The House on Sorority Row (1983) Review

There is something so sumptuous and lush about Mark Rosman’s directorial debut, The House on Sorority Row. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “classy slashers”, they must have been referring to this beautiful horror film. From the music to the women to the photography, House gets it just about perfect.

The movie starts out with what we are to assume was a still birth. Years later, the woman who had the child, Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt) is now a House Mother to some fairly snobby girls who are preparing to graduate and embark on the real world. The wanton lasses decided to throw a party in the house but Mrs. Slater will not be engaging in shenanigans in her own abode. That’s when Vicki (Eileen Davidson), who’s had just about enough of Slater’s pretense, comes up with this wildly idiotic prank to prove who the real boss is. By accident (isn’t it always by accident?), the girls murder Mrs. Slater (or so we think) and in a fit of pure panic devise a scheme to hide the body until the party is over. Well, that’s when Slater goes MIA and so do the girls… one by one.

The House on Sorority Row is an opulent little movie that reminds one that if Hitchcock were allowed to do an all out 80s slasher, this is the film he might make. Rosman was a protégé of Brian DePalma’s so it doesn’t really take much imagination to figure out why the film looks so gorgeous. It has been argued that the slasher sub-genre was really just an Americanization of the popular Giallo format from Italy. Although most slashers tended to dump the whodunit angle or they approached it in such a haphazard way, it really had no effect at all. House on the other hand, has enough twists to keep fans of thrillers happy as well. Even the gore, although pretty shocking in a scene or two, is really toned down in favor of the story (but there’s still a pretty nifty head in the toilet scene to keep gorehounds happy!).

All of the actresses are great… well almost all of them. There is one particular blonde bombshell that is just a bit over the top. Fans of the film know that I speak of Morgan (Jodi Draigie). She has about three lines in the movie and does a fancy cross-eye death scene and man, does she leave a mark! This would be Jodi’s only film, and even though she’s, uh, different, the attempt is genuine enough that Morgan becomes more of an endearing character than an annoying one. And she does a moment or two of choice nudity, so we love the girl, don’t we? The stand out performances belong to Kate McNeil, Harley Kozak and Eileen Davidson, who embodies the Bitch-From-Hell to perfection.

Why The House on Sorority Row became one of the lesser known entries in the sub-genre is another mystery worthy of Hitchcock. I couldn’t say why this movie doesn’t have a more voracious following but it’s a sure fire choice for fans of creepy movies and those looking to convert the uninitiated.

The House on Sorority Row is coming to DVD from Scorpion Releasing between September 2011-March 2012.

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2 Responses to “ The House on Sorority Row (1983) Review ”

  1. one of my fave slashers, and so much better than the remake ( although, for what it was the remake was ok) – the scene on the waterbed has the viewer wanting Mrs Slater to be pushed down the stairs or something, especially with the smug look on her face as she is being abused as she leaves the room.
    There is some great creepy “child” music in this film, and great chase and stalk scenes – it needs more love from fans !

  2. IMO one of the best. The score has a unique feel. Instead of minimalism it went for neo-classical romantic sweeping strings and a music box motif.
    The who;e Film is like a melding of De Palma and Argento. It’s a pity Mark Rosman never made more horror films. He had a talent for it.

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