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Sorority Row (2009)

Summit Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/23/2010

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/22/2010

In my recent review of The Stepfather, I wrote about how it felt like the remake trend was slowing down. Well, the remakes may not be coming along as fast and furiously as they were a few years ago, but they are still trickling in. These remakes fall into one of three categories; they are nearly shot-for-shot re-dos of the original film; they are "re-imaginings" which only share a passing resemblance to the original; or they take the original idea and only make minor adjustments to it. Sorority Row is a remake of the 1983 slasher film The House on Sorority Row. While that movie isn't a classic, it's certainly a respectable entry into the slasher cycle. There's nothing respectable about this new version.

Sorority Row opens with a party at the Theta Pi sorority and the seniors -- Jessica (Leah Pipes), Cassidy (Briana Evigan), Chugs (Margo Harshman), Claire (Jamie Chung) and Ellie (Rumer Willis) -- are having a great time. They've decided to play a prank on Garrett (Matt O'Leary), who is a known cheater. They have him hook-up with Megan (Audrina Patridge) and then convince him that she's OD'd on a date-rape drug. The girls have Garrett put Megan's "body" in a car and they drive to an abandoned well. Just when the girls are about to reveal their "joke" to Garrett, he stabs Megan with a tire-iron, killing her for real. The girls panic and throw Megan's body down the well, and they all swear to keep the secret. The story then jumps ahead to the end of the school year. The seniors have graduated and they are ready for one final party, despite the fact that Cassidy has distanced herself from her sisters since Megan's death. As the girls are putting the final preparations on the party, they all receives a text message from someone claiming to be Megan. Following this, a hooded killer begins to bump them off one-by-one.

Sorority Row is one of those remakes which is truly baffling. The original film dealt with the sister's accidentally killing their house-mother and then being killed by a masked assailant. The ending revealed the killer's identity and highlighted a terrible secret from the past. It would be a safe bet that much of the target audience for the remake has not seen the original, and thus wouldn't be familiar with the story and plot-twists. Nonetheless, writers Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger felt the need to take the skeleton of the original screenplay and throw away the rest. If they had brought in something original, this wouldn't have been a problem. But, instead, the elements of the first film have been replaced with ideas lifted from I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2. In fact, much of the film plays like I Know What You Did Last Summer, and whereas the girls in the original film were simply trying to cover up a crime, the characters in Sorority Row are being taunted by someone who knows their secret. How original! The Scream 2 elements come into play when the party is invaded by several revelers dressed just like the killer. I would say that this is all by-the-numbers, but that could be an insult to the numbers.

As if the brain-dead script weren't bad enough, the movie is populated with unlikable characters. Movies like this desperately need someone with which the audience can identify, but you won't find one in Sorority Row. The movie wants Cassidy to be the link to the viewer, but there's nothing appealing about her. The characters are either ultra bitchy (Jessica), ultra whiney (Ellie) or ultra gross (Chugs). The male characters are even worse, as they all came out of frat-boy jerk central casting. Considering the fact that a good portion of the audience probably doesn't like Greeks to begin with, giving all of the characters less than desirable traits was a mistake. The movie also misses the boat with the "victim's relative" character. This is a cliched character (see Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter or The Stepfather), but often an effective one. But, not here. They give this character a totally skewed motivation and just like that, we have someone else to hate.

At least once a month (or more), a movie opens to big box-office which makes me question the taste of the average filmgoing American. But, there's an exception to every rule and Sorority Row opened at #6, bringing in a paltry $1900 per screen. Clearly someone had tipped-off filmgoers about this one. At 101 minutes, the movie is far too long given the amount of material provided. Director Stewart Hendler has decided to mimic David Fincher's style, which does nothing for the movie. I get the feeling that makers of Sorority Row thought that it would appeal to males and females, but given the amount of violence and female nudity, they were wrong. The original movie has some truly creepy shots, but there's nothing scary or suspenseful here. Do yourself a favor and stick with the original.

Sorority Row gets caught in the laundry chute on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Summit Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. But, again, the movie has a certain verite style and this results in some shots being notably grainy. The movie is also darker than most films when presented on Blu-ray and the action is difficult to see in some scenes. The colors are OK, but considering this is a sorority house, they could be more vibrant. The level of detail is acceptable. The Disc houses a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This track more than makes up for the deficiencies in the video. The movie contains a lot of dance music and this fills the surround speakers and gives the subwoofer a good workout. The "suspense" scenes contain some nice stereo and surround effects as sounds come from off-screen.

The Sorority Row Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with a Picture-in-Picture Commentary which features Director Stewart Hendler and cast members Rumer Ellis, Brian Evigan, Leah Pipes, and Margo Harshman. With this feature, we can see them as they speak. "Sorority Secrets: Stories from the Set" (10 minutes) contains interviews with the main cast who discuss the story and characters. We also get some on-set footage here. "Killer 101" (14 minutes) contains comments from the director and screenwriters who discuss the story and the direction in which they wanted to take the movie. "Kill Switch" (10 minutes) is reel of all of the murders from the condensed to a 10 minute running time...and it still feels too long. The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run 5 minutes and can be viewed with introductions by Hendler. These are merely brief moments which add nothing to the story. The alternate ending is not unlike the coda from the finished film, but with a different character. The final exrtra is a 5 minute reel of OUTTAKES.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long