Review: THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1983)

Mark Rosman’s THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW is a slasher that is more style than substance. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, as cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt does well to capture Rosman’s sensibilities by lining up some rather inventive shots and establishing some evocative motifs. The plot is boilerplate and the cast isn’t distinct, but the sumptuous score by Richard Band lends the proceedings more magnificence than they deserve and this cheapie wins points for form.

Kate (Kathryn McNeil) is a member of a sorority and she wants to hang around a bit after graduation. Her fellow sisters want to party, but the house mother Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt) wants some peace and quiet. This leads to a conflict that royally pisses off Vicki (Eileen Davidson). She devises a prank for revenge but everything goes ass-up and Mrs. Slater winds up dead. The sisters hide the corpse in the dirty pool. They throw the party and that’s when people start getting all slain by a shadowy figure.

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The plot has by now become standard, but there’s a sureness to the insubordination. When Vickie inadvertently offs Mrs. Slater, she wants to conceal her crime and most of the sisters go along with it. They have their futures to look forward to, after all, and Mrs. Slater is just some mean old crone. There’s a certain “supremacy of youth” scenario beneath the surface of the pool and Rosman’s picture excavates it when details of the house mother’s past are revealed.

That’s not to say that THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW is deep. Most of it is dispatch-by-numbers stuff. Some of the violence is entertaining and Rosman’s playful clown themes float a putrid innocence. Better is the image of the blood-spattered bird, which suggests a warped susceptibility in the attic. But as far as characters go, nobody stands out. Kate is drawn simply, with a microscopic conversation with her mother as context. Vickie is rancorous and gun-curious but otherwise dull. There is a Dr. Beck (Christopher Lawrence) in the offing, but he’s not distrustful enough to resonate. For all the toys in the attic, Rosman’s debut comes up short.

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