SORORITY ROW Review. [Manicured Slasher Fun]

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Directed by Stewart Hendler, 2009
Written by Josh Stolberg & Pete Goldfinger

One could criticize SORORITY ROW for having mostly unlikeable characters, an aesthetic sense ripped from an American Eagle catalog and dialog lifted wholesale from a wall-to-wall conversation on a freshman’s Facebook page, but one shouldn’t.  Go see SORORITY ROW on opening weekend in a college town with a college crowd and you will be reminded with great velocity that the only fictional element of its screenplay is a hooded killer who slaughters the sisters of a sorority house.  Everything else about the culture of artificial people it so gleefully slays, vapid it and they may be, is ruefully realistic.  And though I’d have a hard time calling SORORITY ROW expert filmmaking with a straight face, seeing a swath of useless advertisements for trends get dispatched by a tire iron with knives on it is one of the more entertaining times I’ve had a theater this year.

SORORITY ROW is a throwback to a time (cough, the ’90s) when slasher films were absurd enough to be joked around with, but serious enough to only illicit laughs at all the right times.  There’s none of Rob Zombie’s fetishism for brooding characters and running-mascara set design.  There’s none of HATCHET’s nyuck-nyuck-schtick and over-the-top gore.  None of PROM NIGHT’s self-serious attempts to ignore the fact that it eats at the kiddie table.  No toleration for the current state of the genre’s fetish for tortuously prolonging the pain.  Nope, Stewart Hendler’s SORORITY ROW is exactly what it intends to be: an in-and-out 101 minutes of earned laughs punctuated by slick kills.



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Directed by Bob Clark, 1979
Written by Roy Moore

Welcome back to AYIF.  Today’s film epitomizes why I started this project in the first place: to mine obscurity and strike paydirt!  I love horror films and have since I was a kid.  While I have grown to be picky, even a bit snobby, on the subject, it is a genre with which I find a comfortable familiarity.  Horror is the gateway drug for my full on film addiction.  I moved to Austin because I wanted to expand my horizons and find my new favorites.  BLACK CHRISTMAS will definitely occupy one of those spots.

BLACK CHRISTMAS takes place just after Labor Day.  Not really, just making sure you’re paying attention.  In lieu of spoilers, enjoy this hopelessly vague synopsis.  It’s the holiday season and we follow one local sorority preparing for their Christmas break.  Some are packing to go home, others are decking the halls, and still others are simply drinking spirits right.  But amid all the festive frivolity, the girls receive numerous phone calls featuring disturbing voices and threats.  They don’t think much of it until unexplained sounds and shadows find their way inside the house.  Who is the mysterious figure lurking outside?  Will our sorority sisters be slaughtered before sunrise?

BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006), Review.

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Directed by Glen Morgan, 2006
Written by Glen Morgan, Roy Moore (1974 Screen Play)

I’m really curious how this current generation of minors turns out, assuming that they also stay up late to watch R-Rated films past their bedtime.  I was one of those kids roughly fifteen years ago and I stayed up into the wee-hours to watch films like HALLOWEEN, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and others of their kind.  I knew that if I was patient I’d see a breast, somewhere.  I also knew I’d probably have trouble sleeping, but once my REM kicked in the luscious image of the naked woman would be there to comfort me throughout the night, forcing the image of a lunatic with a knife into submission.  No guts, no glory.

I’m sure today’s youth will probably have the same kind of experience.  Only, I wonder if their dreams of naked women are just bad remakes of mine.

BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006) is another in the constantly growing canon of horror film rehashes.  The original, which is an overlooked landmark in the slasher film sub-genre, was made by Bob Clark who is one of the most under-acknowledged filmmakers in the latter half of the 20th century.  While 1974’s BLACK CHRISTMAS isn’t nearly as well known as the more popular titles in the horror film catalog it is about as revered, amongst those that have seen it, as some of the genre’s best.


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Directed by Jonathan Levine, 2006
Written by Jacob Forman

It is no secret that I’ve been tracking ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE for years now.  Literally years.  On multiple occasions I’ve lambasted Senator International for withholding the film from the US (it has not only played internationally, but is available elsewhere at retail before ever seeing a single non-festival screen here) after raves at Toronto back in ’06.  To their credit they did snap the picture up after a now defunct Dimension Films dropped it (Fuck the Weinsteins).  However, once again I am resigned to trawling the dark corners of the now permaconnected globe in search of booty.  Sweet, supple teenage slasher revivalist booty.

If the rather self explanatory title does not suffice, Jonathan Levine’s feature debut is about a high school gal named Mandy Lane, played by Amber Heard, who all the boys want a virginal crack at.  After much poking and prodding (and an opening party scene of exquisite spine wobbling), Mandy heads out to a rich kid’s arid flatland ranch for the kind of weekend only rich high schoolers have.  Booze, sex and death!  Someone at the ranch begins to hedge their hymen breaking bets by offing the competition one by one.

I’ll admit, by the time the credits rolled and Forman’s script had tipped its last hand, my smitten status with MANDY LANE had wavered.  BUT, and this is a crucial, all-caps BUT, it has since grown on me.  Jonathan Levine, more recognizable for buzzed sophomore film THE WACKNESS, has crafted what I am comfortable calling the most successful slasher of the millennium.  High praise, I know, but remember it is in an arena whose competition I feel has been anorexic at best. 

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