directed by: Carol Frank
starring: Angela O'Neill, Wendy Martel, Pamela Ross, Nicole Rio, John C Russell, Joe Nassi, Marcus Vaughter, Vinnie Bilancio, Mary Anne, Gillian Frank.
(back of video blurb):
"Something seems hauntingly familiar to Beth when she arrives at the Sorority House for a fun weekend with her girlfriends but Beth's fun weekend is plagued by a series of horrific nightmares each one more real than the last and each time the knife wielding killer of her dreams is becoming more and more frenzied.
When the girls throw an all night party they discover a most unwelcome guest, the nightmare maker, a night of fun has become a night of horror as the blood thirsty killer stalks them one by one.
Sorority House Massacre- where nightmare and reality blend into a perfect slice of unadulterated heart stopping terror!"
"Go on John, I like being spooked !"
- Sara - oblivious to the fact that she is in a horror movie
[review by Erik Threlfall]
I can just see it now. It's 1986 and director Carol Frank momentarily stops back combing her hair and singing along to 'Papa Don't Preach' as an idea for a movie pops into her head. "I know!", she enthuses, "it'll be about a crazed killer who murdered his family and then years later escapes to return to his home town and kill the one sibling who managed to escape. What an original idea !!!". Yeah, right Carol. The HALLOWEEN (1978) influence doesn't end there. For starters, we're treated to a Carpenter-esque score which sounds suspiciously like a cat running up and down a synthesizer. Then, we're introduced to characters with names like Linda, Bob, Laura, Sheriff Brackett, okay, I lied about the last one but you get the picture.
The film starts with a girl called Beth recounting her tale from her hospital bed where she is recovering from some ordeal. She had gone to stay at the sorority house of the title for the weekend. We are told early on that Beth's parents died when she was young and that she had been raised by an Aunt who had also died recently. Hence the reason why Beth mopes around looking as cheery as your average Joy Division fan. Beth, it seems, has a kind of psychic link with a man who gyrates unconvincingly in a mental hospital somewhere. She also has endless (and I mean endless) nightmares and visions of men with knives and blood dripping from ceilings. But Beth and the audience are soon to encounter something even more horrifying as we are introduced to Sara who seems to be wearing the lickable wallpaper out of WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971). This is the mere tip of the iceberg as far as fashion atrocities are concerned as we see the other girls of the house running around in fetching turquoise and pink outfits! Perhaps they're off out to see Spandau Ballet in concert.
Meanwhile, director Frank hammers home the 'Beth has a secret past' plot thread by having more slo-mo dream sequences, Sara questioning a scar on Beths arm and a man with a knife appearing in the mirror (a la THE BOGEYMAN (1980)). Enough already with these visions! Some would call these stylish interludes, but on my planet we call it padding.
Back in the hospital, the lunatic (who is later named as Robert Henkel) is throwing major hissy fits. When queried of the reasons for his outburst he simply replies "Laurie"….oops, I mean "Laura". Later, he frees himself from his shackles, kills an orderly and escapes through a few doors left conveniently open. Security obviously isn't high on the list of priorities in this particular institution. He then steals a knife from a hardware store, killing the owner in the process. Later he takes off in someone elses car all the time being pursued by Dr Loomis…oops, wrong film again.
Meanwhile, the sorority house is emptying as most of the girls take off for the weekend. Four remain behind, Sara, Beth, Linda and Tracy. As soon as the others have left the quartet discuss what they will do now they have the house to themselves. Sara suggests excitedly that they "eat Melanie's ice cream", whilst Tracy confesses that "if time time stood still for every one but me, I'd try on Cindys clothes !!!!". This leaves one pondering on how exactly did these girls make it to third level education? I mean, Linda is a psychology major who at one stage tries to analyse Beth's nightmares and comes to the conclusion that the guy Beth dreams of probably "represents the opposite sex". Hmmmm….maybe she's still in her first year. Anyway, before you can say 'when's the bodycount gonna start', the girl's boyfriends arrive on the scene just to provide more fodder for Mr Henkel (if he ever gets there). An apparent power failure means they have to sit around in the candle light telling stories, one of which is the urban legend about past events in the sorority house. Apparently a guy went psycho there and killed all his family bar one. I can only assume that the film intended to signpost the final plot twist so obviously throughout the movie. Between the zillions of dream sequences and endless stories of Robert Henkel's past you'd think they were pitching the film at toddlers. I kept expecting the Teletubbies to appear and say "again! again!" and have the plot re-explained to us one more time in case we didn't pick it up the previous 17 times !!!!. In case you hadn't guessed, the 'Laura' referred to by the killer is in fact Beth. In a HALLOWEEN II (1981) inspired twist, she has more or less forgotten her past but eventually remembers that Robert is her brother and that they used to live in the sorority house (as a family, not as sorority sisters!).
After about an hour the film falls into familiar slasher territory with the cast being offed one by one. However, SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE, to it's detriment, lacks the creative death sequences of other films of its ilk, with each character simply being despatched with a knife to the stomach or back. The makers were obviously going for mood above gore but don't succeed. The film tries too hard to be a HALLOWEEN when really it's more of a DON'T GO IN THE WOODS... ALONE! (1980). Okay, that's a bit too harsh but the film definitely suffers from some pedestrian direction and a full screen transfer that gives it a real 'made for TV' look. The films quest to be taken seriously isn't helped either by some dodgy acting. The female leads are like four Dana Kimmells running around in shoulder pad enhanced dresses. The film even has it's own Paul Kratka (Rick in FRIDAY 3) in the shape of John C Russell who plays, if you can call it that, the killer, Robert Henkel. When an actor can't even walk convincingly you know you're in trouble. It's a good thing he only has a couple of words to say in the entire film. His inclusion in the picture is probably because he owned the location or something, there's no way he passed an audition.
The strangest thing about SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE is that various reviews in film books and on the internet often praise it's 'stylish, slick' approach and it's 'likeable leads'. Oh my God!!!!! Were they watching the same film as me !. Was John Carpenter's 1978 classic released under this title in foreign territories!!!!. Didn't these people see the guy running through the house naked, except for white trainers and white ankle socks! And then delivering the line "...some guy just killed Tracy" as if he had just forgotten to set the video for DAWSON'S CREEK rather than see his girlfriend get butchered! Did they not take note of the conversation between Linda and Sara about how their hair was in an "awkward transitional phase" and how the great thing about hair was that "it always grows out" ??!!!!! Is SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE a slick chiller? I think not. Is it entertaining? Definitely, however it's not the kind of movie that will convince your Mum that horror movies are great. fans (the Hysterions, if you like) will lap it up and you'll be glad to hear that you can now savour it's cheesy delights digitally on the recently released region 1 DVD.
BODYCOUNT 9 female:3 / male:6
1) Male thrown against wall repeatedly
2) Male stabbed in stomach
3) Male stabbed in stomach
4) Female stabbed in back & chest
5) Male stabbed in back
6) Male stabbed in back
7) Female stabbed several times in the chest
8) Female stabbed in back
9) Male stabbed through neck with knife