The Horror Honeys: Slasher Hexmas: I Know What You Did Last Semester

Slasher Hexmas: I Know What You Did Last Semester

A Sci-Fi Honey Slasher Hexmas Review by Katie

Sorority Row (2009)

There are certain boxes that must be checked when assembling a decent slasher flick: a stalker-ish, seemingly indestructible serial killer who’s seeking revenge after being wronged; a group of hapless teens, often showing off more skin than brain cells; and a few red herrings leading to the twist where a would-be victim, usually the Final Girl, unmasks the killer who’d been in their midst all along. On this cinematic ride fans demand plenty of creatively gory kills, punctuated by boobs and blood (or sometimes a combination of both), and if we’re lucky, a sardonically biting wit that brings some levity to all the slicing and dicing. Enter the grievously underrated Sorority Row: a film that unapologetically mines all of these tropes to create a near-perfect representation of this very unique (and cliché-specific) faction of the horror film community. Released to very little fanfare in 2009 before languishing in obscurity, Sorority Row has a new home on Netflix – giving it the means to achieve cult success if enough slasher aficionados look past the generic title and storyline to embrace a film that checks all the boxes without feeling stale.

Loosely lifted from the 1983 ‘Video Nasty’ The House on Sorority Row, the plot of the new millennium's Sorority Row is not that different from slasher films of decades prior. The film centers on the sisters of Theta Pi, a posh sorority led by Queen Bee Jessica (Leah Pipes) and populated by formulaic representations of the sorority-horror order: the shy, bespectacled Ellie (Rumer Willis); the party girl affectionately known as ‘Chugs’ (Margo Harshman); the token Asian, Claire (Jamie Chung); the level-headed Cassidy (Briana Evigan); and the airheaded Megan (played by The Hills’ Audrina Patridge, because I guess Paris Hilton was busy that week). Hazing pranks abound in Greek collegiate life, and the sisters have a doozy lined up for frat dudebro Garrett: having cheated on girlfriend Megan, the ladies cook up a plot to fake her death when he gives her faux-roofies, and convince him to dump her body in a remote mineshaft. When things go from humorous to horrific with a single shortsighted lapse in judgment, an unknown assailant begins to stalk and slay all involved with the deadly practical joke. The sisters of Theta Pi must die!

But at least they still look smokin' hot.
I know, I know – nothing in this plot sounds remotely original, and you’ve seen these stereotypes get slashed to death in film after film since Black Christmas spawned the subgenre back in 1974. Even the character of the saucy House Mother, played here by a shotgun-toting Carrie Fisher, made an appearance in both Black Christmas and The House on Sorority Row. The drunk, the slut, the bookworm, the bitch -- they’re all here, and they’re all ready to die in a means befitting of their contrived labels. But there’s something about Sorority Row that I found enjoyable in spite of itself, and I think it’s the way the film commits wholeheartedly to embracing every single gimmick at its disposal. The killer’s weapon of choice is not simply a tire iron; it’s a pimped-out, blade-enhanced instrument of death hurled like a ninja star. As the body count creeps up to double digits, the film manages to elicit lots of thrills without relying too heavily on cheap jump scares. The way Sorority Row uses technology is just believable enough for 2009 – no cellular reception, text messages received from a mysterious source – to excuse the tired groans these clichés would elicit from today’s audiences. 

Sometimes you don't even need a name, just the stereotype you've been assigned.
Another enjoyable quality of Sorority Row is the way in which the film balances humor with its horror. Laughing relieves the grim tension associated with watching scary movies, and the best slashers have more intentional laughs than unintentional ones. A good deal of credit goes to the acting chops of the ladies who make up Theta Pi -- especially Leah Pipes as Jessica, who lords over her sisterhood like Regina George from hell. “Eww, she looks terrible,” Jessica remarks, as she stumbles across the rotting corpse of her once-glamorous sister. Ryan Murphy has recently tried to harness this particular tone for his new sorority-house horror series Scream Queens, but Sorority Row perfected this balance more than half a decade ago. Especially where female relationships are concerned, Sorority Row utilizes mordant Heathers-esque comedy with more nuanced sophistication than Murphy is capable of in any of his work.

I just killed my best friend... or my worst enemy... Same difference!
Fans of slasher movies will see anything in this category knowing full well what to expect: a variation on the genre-defining stereotypes we know and love, with enough deviation from the recipe to keep us from going numb with boredom. Sorority Row takes run-of-the-mill slasher stereotypes and reworks it into something that feels both familiar and fresh at the same time. Though forgotten in the mire of Scream-carbon copies that were churned out in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Sorority Row deserves a second look for slasher fans who want to experience copious amounts of fun and frights. Watch it at your next all-girl slumber party, lest anyone forgets the tenets of female solidarity -- sisters for life, and beyond!

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Three-and-a-half tire irons to the face out of five.

Would YOU last a night on Sorority Row