Director: Stewart Hendler Release Date: 4 September Review by Jack Burton Slasher movies, like many of life’s more titillating pursuits, are all about the slow build. Many of them so much so that you could be forgiven for not actually caring when the veil is finally drawn aside and the shadowy killer revealed. Kudos to Sorority Row then, for offering up some expert foreplay, despite leaving me as ultimately unsatisfied as the movie’s token ‘geek’ at a boozy frat party. The plot, the bulk of which is dispatched quicker than many of the killer’s victim, takes place over two such parties. Refusing to buck the current trend when it comes to on-campus socializing these are, of course, alcohol and drugged fuelled borderline orgies during which everyone is either vomiting out of a window or contemplating group sex. In their underwear, naturally. If I tell you that top billing in the final credits goes to Teri Andrzejewski for her astonishing turn as ‘bra clad sister’, you’ll get a sense of just how ambitiously the filmmakers shot for realism with these sequences. The twist in Sorority Row, of course, is that this is not a frat house party. Instead, the majority of the action takes place in the sorority house of Theta Phi, seemingly ruled over by a clique of senior girls so diverse it doesn’t do to wonder too hard about why any of them would actually be friends. Yet the bonds of sisterhood, and how far they would go for each other, constitute the key theme of the film, with their relationships tested to breaking point and beyond by an elaborate prank gone horribly wrong. Led by ruthlessly ambitious blond Jessica (Leah Pipes), seven of the girls plot revenge on an unfaithful boyfriend by encouraging his ex to seduce him before faking her own death. The simulated panic turns real enough, however, when the boy in question takes their encouragements to dismember and hide the corpse a tad too seriously. With a real corpse on their hands and the prospect of their promising young lives ruined by a simple prank, they hide the body down a disused mineshaft (economic difficulties in this particular industry yet again proving a boon to the conscientious killer) before going back to their normal lives. Until graduation day that is, when a series of mysterious texts from the dead girl’s phone triggers a killing spree that could see them all dead by the end of their farewell blowout. It would be hard to claim that Sorority Row was breaking any new ground, particularly since it’s an unacknowledged remake of its early eighties source material. The film takes six attractive women and Rumer Willis (moonfaced offspring of G.I.Jane and the dirty-vested one himself) and requires them to scream, get sweaty and covered in blood before being gruesomely skewered and/or discovering their inner badass. It hardly takes Scorcese to make this a passable watch for fans of the genre. It does have some fun, however, in subverting the traditional victim status of attractive teens in horror movies and creating a tense situation in which the girls themselves are the prime suspects. Some attempts to invert cliché fall flat. The delightfully named Chugs (Margo Harshman), for example, is the house slut who drinks and shags her way through the movie so relentlessly it almost makes you wish for a return to helpless shriekery of a more traditional heroine. The aforementioned Jessica, however, is a delight, ringing every laugh out of her heartless bitch persona. She’s the most interesting character in here and the film-maker’s know it; giving her a back-story involving her senator’s son boyfriend that makes you root for her particular brand of cold-hearted anti-heroism with ten times the passion you can muster for the bland supposed heroines of the piece. It’s the attempts to focus on the conscience-ridden Cassidy (Briana Evigan) and geeky loner Ellie (Willis) that derail the tension as the film progresses. We’re supposed to care about them because they expressed doubts about covering up the murder, therefore representing a notion of true sisterhood the film is reluctant to dismiss entirely. But the character’s are about as paper-thin as the performances and it’s unlikely that neither the appearance of the victim’s younger sister nor a desperate and rather confusing cameo from Carrie Fisher (did they make the same mistake I used to and get her confused with Jamie Lee Curtis?) can claw your attention back by this point. Like many modern slasher movies Sorority Row wants to have its cake and eat it too. It offers up the kind of sex and gore that would have earned it an 18 certificate a few years ago but refuses to completely abandon the moral framework that formed the backbone of earlier movies. Teenagers still get punished for sexual indiscretion and in the nastiest of ways. The problem is we’re not talking a six pack of beer and a virginal fumble by a deserted lake. When characters are offering anal sex to their psychiatrist in exchange for prescription pills it’s safe to say the ante has been successfully upped Perhaps it’s time for the moral ambiguities of the genre to be upped accordingly too? If they’re prepared to offer us more blood (and certainly more flesh) we don’t always need to be handed the same old comfort blanket to mop it all up with. Until films like Sorority Row find the courage of their convictions their primary pleasures (and there are pleasures) are more likely to be nostalgia and comedy rather than outright fear. Rating: 6/10