Paint by numbers horror is tiresome, but horror movies should work within the genre. When they color too far outside the lines fans get lost. Sorority Row has all of the necessary elements to make it a typical slasher flick but at the same time tries to put a fresh coat of primer on the genre in an effort to find a happy medium between those two alternatives. While the film never quite reaches that middle ground, it sure provides a damn good time while trying to find it.
No, this isn’t a twisted version of The Hills. Rather than death-by-Speidi, Audrina Patridge’s character Megan is the victim of a prank gone horribly wrong. Her cheating ex-boyfriend Garrett (Matt O'Leary) is made to believe he’s slipped her one too many Roofies and accompanies a band of her sorority sisters to a desolate location to figure out what to do with the body. Oops, someone forgets to tell Garrett it’s just a joke and he decides to impale Megan with a tire iron. Queen bee Jessica (Leah Pipes) uses her power of persuasion to convince the gang the best course of action is to drop the body down a mineshaft and get on with their lives.
Eight months later the girls are graduating college and acting as if nothing happened. Well, at least Jessica is. Cassidy (Briana Evigan) was never gung-ho about the plans to begin with, Ellie (Rumer Willis) is sobbing in nearly every scene, Chugs (Margo Harshman) is drowning her sorrows in booze and prescription drugs, and Claire (Jamie Chung) continues to be Jessica’s second-in-command but harbors unsettling sentiments about the situation. It doesn’t take long for the slasher gears to churn and a cloaked killer flaunting a pimped out tire iron picks off the ladies one by one.
You don’t need to think twice about the synopsis to know that this is a typical slasher film sated with boobs, boys, booze and blood. But what makes Sorority Row better than the competition is that it subtly attempts to break that mold without ditching the slasher film formula. Most notably, the film is hilarious. Harshman’s sarcasm and Pipes’ one-liners are the driving force behind the film’s black humor. Rather than solely relying on suspense and thrills to create an enjoyable ride, Sorority Row uses its funny side to make the characters likable and give the story depth. Get this; you actually care when they die. Of course there are a number of trivial players who serve no purpose except to up the body count, but in general, you’re concerned about the core group.
The one character that doesn’t strike a chord is Cassidy. You’re having so much fun with her friends; she comes off as more of a wet blanket than the one with a conscience. On the other hand, Princess Leia brandishing a shotgun certainly spices things up. As Mrs. Crenshaw, Carrie Fisher takes her duties as house mother to heart and arms up to protect her girls.
As the film stabs onward into its inevitable bloodbath, Sorority Row stumbles on its six-inch stilettos. The story unwinds into a hodgepodge of bumbling kills, screaming and unconvincing plot development. It is so close to achieving above-trashy status by then that it's even more disappointing when it sinks in that nothing you’ve seen makes sense. Do yourself a favor: go into Sorority Row with your brain on cruise control and just enjoy the movie for what it is: a gore party.