It isn't easy for a horror remake to get any respect. The filmmakers are merely reusing material, hiring inexpensive unknown stars and collecting their money with seemingly no concern for quality. There's certainly a massive selection of remakes that never should have been, like 'Black Christmas,' 'One Missed Call,' 'House of Wax,' 'Halloween II,' 'Prom Night' and more, but there's also a selection that really aren't all that bad. The new 'Friday the 13th' and 'Nightmare on Elm Street' certainly can't compare to the originals, but at least both films featured some decent performances and delivered some disturbing death scenes. In fact, there are even some remakes out there that trump their predecessors. Breck Eisner recently gave George A. Romero's 'The Crazies' a much-needed update and the result is wildly entertaining.
But Eisner's 'The Crazies' is one of few horror reboots that received approval from moviegoers and critics alike. It's generally expected for this type of film to earn a 30% or below on Rotten Tomatoes, have an impressive opening weekend and then nosedive from there. Unfortunately for Summit Entertainment, 'Sorority Row' didn't fair too well with critics or with moviegoers. The film only managed to earn a 22% on the Tomatometer and couldn't even crack $12 million at the domestic box office during its eight-week run. When you've got absolute garbage like 'Prom Night' that was downright despised by critics pulling in over $20 million in week one, it's baffling that something that's actually a fun film couldn't manage to attract more horror fans.
What's It About?
'Sorority Row' isn't a straight remake, but finds its roots in the 1983 film 'The House on Sorority Row.' It stars Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung and Margo Harshman as Cassidy, Jessica, Ellie, Claire and Chugs, respectively. One night, at a party, the girls decide to play a little prank on a cheating boyfriend. They get their friend Megan (Audrina Patridge) to fake her own death to freak him out and then take it one step further by bringing her to a mineshaft to dispose of the body. Unfortunately, they don't reveal their plan to the guy quick enough and he puts a tire iron through Megan's chest, literally killing her.
A year later, the surviving ladies are about to graduate. Their celebration is ruined when they start receiving strange messages from an anonymous sender claiming to know what they did. From there it's a fight for survival and one-by-one the girls and the people around them begin to lose their lives.
Why Do People Hate It?
Many complain that 'Sorority Row' brings nothing new to the horror genre. It's a paint-by-numbers campy, slasher flick. It's got the basics - humor, gore and boobs – but that doesn't make it any more than a recycled version of other, more successful films. It's often likened to 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' considering both share the same premise – kids kill someone, cover it up, someone returns for revenge the next year and proceeds to take them out in the most grotesque way possible one-by-one.
Other than those issues, folks were all over the place when it came to picking on this one. We've got complaints about the editing, the cliché depiction of sorority girls, poor direction, a sloppy third act and the tarnishing of Carrie Fisher's image.
Why Are We Defending It?
According to the Rotten Tomato Consensus, "Though it's slick and stylish, 'Sorority Row' offers nothing new to the slasher genre and misses the mark both in its attempts at humor and thrills." There may be no refuting the fact that it doesn't really offer anything new, but since when does that make it a bad movie? Most films nowadays, even the best of the best, snag ideas from older films. And isn't that what a remake is to begin with? A film that recycles an old concept while, in some cases, modernizing it, too.
As for the latter portion of that summary, it's completely unfounded. In terms of humor, 'Sorority Row' is one of the most successful horror films in years to properly include some laughs, and some great ones at that. Most of the humor comes from one particular performer, Pipes. Her character, Jessica, is basically the evil queen bee. All of the other girls follow her lead and her intentions aren't always noble. The character's snarky dialogue combined with Pipes' fantastic timing make Jessica a blast to watch. Harshman and Willis have some amusing moments as well, but their characters aren't nearly developed enough to have the same effect as Pipes and Chung's character has no value except for offering up another kill. The only problem is the main player, Cassidy. It's not Evigan's fault, it's just that Cassidy is a dull character. Plus, Pipe is just so commanding, nobody in that cast really stood a chance at outshining her.
Now for the deaths. 'Sorority Row' does in fact miss the mark now and then when it comes to kills, but what horror movie doesn't? When you've got dozens of deaths in one film, some are bound to appear a little lackluster. All you need are a few outstanding moments that leave you with some unforgettably nightmarish occurrences and it makes them all worthwhile. The best of the bunch in this film is definitely Harshman's exit. It's one of those scenes that hit the Internet before the film's release and even after watching it a number of times, it still had a horrifying effect on the big screen. The opening sequence drama is quite effective as well. Despite Patridge's miserable performance, it's still possible to feel the terror of the situation.
The only justifiable reason for disliking this film is the third act. Things just get sloppy. To quote my own review, "The story unwinds into a hodgepodge of bumbling kills, screaming and unconvincing plot development." However, despite the nonsensical events, 'Sorority Row' is still entirely watchable. It's quite clear that nothing at this point in the film is making any sense, but there's something about it that's holding your attention – it's fun.
That's the film's best asset; it's a great time. From the moment 'Sorority Row' begins, you're having as much fun as the characters seem to be having at those outrageously unrealistic parties. Structurally the subplots are pointless, the big twist at the end makes no sense and the last minute addendum is just plain old silly, but the fact that this film is such a good time makes its many shortcomings easily dismissible. It's really like any real life party you attend. You may trip on your heels or spill a drink on an expensive shirt, but are you going to let that ruin your night? No! You're on cruise control in party mode for the night. Just consider 'Sorority Row' to be an unstructured, play-it-by-ear kind of night out and you'll have a blast.