The House on Sorority Row
While exploitation movies were hugely popular in the 70s, the trend continued to a lesser degree into the 80s and beyond. As someone born in the 80s, I was part of the VHS generation. I grew up walking past shelves upon shelves of horror movies at our local video store, browsing the art. Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say, but as a child, the cover is what inevitably drew me in or pushed me away.
One such title was The House on Sorority Hill. The art showcased a voluptous women, holding her falling nightgown pressed against her body. It screamed exploitative trash. And while that artwork probably attracted most boys my age, obviously it did nothing to the boy who was strangely attracted to Rick from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4.
Over time, it kept coming up; mentioned by people whose tastes I admire. With Scorpion Releasing’s new release of this movie, I finally decided to give it a go. And I’m glad I did. It’s actually an artfully directed and well-acted entry in the 80s slasher subgenre and a little hidden gem that not many people know of.
It begins in black and white, with a painful c-section birth of a child before cutting to the final days of school at a Sorority. A group of college sorority sisters are graduating and preparing to throw a final party. But the den mother isn’t having it. The same den mother who had the painful birth 20 years before. In the same house, natch.
The girls play a trick on the den mother, which backfires fatally. Of course, there’s our hero who wants to go to the police. Of course, the sorority sisters don’t want to go to jail and out vote her, so they decide to hide the body. And, of course, the sisters start vanishing.
Immediately, I could see where a lot of the sorority stories get their ideas. The beginning reminded me of Scream Queens, for instance. Additionally, the idea of a group of girls covering up a fatal accident brings to mind I Know What You Did Last Summer. I don’t know if this was where those tropes originated, but it’s the earliest movie I’ve seen with them.
I absolutely loved this movie. Mark Rosman, who’d go on to direct a bunch of tween-centric shows and movies (Lizzie McGuire and A Cinderella Story, for example) has quite an assured directing debut here. What surprised me was the acting, particularly with our protagonist, Kate McNeil. She carries the film. This particular release is stunning to watch. I love these little boutique film companies that spend so much time restoring films like this. It’s a shame that not as many people know about this little film or that discounted it, like I did. It deserves more recognition. I definitely recommend it.