Friday, February 8, 2013

Sorority House Massacre (1986)

Directed by Carol Frank
Starring Angela O'Neil, Wendy Martel, Pamela Ross, Nicole Rio
Rated R 

"Why's it dirty?"
"Because it's covered in dirt."

I knew I was going to watch this eventually. I'd see the VHS box all the time during my teenage video rental days, and I almost rented it a dozen times, but there was always some bullshit movie with a sleazier come-on to distract me. I made it all the way to age 43 before finally biting the bullet. That's good news for the 80's me, because he would have been pissed if he shelled out three bucks or whatever for this.

You can't fault teenage me or middle-aged me for being curious. I mean, the appeal is right there in the title: 'Sorority House' (i.e. hot chicks!)  'Massacre' (bloody mayhem!). And that's all it would take for a thumbs-up, really. Slasher fans are not hard to please. Sadly, SHM fails to deliver on even these basic elements.

The story, such as it is, involves one Beth (Angela O'Neil, who sports a Ralph Macchio haircut and mismatched checkered patterns) who arrives at a sorority house shortly after her aunt dies. It is unclear exactly why she's there; she's not a member of the sorority, yet she's close friends with all the girls. Also, it's some sort of holiday break, although I don't think they ever specify which one. But that only leaves three other sorority girls in the house. None of them are particularly attractive, and their clothes are awful, but not in the OH MY GOD THOSE CLOTHES ARE AWFUL sort of way, just regular, boring awful. Anyway, as soon as she gets there, Beth starts having terrible dreams about weird children and a knife-wielding stalker. Meanwhile, at ye olde mental asylum, the guy from her dreams is busting out to wreak some havoc. Guess where he's going?

While we wait for the killer to show up, there's some (very) light college-kid antics, including a musical montage where the girls try on some of their rich roommate's clothes.

This allows us a quick peep at some boobies. Did we want to see them? Not really. Will we complain? We will not. But they don't make up for all the tedium before and after.

Sorority House Massacre is only 74 minutes long - and that's with credits - and the killer still doesn't walk into the house until the 55 minute mark. How do I know? Because I was literally counting the minutes until it was over.

It becomes very clear early on that Beth is the killer's sister, and that he murdered the rest of their family years ago and is now coming back for her. It is also clear that the sorority house is her old house where the massacre happened, only she can't remember it until she is once again hiding in the basement from her brother. So there's no whodunit component at all. Basically it's a little Alone in the Dark and a lot of Halloween mashed together by the hapless, hopeless Carol Frank, a one-time director who Roger Corman probably hired for the gig because he wanted to continue the 'feminist slasher' movement he started (and ended) with the Slumber Party Massacre series.

During the finale, the synthesizer score suddenly throws some oboe into the mix. That I was not expecting. The oboe was the highlight for me. In fact, that is probably the only way I'm ever going to remember this movie. 'Oh, Sorority House Massacre? Isn't that the one with the oboe?'

If you like oboes, by all means, check it out. If you like fun, go someplace else.

- Ken McIntyre  

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