2009 may well be remembered as the year of the remake or reinterpretation of classic B-film slasher movies. Sorority Row — an update of The House on Sorority Row — continues this trend. Regrettably, it appears new ideas may be a little thin on the ground. It’s disappointing because the genre is in serious need of a blood transfusion to reinvigorate it from its present anemic condition. The film industry’s drive towards easy profits based on previously successful formulas is stunting the growth of innovative approaches in horror.
While Sorority Row follows the premise of 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, it lacks that film’s moral conscious. The girls of Theta Pi aren’t troubled by their culpability in the accidental death of fellow sister Megan (The Hills‘ Audrina Partridge). They are only worried about being caught.
All because mean girl leader Jessica (Leah Pipes) and sisters Cassidy (Briana Evigan), Ellie (Rumer Willis), Claire (Jamie Chung), Chugs (Margo Harsh) and Megan play an ill-advised prank on the latter’s heating boyfriend. Posing as a corpse, neither Megan nor the gang expects that she will wind up the real thing before the night is over.
Invoking Theta Pi’s motto – “Trust, respect, honor, solidarity, and secrecy” – Jessica persuades everyone to dispose of Megan’s body. However, eight months later on graduation day, karma has come to collect. A hooded figure brandishing a revamped tire iron arrives on the scene to dispatch the girls one by one which convinces Ellie that Megan has returned from the grave. I laughed thinking the killer must have spent time perfecting his pitching arm because he/she hurls that tire iron through the air with ninja-like precision.
It looks like director Stewart Hendler aimed for a hip, edgy style; unfortunately the effect is only skin deep. Nothing else seems to work in Sorority Row — not the plot, the acting, or the humor. Hendler, whose previous work consists of short films, is out of his depth here. And screenwriters Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger serve up Charmed-like inane repartee instead of smart dialogue. I wasn’t the only one to feel that way. My best friend turned to me, pinched her nose, and uttered out loud, “This is crazy!”
With its many scenes of hardcore partying, earsplitting music, heavy make-out sessions, and shower stall nudity, Sorority Row more closely resembles an episode of Joe Francis’ Girls Gone Wild than it does a horror film. Yes, it has the requisite slash and gash violence, bloodied bodies, and dramatic musical score. But even with these nods to the genre’s conventions, I simply could not take seriously this sad little shocker.