Sorority Row opens with an extended Steadicam shot of one of those raucous sorority parties that only exist in movies written by dorky virgins -- girls wearing bottomless pajamas jumping up and down and throwing feather pillows at one another, while to the side another group of urban stereotypes engages in random synchronized dancing, before the camera finally lands on the characters we are supposed to care about. Funny thing is, the opening action is shot with unexpected flair. Sure, all of the visual content is a ridiculous frat boy fantasy, but the sequence is at least put together with a modicum of slickness and style. Then the characters start speaking, at which point the movie begins to uncannily resemble any random direct-to-DVD jiggle-splatter combo pack. Article continues below
Perhaps one of Sorority Row's working titles was I Know What You Did at the Beginning of the School Year. If it wasn't, it should've been. How else does one contrive a story like this if they didn't get drunk and watch a Kevin Williamson movie the night before? The plot, which is given more proper exposition in the trailer than it is in the actual movie, concerns a group of frilly sorority chicks who attempt to exact revenge on a cheating boyfriend by faking a roofie-related death. The pervert freaks out while the girls continue the charade by dragging the "body" out to an abandoned mine shaft, where the guy, in an effort to ensure the girl's body sinks, thrusts a tire iron into her sternum. Oops! Prank ruined. After the obligatory moral discussion, where good girls Cassidy (Brianna Evigan) and Ellie (Rumer Willis) want to contact the authorities while uber-bitch Jessica (Leah Pipes) wants to get rid of the body and pretend nothing ever happened, the corpse gets dumped down the mine shaft and the sorority sisters flee the scene, their eternal sisterly bond forever tarnished.
Eight months pass. The girls reach graduation day, where they shoot one another hurtful glares in the midst of planning for one last party at the sorority house, where the intention apparently is to whore themselves out of their guilt. Little do our heroines know that their party is being targeted by another in the continuing line of creative movie serial killers whose murderous sprees are dictated not to fulfill some passion or psychotic rage, but to commemorate the protagonists' past sins -- a "save the date" killer. One by one, everyone associated with the prior accident (and occasionally unfortunate souls not associated with it) are offed by the killer, who very savvily garbs him/herself in a graduation gown, and who has apparently, over the past eight months, attended the Hattori Hanzo School of Tire Iron Wielding.
The plot unfolds in an inept blend of clumsy satire and ham-fisted sincerity, while the actors are left wondering whether they should play it straight or camp it up, though neither option is particularly helpful to the disastrous proceedings. It doesn't help that the gratuitous cavalcade of boobs, blades, and blood is handled with a complete lack of originality by director Stewart Hendler, whose style repertoire is exhausted after the first five minutes. Film schools must institute a new one-day workshop in which it is stressed that shaking the camera and tinkering with the frame rate does not a visual style make.
There is a thoughtful way to do this material -- it was perfectly captured by 2004's Mean Creek, which dealt with the real emotions and implications of murder among frightened young people. But Sorority Row is not interested in emotions or implications. It is interested in bringing the hammer, both to the characters and the material.