The House on Sorority Row/Review

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In the early 80s, the slasher film was essentially a new genre in Horror cinema. After important blueprint slasher films like Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), Roy Boultings Twisted Nerve (1968) Bob Clark's Black Christmas (1974), John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and Sean Cunningham's Friday The 13th (1980), these films were the new rage in Exploitation cinema in the late 70 through the 80s. With Mark Rosman's 1983 slasher film The House on Sorority Row, we get a film that is probably one of the better slasher films from the early 80s. It reminded me alot of Black Christmas (girls terrorized at sorority house) mixed with Friday The 13th (family revenge). After watching this film you will know where I Know What You Did Last Summer came from too!

June 19th, 1961: A young woman is ready to have a child. Dr. Beck (Christopher Lawrence) begins to give her a C-section to take the baby out. Afterwards, she asks where her baby is. She finds out that the baby has been taken and she screams in anguish. Flash forward 20 years later. The place: A sorority house on a college campus. The girls of the sorority are graduating and they are getting ready to leave to find jobs and start their lives. Katie (Kathryn McNeil) is conflicted about what she wants to do with her life, but she knows she doesnt want to move back home again. Vicki (Eileen Davidson) pops into Katies room explaining shes going to have a big farewell party. The girls have a little gathering where they all drink some booze, but the old sorority mistress, Mrs Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt) finds out about this and she is totally pissed. Knowing her unstable mental condition, she plans to have as much peace and quiet as she can. She tells the girls they have to leave right away. The leader of the sorority is Vicki and she is a troublemaker. She and her boyfriend go out into the woods to an old abandoned building and practice shooting with a gun he has. Vicki blasts away. The next night Vicki and her boyfriend come back from a date and they go up to her room to have sex. Mrs Slater hears the groans and moans from the attic (her getaway spot) and she barges in on Vicki in mid coitus, then tries to actually stab Vicki with her bronze bird cane. Instead, she misses and slices open Vickis waterbed spilling water everywhere. Mrs Slater calls Vicki "trash" and tells her to get out. Now Vickis really pissed off and plans on getting back at Mrs Slater.

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The next day, out by the sorority's murky pool, the girls make a plan to play one last big prank on Mrs Slater. They dont realize that Mrs Slater has been slowly getting mentally sicker by the traumatic loss of her child. Mrs Slater's doctor comes to a conclusion that any further traumatic incidents could shatter Mrs Slater's sanity altogether. While the girls are putting up the party decorations in the main room, Mrs Slater comes in and tells them they cant have the party and to get out ASAP. Vicki sees Mrs Slater and asks her if shes missing anything she usually has. Mrs Slaters cane is not with her. Vicki pulls out her boyfriends gun and forces Mrs Slater to walk out to the pool, where the girls have placed Mrs Slaters cane on an inner tube floating in the murky water. Vicki tells her to go get the cane or else. Mrs Slater slowly gets into the dirty pool and goes to get her cane. As Mrs Slaters getting out, Vicki accidentally shoots one of the other girls in the ankle with the gun. They all laugh at this sick joke of Vickis letting Mrs Slater know its a big prank after all. While Vicki's back is turned, Mrs Slater pegs her with her cane. Suddenly, Vicki lets a round off accidentally hitting Mrs Slater point blank. Mrs Slater falls into the pool and the girls begin to freak out. They dont know what to do and Katie says shes going to call an ambulance. Vicki tells her to not do that because their whole lives will be ruined by her doing it. Just as all this happens the trucks and vans for the party are arriving. The girls all make a pact to keep this a secret and they tie up Mrs Slaters body in towels and push her body back into the pool. The girls all run into the sorority house to get ready for the party. As the leave, Mrs Slaters body ominously floats back to the surface.

That night, the girls have the big party complete with a cheesy New Wave band (4 Out of 5 Doctors) led by a blonde David Cassidy wannabe. The girls are trying to have fun, but underneath their cheerful faces, they know that they have blood on their hands. Out of all the girls, Katie is the one whos worrying the most. She feels the most guilty about the accident. Her blind date for the night is a guy named Peter (Michael Kuhn). Peter shows up at Katies room and asks her if she wants to go downstairs and dance, we can see Katie is really disturbed by the incident, but she tries to cover it up the best she can. She agrees to go hang with Peter. Outside in the dark, a fat guy is walking through the woods, drunk on beer and he hears a noise. When he looks up, we see a hand impale the bronze bird cane right through his neck! Mrs Slaters not dead after all!! The mysterious hands ring out the wet robe Mrs Slater was wearing and toss them to the ground. Back at the biug party, the sorority girls spot some drunk kids out by the pool, they panic and one of the sorority girls goes down to check the pool lights in the basement, when she gets down there she realizes shes not alone. A toy ball rolls out from the darkness, a light bulb swings back n forth. On the wall, we see the shadow of a figure with the bronze cane stab her dead.

