Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sorority Row

Awright, I wanna start this one off with a big fat spoiler warning: I'm going to talk about the killer's identity. I'm not normally concerned with ess-bombs, but this movie is fresh and there are people who wanna play guess-the-killer. It ain't gonna help; the movie provides no hints or logical clue path and the killer comes completely out of left field. There's some interesting subtextual stuff I want to poke around in, but if you're keen on keeping a few mysteries fresh you may want to skip this review.

In case you haven't guessed, Sorority Row is I Know What You Did Last Summer as well as every other teen-targeted Christopher Pike/R.L. Stine horror novel you've ever read. A bunch of kids are united by a Dark Secret and someone knows it and torments them with it. There's a bunch of social drama mixed in with the slasher carnage and it turns out that some diabolical bastard/bitch is behind all the mayhem.

All in all, Sorority Row is pretty fun. There's absolutely nothing new here and if I had any proper taste I'd probably run from the theater in a cloud of panic and pretension. Eff it. I had a good time. There's a good bit of tension and a few good scares, even if the director LOVES tight, out-of-focus close ups.

Dark Secret slasher flicks tend to be SLIGHTLY more character driven, as we see the people bound by tragedy degenerate under the stress. All this is well and good, but the women in Sorority Row really are assholes. Those that aren't actively self-interested and malicious are either terminally stupid or completely spineless. It's revealed by the end of the movie that each of the girls had done everything short of announcing in the paper their complacency in the homicide. And I'm not entirely sure what the point of the prank that started the whole mess was. Make a guy believe he killed someone and take him out into a quarry? Yeah, that' Way to pull a fast one.

I have been reading a lot lately that the mainstream horror audience is heavily female. Sorority Row was definitely targeted toward a female audience, and the theater I saw the movie in was full of small clusters of teenage girls. The male characters in the movie are either background noise, glorified accessories, or dangerously incompetent. Sure, the lead sisters are broadly drawn sorority stereotypes, but their relationships are much more realistic. The lead sororitina was pretty and strong and capable, someone you can easily identify with. Finally, Sorority Row ditches the whole puritanical sex-equals-death cliche. Sure, one of the characters is tagged as the movie's slut, but that speaks less to the tropes of the genre and more to the poisonous conformity of sorority life.

Sorority culture isn't actually portrayed very warmly. The initiation rituals and social stuff, especially the bit where the girls inspect pledge's bodies for physical imperfections, is pretty vile. The girls are clearly just killing time until they can make an advantageous society marriage, and two of the main characters are primarily motivated by keeping their menfolk happy. And it becomes pretty clear that all the girl's talk of sisterhood and solidarity is actually pretty meaningless. For want of a better term, the sorority sisters are pretty bitchy. There's usually a few sympathetic characters in these movies, but in this movie you start rooting for the killer pretty early on.

The killer's identity was one of the stranger points of the movie. After all the song and dance, it turns out the guy toting the sharpened tire iron is none other than the final girl's boyfriend, a class valedictorian and all around golden boy. He found out about the crime from one of the others and takes it upon himself to clean up the mess by playing dicky mind-games with the others and killing his way through a graduation party. Granted, all Dark Secret slasher flicks seem to suffer from Third Act Insanity, where every starts acting screwy in an attempt to throw red herrings all over the place, but this was really kind of a stretch. He ultimately had little personal involvement in the whole sordid business and it's kind of a stretch to believe he's killing people for his aloof girlfriend. It's like the dude from Twilight gone bad.

This may be another case of Gibb worship, but my favorite character in the movie was Chug, the drunk party girl. Aside from being the best actor in the movie, her character was the most rich. She was damaged, confident, jaded, and snarky. Of course she was the first one to go.

Oh, the flick features Carrie Fisher in her most badass role since Princess Leah. Sure, she can't aim a shotgun worth shit, but her exiting line is so fucking cool.

So, yeah, that's my two cents. Enjoy the poster, which hearkens back to the awful slasher movie posters from the early 90s where every poster was just a bunch of pretty people looking nervous.


Penh said...

I can't read your review right now, you spoiler-er, but I'll be seeing the movie tomorrow. I'll be back!

Creature said...

Oh, you're gonna have a great time. Drop me a line and tell me what you think!