will coincidentally factor in later, let's just say that subtlety is not the film’s strong suit.

And neither, as it turns out is suspense as The Row wastes three potential suspects by doing nothing with them to help generate more mystery or tension before it suddenly offers an explanation that, amusingly for a film set in college, makes zero mathematical sense.

Nonetheless, it drops in an eerie twist in a post-credits sequence that might have thrilled viewers earlier on in the film because it actually pays off nicely on a red herring.

But in the end, with its pervy photography and dull plot that hits all the basic notes used in past genre efforts – including the one where seemingly out of nowhere Couture finally puts it all together just in the nick of time – when it comes to serving up scares, it's all Greek to The Row.

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