Review: Why Sorority Row isn't scary&#8212and we don't care

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Sorority Row immediately distinguishes itself from its '80s slasher inspiration, The House on Sorority Row, by embracing a modern aesthetic. It uses gritty hand-held camera work, shows dangerously wild parties like the kids today have, and relishes in its own political incorrectness. It makes roofie jokes, basically letting its characters condone date rape, and that's not the only rape humor in the film. This is a world where it's okay to delight in gratuitous murder.

The prank gone wrong in this Sorority Row really is irresponsible and cold-hearted on the part of the sisters, but it is compounded by their drastically misjudging their mark. It requires you to believe that these divas are capable of perpetrating such a convincing deception that it fooled a d-bag frat boy, but in their defense, he is really dumb. It sort of spoofs I Know What You Did Last Summer at the point where the sisters justify covering up a deadly tragedy. At least it's more believable when these calculating sisters rationalize covering up a death than when the pretty wusses of the '90s whined about it.

After everything is all covered up, we pick up with the girls again on graduation night. That's when a mysterious killer starts stalking them, including text messages from their victim's cell phone and other memorabilia from the crime scene. The sisters get stalked one by one, as do some of their boyfriends, and it's all good slasher fun.

The film has fun embracing the one-dimensional types of its characters. The sorority queen (Leah Pipes) is an unapologetic bitch. The nerd (Rumer Willis) really freaks out the whole time. The film has an amusingly disgusted point of view on the slut (Margo Harshman) , and the token ethnic girl (Jamie Chung) really just shows up to ask questions to advance the exposition. Of course, the good girl (Briana Evigan) tries to hold everyone together.

The characters are smart enough to know what situation they're in. When a flashlight goes out in the basement, one recognizes it as the first sign of doom. The humor is not necessarily witty. It's certainly not self-referential, as in Scream, nor is it badass bravado like Sam Raimi's. It's more in a Super Sweet 16 real-life-train-wreck kind of way, which is totally the audience for Sorority Row. They're definitely making fun of the girls' behavior, but it's not outrageous. It's just believable enough that it could happen, but it stays fun. I'll bet the Facebook references won't seem so modern in a few years, though.

It's really too bad all the leads have no nudity clauses. You get better actors, but then all the gratuitous nudity feels fake. They include enough to pay homage to the T&A formula of the '80s slasher genre, but it's only random boobs. At least they build it into the characters. The queen bee has to humiliate underclassmen by making them strip. It makes perfect sense.

With the main girls, you get the post-coital bras, because in movies women have sex with their bras on. Find me a real-life woman who likes to get intimate with wires cutting into her abdomen. They do all have sexy tummies in their midriff shirts, though.

The kills are actually really good. The tire iron makes a badass weapon. The killer finds many different ways to kill with it, and shows some good improvisation, too, particularly with a bottle. It's fun watching these entitled brats get it, though, and their d-bag boyfriends, too. There are a few characters you root for, but more that you root against.

Is it scary? No, but slasher movies really aren't. They may have a few jump scares, but it's all inevitable. You just guess the order in which they die. So Sorority Row has good thrills just in the visceral way that the genre does.