As a conventional slasher, this update on the original 1983 House on Sorority Row scores fairly big points for its impressive kills, yet it's brought down by the same kind of weak finale that has plagued many of its post-'90s horrific whodunit peers. Since the release of Scream, the slasher genre has leaned heavily upon the hook of "who is the killer?" A rather delicious concept if done right, it can lead to a mindbender of a good time. Sadly, when this sort of 10 Little Indians plot goes sour, audiences get stuck with lame old men killers (à la I Know What You Did Last Summer) or main characters who suddenly turn evil at the end, only to be overshadowed by their more frightening costumed selves from the first two acts of the film (My Bloody Valentine 3D). Many times, the poorly structured "reveal" comes complete with a James Bond villain speech about why they did what they did, eating up precious screen time at a point when viewers would rather be amped up than talked at. Thankfully, Sorority Row will still appeal to genre enthusiasts and the young crowd alike, thanks to its taste for bloody scares, T & A, and an above-the-line sense of style that should surprise most viewers.
The story follows the same general outline as its predecessor: a group of sorority sisters pull a prank that ends tragically with a murderous mistake, which only serves to haunt them later on when a vengeful killer comes knockin' on their doors. The ensemble of gal pals is made up of typical stereotypes, toplined by the mean prima donna (Leah Pipes), the follower (Jamie Chung), the nerd (Rumer Willis), the slut (Margo Harshman), and Cassidy (Briana Evigan), whose trueness of heart makes her this slasher film's "final girl." The group's dynamics are easy to respond to, as each one plays her role to a T, though it's the look of the film and its tire-iron-wielding killer that really steal the show.
Right off the bat, the picture impresses with a faux one-take shot as the audience is taken on a tour of the sorority house during a raucous party. With this opening, it's evident that director Stewart Hendler has a bit more up his sleeve than his lesser contemporaries. As the film moves on, the director displays a talent for taking an extra stylish step more than one would normally expect. Additionally, once the murders begin, the fright scenes have the right mix of swiftness, gore, and tension to make viewers sit up in their seats and relish what's coming next. Sadly, as the movie draws on, its cookie-cutter underpinnings shine through, making everything in the film seem old hat once the identity of the killer is revealed. That said, fans of the original will get a kick out of the shout-out to the first killer's weapon, just as they'll most likely enjoy Carrie Fisher's brief scenes, one of which involves her unloading a shotgun at the hooded maniac. Audience reactions will essentially depend on how much they enjoy the standard slasher mold, which Sorority Row most definitely fits into, even if it goes the extra mile in its slick presentation.