Theta Pi must die!
Pretty good tagline, huh? “Sorority Row,” a remake/update of 1983′s superb “The House On Sorority Row,” does indeed boast a couple of good “zingers” in its “viral” and standard marketing campaigns, the other being “Sisterhood Is Forever.” They’re direct, to the point, and easy to remember. Enough to pique your interest. But is that interest ultimately rewarded?
The cast is a testament to the continuing power of nepotism in Hollywood, featuring as it does Rumer Willis (Bruce and Demi’s kid) and Briana Evigan (daughter of Greg, still best remembered as title character B.J. McKay in TV’s “B.J. And The Bear”) among its bevy of young almost-starlets. They each out in good turns as basket-case Ellie and quasi-hero Cassidy, respectively, and are the only two sisters among a group of five members of the exclusive Theta Pi sorority who share a deadly secret between them to show any sort of remorse for the part they played in a deadly prank gone wrong that left one of their other members at the bottom of a disused mine shaft.
The initial premise of accidentally killing their friend while she’s pretending to be dead is clever enough and fleshed out in much more detail than it was in the original, but in all fairness this remake suffers from some of the same flaws that so many previous entries in the horror classic do-over sweepstakes do : it’s more stylized than it is stylish, it’s trying overly-hard to be “contemporary” and “relevant” while remaining ostensibly true to its “source material,” and has an unfortunate tendency to over-explain things just in case its audience leans too heavily toward the moronic —for instance, we can see with our own two eyes that the killer is using a tricked-out tire iron, there’s really no need for dialogue exposition to confirm that fact, and while we’re at it, there’s no need to keep reminding us of the fact that Megan, the unfortunate victim in question, can’t possible be alive—we know that, too, and when the sisters who dumped her and some of their friends start getting killed off one-by-one on the night of their college graduation, the movie doesn’t even try particularly hard to sell us on the idea that it could be her back from the grave to exact vengeance, so why keep mentioning it as a possibility?
The real identity of the killer is the main source of intrigue here, and while some of the “red herrings” along the way are pretty blatantly absurd (Carrie Fisher as the stereotypical drunk house mother, for instance, never seems plausible as the face beneath the murderer’s graduation gown hood, but they sure do try to sell us on the idea for a little while), it’s nevertheless an interesting enough little mystery, and when the raging psychopath is finally revealed, to give credit where it’s due, it actually is fairly surprising.
The rest of the principal cast—Leah Pipes as super-bitch Jessica, Jamie Chung as perpetually-cheated-on Claire, and Margo Harshman as drunken uber-slut Chugs—all do well enough with their roles, and director Stewart Hendler keeps things moving at a pretty brisk and at times even suspenseful clip. No one here has anything to be ashamed of, that’s for sure.
But then, there’s nothing that particularly sets this film apart from the passel of teen- and twenty-something-horror out there. It’s involving enough for about 100 minutes, but in no way especially memorable, yet alone groundbreaking. You won’t reflect on it much later, nor be dying to rent it on DVD. It all fades from memory pretty quickly.
It’s not bad, that’s for certain, but it never rises above the level of “acceptably average,” so while your host isn’t willing to go so far as to say you should give this movie a pass, the fact is that you won’t be missing a whole lot if you don’t see it, especially since there’s sure to be something else more or less exactly like it that comes along within the next few weeks.