Home » The House on Sorority Row is a Dark, Revenge-Fueled Slasher [Retrospective]

The House on Sorority Row is a Dark, Revenge-Fueled Slasher [Retrospective]

The artwork for Mark Rosman's 1983 slasher The House on Sorority Row.

The House on Sorority Row follows the exploits of a group of sorority girls who just want to have fun. Anyone that stands in the way of their good time should watch out as they may just pay with their life. When their battle axe of a housemother, Mrs. Slater crosses the ladies by declining their request to have a party at the sorority house, the young women fight back by pulling a masterfully executed prank on Mrs. Slater. The only problem is that the joke backfires and they kill her (oops). The sisters quickly find they may not have succeeded at killing their housemother when they learn her body is not where they stowed it. Shortly thereafter, the girls are preyed upon by an unknown assailant and must fight for their survival.

The House on Sorority Row is fairly well recognized as a noteworthy revenge-slasher film classic amongst horror fans. It employs elements typical to a slasher picture from the early ‘80s but also adds a somewhat unique killer with an inventive weapon to the mix.

Mark Rosman co-wrote the script and directed The House on Sorority Row. From his audio commentary track on the DVD release, it seems that he really enjoyed his time on the film and recalls it clearly all these years later. And that is more than evident in the finished product.

Aside from a unique villain, the screenplay doesn’t break a ton of new ground; there’s never any real question as to who will live and die. But the territory that the film retreads is done in such a way that it makes the material feel fresh. Rosman’s involvement as a director elevates the flick above a lot of the slasher features that were put out around the same time. Rosman gave his performers the freedom to make the characters their own and that made the sorority sisters feel less formulaic and two-dimensional than what we see in a lot of films from this era. The entire cast delivers somewhat impressive performances when considering this is a slasher from the ‘80s.

The House on Sorority Row has a wicked sense of humor: This is particularly apparent with Vicki, the leader of the group. She has plenty of witty dialogue, full of sarcastic insults and off color remarks. Vicki is the kind of character that audiences love to hate: She’s pure evil and never learns a thing but that makes it more fun for the audience to cheer for her eventual demise.

The effects are a little toned down from films like The Burning or Friday the 13th but they are still brutal enough to keep the audience on their toes, waiting to see how the next character is going to bite the dust.

[Spoilers] In the third act, there is a clever and mostly unexpected twist revealed that makes the film much more interesting than it would have been had it gone down the path the viewer was expecting. It surprised me the first time that I saw the movie and made me respect the script more than if it had gone for the simple and expected denouement. The idea that the killer is seeking revenge and attempting to right a wrong is easier for the viewer to invest in than the tired supernatural route the film initially seemed to be taking. [End Spoilers] The studio reportedly wanted Rosman to rewrite the finale and shoot a different conclusion but, thankfully, he declined.

If you’ve somehow managed to overlook The House on Sorority Row, you are missing out. It is a dark, revenge-filled slasher film with a competent director, a capable young cast, and a unique killer.

WICKED RATING: 7/10

Director(s): Mark Rosman
Writer(s): Mark Rosman, Bobby Fine
Stars: Eileen Davidson, Kate McNeil
Year: 1983
Studio/ Production Co: Multicom Entertainment Group Inc
Budget: $425,000
Language: English
Length: 93
Sub-Genre: Slasher

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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dogs, and cat hat(s).
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