Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Sorority Is Only As Good As Its Wardrobe

Much like a good portion of the human population, I've had a rather serious case of Olympic fever over the past few weeks (much to the chagrin of NBC, who seem to be aggressively trying to cure this worldwide ailment with such antidotes as selective airing, ignorance of badminton, creepily leering broadcasters who can't hide the boners beach volleyball produces, lack of suspense, poor editing, and of course, Ryan Seacrest teaching your parents about Twitter). 

The result of this condition is that my moviewatching has been, shall we say, spotty. I don't feel guilty about this. After all, I can queue up The Unborn any day. I only get evil pummel horses stoically destroying the dreams of the Bronx ever four years.

That being said, I can only watch coxless rowing for so long before deciding it might be a good time to squeeze in a brisk 74 minute horror film, namely the fashion show spectacular that is 1986's Sorority House Massacre. Nowhere near a gold medal, but still far more interesting than coxless rowing.

And no, I'm not just repeating "coxless" because it sounds scandalous. As a public school graduate who's never watched a professional crew, I find the sport fascinating but only because it includes one team player three feet shorter than his or her teammates who does nothing but shout at his or her players to go faster. It's as if I missed my calling for the one Olympic event I might have stood a chance at.


Quick Plot: College student Beth returns to her sorority house following the death of her aunt. Despite the girls just wanna have fun vibe of her sisters, Beth can't seem to shake a series of powerful nightmares that involve a mystery man slicing his way through her comfortable party digs. Meanwhile, a seriously disturbed mental patient gives his doctors some worry across town. Could these two insomniacs have something in common?

Is an '80s final girl afraid of sex?

As you probably guessed, Sorority House Massacre treads no new territory in unfolding a very simple (yet somewhat convoluted, if the two can coexist) plot. It should surprise no one that Beth has mentally blocked some horrific childhood trauma that, whaddya know, involves the same man slashing his way through her gal pals and their terribly dressed boyfriends. Today's cinematic self-proclaimed purists can cry all they want about the moral perversion of remakes and Saw sequels, but when the only real thing separating Sorority House Massacre from the Halloween franchise is the holiday of Halloween, I can only roll my eyes.

That being said, I actually enjoyed this film quite a bit. Lead actress Angela O’Neill is a solid center for a surface story, and though none of the kills come with any real surprise, the cast is surprisingly likable in a way that makes their deaths linger sadly. Director Carol Frank opens the film with some eerie dream imagery that I found unsettling, but then again, it could just be because said imagery involved weird My Buddy-esque female dolls. Not that I have any relationship to things like that.

But really, if we need to examine what makes Sorority House Massacre worth watching, it's simple:

-A flannel shirt paired with checkered pans and complemented by an oversized cardigan
-Shoulder pads

-A Working Girl smart business dress suit accented with white cowgirl boots
-The classic two-piece Hawaiian dress
-Monochrome jumpsuits that call to mind Morgan Fairchild's cameo in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

If that wasn't enough to get you off the couch and into the mall, Sorority House Massacre features that tried and true staple of any 1980s girlcentric film: the fashion show montage.

During which, you get boobs. See? Everyone wins! 

High Points

Got it?

Low Points
Look, I remember the '80s well enough to know that no killers died on the first try, but after about three false "the killer is dead!" moments, I couldn't muster much more sympathy for the squeamish survivors

Lessons Learned
Dream imagery is a challenging, yet occasionally practical and life-saving college major

When the house mother is away, sorority sisters will play…by trying on each other’s clothing and—GET THIS—eating the missing girls’ ice cream. It’s a “once in a lifetime” opportunity!

One rather skinny mental patient with a mid-sized knife is a force to be reckoned with, so much so that even if there are four of you (including one muscular man), banding together to take said skinny mental patient down is a far worse idea than separating and running for your lives unarmed

Stray Observation
Despite being set in, you know, a SORORITY, Sorority House Massacre stars the least horny male college students ever to be put on film. At least two of the boys decline 'staying the night' despite the cooing pleas of their ladies, while another preaches patience with his virginal girlfriend. What is going on here?

Oh. That.

How '80s Is It?
There's a blond, and her name is Linda. That's basically a birth certificate 

Sorority House Massacre isn’t particularly good, but it’s fairly high caliber quality in the realm of forgettable ‘80s slashers. The gore isn’t outstanding and the story is as original as Ryan Seacrest’s interview questions, but the cast is stronger than average and the utter ‘80s factor is enough to warrant a brief—74 minute!—stream on Netflix Instant. Then go back to gymnastics. Because it can’t be long before that pummel horse makes his real powers of evil known.


  1. I think I put that montage in the category of a "girls just wanna have fun" montage. They usually involve trying on clothes or shopping at the mall or driving around town in a Mustang convertible or all three. There are few things I love more than a "girls just wanna have fun" montage from the 80's.