Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sorority House Massacre

31 Days of Horror
While (figuratively) thumbing through my movie queue, I realized that I have not reviewed any "Massacre" movies.  There's no real rhyme or reason for that; I love the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and taintpunch-hate the 2003 remake, but there are still a couple dozen other "massacre" movies I could waste a few hours watching.  I opted for Sorority House Massacre, primarily because I was in the mood for something from the 80s, but also because I assumed that a sorority house would make for a high body count and amusingly broad characters.  So how did that work out for me?


In case the trailer didn't clue you in, the opening credits make it pretty plain: Sorority House Massacre is going to be pretty cheap and cheesy.  The credits are just an exterior shot of the sorority house in question, with a moody 80s synthesizer for the soundtrack.  Even better, the entire story is told by the Last Girl, Beth (Angela O'Neill), in a flashback as she recovers in a psychiatric ward.  Beth was pledging a sorority, I guess; I didn't see any sorority sisters taking her under their wing or anything, but the other girls talked about her joining, so...maybe this is the ultra-chill sorority that doesn't make a big deal out of pledge drives.  Also: I thought pledges only joined sororities during pledge week --- this seemed like Beth was the only new girl around.
"Stop picking my life apart!"
*Ahem* Anyway, Beth is pledging, so she goes to the sorority house for the weekend.  Of course, that weekend happens to be the one non-holiday weekend when next to none of the sisters are staying there.  Man!  This premise is like a scab that I can't stop picking, and I haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet!  Okay, let's try that one more time.  Beth is staying at the fairly deserted sorority house for the weekend with three other sorority girls.   During her time in the house, Beth starts to have visions and she has a nightmare during that first night.  What kind of visions/dreams, you ask?
Why are all small girls creepy, even if they're well-behaved in your dreams?
The normal stuff: blood dripping from the ceiling, a mannequin family at the dinner table, marbles spilling on the floor, and images of a mad killer.  Beth's soon-to-be-besties pick up on her moodiness and know exactly what she needs --- a man and a crazy night, sorority style!
Both of which were obviously underwhelming
Meanwhile, ever since Beth walked into the sorority house, Bobby (John C. Russell) has been acting very strangely at the maximum security psychiatric hospital, which doesn't at all look like the upper floor in a typical suburban house.  How strangely?  Well, he's started speaking after many years of being basically comatose.  Oh, and he killed his way out of the hospital, destined for parts unknown.  But we know where he's going, don't we?  After all, this movie needs to earn its title!

First up: the acting.  There isn't any in Sorority House Massacre.  Most of this cast made only a handful of movies, and a few of the main players never acted before or after.  That's the talent level we're working with here, and it definitely shows.  Do you like thoughtful inflection, realistic reactions, and likable characters?  Then you might not want to focus on the actors in this movie.
"I'm, like, probably dying and stuff.  Blarg!  That sounds like a death rattle, right?"

Despite the obviously exploitative subject matter, it turns out that Sorority House Massacre was written and directed by a woman, Carol Frank.  I don't want to be sexist, but I normally assume that a man would make a semi-sleazy horror knockoff like this; I hereby offer my apologies to womankind for thinking that exploitation was not an equal-opportunity film genre.  This was the only movie Frank wrote or directed, and I think I know why.  Take this scene:
This character's line is "You wouldn't happen to have a sweater to go with this, would you?"  And the answer is surprisingly not "What are the fucking odds of that?"  Even worse, another character finds a sweater to go along with it!  Guess what it looked like.  Go on, I dare you.  That's right, tropical puke Hawaiian nightmare a crotch-length pink cardigan, of course! 
It does look good, though, when you compare it to sack-shaped dresses
The script for Sorority House Massacre is hilariously bad.  Aside from gems like the sweater line, when Beth has her nightmare, each one of the girls goes to class the next day (I thought this was a weekend...?) and each of their classes has something that deals, directly or indirectly, with interpreting Beth's dream.  Is that not bad enough for you?  How about this: the slutty girl and her boyfriend, who have only three other girls in the sorority house, go off to be alone for some sexy time...in a teepee they set up in the back yard.  Really?  Is it that hard to get the killer inside to kill those two?  They have to look for privacy in a practically vacant building by going outside?
Perhaps shadow puppets are part of their foreplay?
Frank's direction is not much better.  I think my favorite moments were when the camera is moving around, like it's a point-of-view shot, and then the killer just walks out in front of the camera.  So...it's not a POV shot...the cameraman is just skulking two paces behind the killer, and one to the side?

Okay, fine.  Nobody is going to watch Sorority House Massacre for the acting and directing.  What about the all-important horror quality-gauges, violence and nudity?  Well, the violence isn't too impressive.  The body count is only six or seven, and there weren't any cool gore scenes.  It was mostly "STAB!  Now, stay dead!"  There wasn't a whole lot of nudity, either, but there also weren't very many characters in this movie; given that handicap, I think it's safe to say that at least half of the female cast with speaking lines flashed the camera.  There was also a decent amount of man-ass, too:
It's like shirts and skins playing Capture the Flag.  Only instead of a flag, it's a corpse.
If you keep a careful eye on those scenes, you can occasionally see the top of Mr. Chilly Feet's underwear because the editing in this movie is completely awesome.

If you look at this movie objectively, Sorority House Massacre is an unadulterated mess.  But subjectively, it was a surprisingly good time (with liquor).  I mean, come on!  It's not every day you come across an unapologetic Halloween ripoff that manages to fail in almost every conceivable way.
That doesn't look anything remotely like a William Shatner mask
This doesn't even try to rip off Halloween.  It goes for Halloween II, with a touch of early A Nightmare on Elm Street.  The entire premise is so ludicrous that it could only make it into a bad horror movie --- and it still stands out for its stupidity!  I'm not talking about the whole "massacre in the sorority house" thing, either.  Do I need to put up a SPOILER ALERT?  No, but I will because I'm considerate.  The reason the killer is after Beth is because they share a psychic bond that appears to be triggered by her GPS location; she walks in the house, and he goes nuts.  Why?  Because they're brother and sister, duh.  Oh, and Bobby murdered their entire family when Beth was five.  Oh, and the dirty deed took place in the sorority house.  Because it used to be their non-sorority house.  In other words, Beth forgot that her family was murdered, forgot her brother, and forgot the house she grew up in, and that exact house wound up being rented by her possible-but-not-probable-at-this-point sorority.  And, on top of that, we have the psychic link thing going on.  That is some gloriously unlikely shit right there, my friends.
Not diving-headfirst-though-a-2nd-story-window unlikely, but still...
So, if you want to get picky about it, Sorority House Massacre would get a standard rating of
...and even that might be generous.  However, in terms of Lefty Gold, this is one entertaining movie.  I recommend watching it with an intoxicated friend and try to logically explain everything you see.  That might sound boring, but once you start building on your earlier logic and expanding it, you'll thank me.

2 comments:

  1. Interestingly, Sorority House Massacre II is a sequel to Slumber Party Massacre and not this film, as is Slumber Part Massacre II. Making both films independent sequels to the same movie, kind of like Dawn of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead, but way stupider. Both sequels also have their own sequels (Hard to Die & Slumber Party Massacre III.) This is a fun fact to tell people that feel like Hollywood is getting too derivative.

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    1. Way stupider, but much more fun to explain.

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