Three frat guys decide to go swimming in the pool while the parties going on. Theres one huge fat guy that looks like a walrus. One of the other guys kicks him into the pool. When the girls see this, they run outside and panic. They look into the pool, the pool lights are on now, but they dont see Mrs Slaters body in it. The girls are livid because they realize that Mrs Slater must still be alive. After having a big discussion about where Mrs Slater is, the girls decide to go look for her (uh oh). One of the girls is sent to Mrs Slaters room to pack her suitcases to make it look like she was planning to leave. As the blonde sorority girl looks through Mrs Slaters closet, the attic door above begins to open up slowly, suddenly an object falls on her. We dont see what the object is and are convinced the girl has been killed. In the next shot, we see the girl is still alive and we then find out that the object that fell on her was Mrs Slaters dead body! The girls try to figure out how she got all the way up to the attic tied up like she was. The girls need to get rid of her body now, so like the geniuses they are, they decide to dump it in the trash bin outside. The girls push the trash bin down the driveway to the road. Suddenly they are stopped by a policeman whos been called to the house. The cop tells the girls to bring the trash bin back to the house and the girls put Mrs Slaters body in their van. While one of the sorority girls waits for the other, she hears a noise on the roof, a hand comes through the sunroof and the bronze cane impales her hand.

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Katie goes into Mrs Slaters room and climbs up into her attic. She finds it full of childrens toys. Clown dolls, toy balls, bird cage, a kids tricycle and all sorts of what seems to be memorabilia. While Katies looking through the things, Peter, her blind date shows up and tries to charm her. Peter sees a bloody bird in the birdcage and Katie tells Peter to go downstairs. One of the other sorority girls is still looking for Mrs Slater, but she is confronted by the killer who pegs her on the head but doesnt kill her. She runs inside and Katie finds her freaking out. Katie knows that somethings wrong because the girl cant speak and is scared to death. She tells her to wait while she goes to call someone. The girl waits, but soon she sees the back door starts to open. She doesnt wait to see who it is, she grabs a butcher knife and runs to the girls bathroom and hides in a stall. Suddenly, the showers are turned on one by one and we can see the killer is in the bathroom. When the killer gets to the girls stall, the knob slowly turns, and she gets ready, but the killer is quicker and as soon as the stall opens, the killer offs her in the crapper. The girl Jeannie who had the body fall on her before decides to goto bed. She undresses (ooh la la) and takes a sip of some booze to help her relax. Then she hears a noise. When she goes to her door that leads outside she finds a jack in the box that plays a creepy song (uh oh). Next thing you know, shes impaled with Mrs Slaters cane by the killer!

Peter comes back over to Katie and asks her whats going on. Katie explains she is worried about the girls who have dissapeared. Peter tries to help Katie again, but Katie tells Peter that he should leave right away. Peter sadly walks out and goes home. The poor guy cant win on this night. Meanwhile, Katie is calling the emergency number on the medical necklace Mrs Slater was wearing. She contacts Dr Beck and she tells him about the strange circumstances going on at the house. Dr Beck tells her he'll be there right away. When Dr Beck arrives, he can see Katie is distraight and afraid. She tells him about Mrs Slater and she explains 2 of the girls have gone to look for her. Katie and Dr Beck walk over to the pool and Katie turns on the pool lights to discover a grisly sight: Two of her sorority sisters dead, floating in the murky water. Katie screams in horror and Dr Beck consoles her. She tells him that Vicki and another of her sisters have gone to the cemetary to bury Mrs Slaters body. While driving to the cemetary, Katie breaks down and tells Dr Beck everything that happened. Dr Beck and Katie arrive at the cemetary only to find Vicki and another girl dead, in the grave. They return to the sorority house and Dr Beck drugs Katie with a mild tranquilizer, locks all the doors in the house and tells Katie why he has to find the killer. The killer is actualy Mrs Slaters son Eric. Eric was born abnormal because of Dr Beck's experimental work with women who cant give birth. Mrs Slaters son was in a mental institution and every summer, he would visit her at the sorority house. Katie then realizes exactly why Mrs Slater wanted all the girls to leave by June 19th every year. Dr. Beck tells Katie he needs her for bait to catch Eric. He puts her in one of the sorority's living room chair and leaves the back doors open. When they hear someone coming around the corner, Dr. Beck gets his tranquilizer gun ready and shoots the figure. Only problem is, its Peter, Katie's dejected blind date. This guy has the worst luck, he gets rejected about three times by Katie then gets shot with a gun! Peter falls to the floor and Dr Beck tries to help him out. While hes busy doing that, Katie takes off and tries to get to her room upstairs. Dr Beck runs after her but doesnt get too far because Eric the Killer nails him with the bronze bird cane. Eric almost gets Katie, but Katie luckily gets to the balcony outside and she manages to climb up into Mrs Slaters attic. Katie hides out, but shes not alone. As the camera slowly pans to the right, we see that Eric is dressed as the creepy clown doll and tries to kill her. Katie pulls a dolls head off and uses the spike on top to stab Eric. She stabs him again and he falls down out of the attic door onto the second floor. While Katie falls down exhausted, we see a close up on the clowns face and the eyes open.


Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He holds an AS with Highest Honors in Communications and Interactive Media Design.

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