The Summer of Spook
It has been a while since I last reviewed something. I had many more reviews planned for The Summer of Spook, but alas, life gets in the way sometimes. Hopefully, I can now begin reviewing some more films for The Summer of Spook. Today we look at 1982s The House on Sorority Row and the 2009 remake Sorority Row. Both movies have plenty of positives and negatives—the 2009 version has a bit more problems but is still fun. The House on Sorority Row is a classic and seminal slasher from the early 1980s. J.A. Kerswell has a very positive outlook on the original The House on Sorority Row and refers to it in his book The Slasher Movie Book as “one of the best slasher movies of the period,” and refers to it as, “exciting, suspenseful, and stylish” (Kerswell, 2012, #132). I can see where he is coming from in his assessment, particularly with the film’s ending, which is highlighted by a surrealist atmosphere that elevates the film’s climax.
Both films tell the story of girls in a sorority who commit a prank that ends in death and murder. In The House on Sorority Row, the prank is committed on the house mother, played by Lois Kelso Hunt. In the remake Sorority Row, the prank is committed on their friend Megan’s boyfriend, but the prank goes horribly wrong, and Megan ends up dead by being impaled through the chest with a tire iron. The remake has the character wielding a signature bladed tire iron that, to me, is a pretty unique slasher weapon, but the original has a much better pace and atmosphere. In The House on Sorority Row, the killings begin the same day that the house mother is accidentally murdered, while in the remake, the killings start a year later as the characters try and keep the secret of Megan’s death from getting out. Having the characters have to deal with the accidental death at the very moment creates a much more tense and thrilling atmosphere. The characters in both movies act incredibly selfish, except for the Final Girls from each movie wanting to call for help from the police or an ambulance. No one other than the Final Girls want to get help, afraid of the negative repercussions that their misguided prank and unintentional murders will lead to.
While I don’t have as much positive to say about the characters in these movies I do enjoy the performances from the lead character, Katherine (played by Kate McNeil), in the original and the performance by Leah Pipes in the remake, she plays the bitchy character, Jessica. I enjoy these performances for entirely different purposes. Kate McNeil does an excellent job—particularly in the final act—of relating the terror of the situation to the audience. One of the best scenes in the movie features a character hiding in a jester outfit in the attic where she is hiding. Kate McNeil does an excellent job expressing terror as she realizes that the costume is occupied. It is an effectively creepy and terrifying scene that increased my enjoyment of an already entertaining slasher movie. Leah Pipes does not get praised for the same thing; instead, her performance as Jessica is memorable because of how bitchy and selfish she plays the role. She ranks up there with Melissa from Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood as one of the best bitchy characters in a slasher movie. No matter how selfish or vile she may come across she is always a joy to watch on screen and Leah Pipes steals the movie. We get a brief appearance from Carrie Fisher in the remake as the house mother but unfortunately, she isn’t given much to do; however, she does get a pretty decent scene where she fights the killer—I feel it’s important to note whenever the great Carrie Fisher was on screen.
Both movies feature boring twists but for different reasons. I’m not sure if the original is supposed to be a twist since it is telegraphed from the beginning, but the movie frames it in a way that is supposed to be shocking. The killer’s reveal in the remake is boring, and the motive behind the kills is rather lame and uninspired. Both films are entertaining but I think I give the edge to the original The House on Sorority Row even though the remake features the amazing bitchy Jessica. The remake has much gorier kills, most of which are well done, but the original has a unique atmosphere and remarkably uses colors and lighting to enhance the horrific atmosphere. Also, the original has a legitimately terrifying scene with the killer hiding in a jester costume. All in all, I think both are enjoyable flicks to watch on a hot summer night inside the AC.
The House on Sorority Row Rating 3.5/5
Sorority Row Rating 2/5
Kerswell, J.A. (2012). The Slasher Movie. Chicago Review Press.