Tim Brouk is a former arts and entertainment reporter and freelance writer. He is currently writing for academia in Indianapolis.
A couple years before I embraced therapy for my mental health — and back in the days when I still got DVDs in the mail — I made the bold, brave action to confront a day that provided weird, odd and questionable memories of childhood: I ordered The House on Sorority Row from Netflix.
Somehow, Sorority Row screened at a St. Louis theater long since demolished … and naturally, my dad took me to see it. Since age 5, I had to piece together bizarre imagery of breasts, blood and a bird-shaped walking cane apparently made of adamantium given its penchant for slicing flesh and even drywall like a katana through Jell-O.
I later sleuthed the title of this 1983 ripoff of Psycho and Friday the 13th — set at a university with the worst police department this side of School of Hard Knockers — when I was a preteen perusing the horror section of a Blockbuster Video. There, on the cover of an Elvira Presents VHS box — was the weapon behind the murder of six coeds and a couple of dimwitted dudes from the terrifying movie I watched as a kindergartener. I didn’t make up this movie in my head after all. I mean, the chocolate ice cream cone from Velvet Freeze my dad bribed me with to not tell my mother what I had seen tasted real enough.
I didn’t rent it as a preteen. But when I saw it available on Netflix as a thirtysomething, I took the plunge with the expectation of a cathartic experience. Instead, I wanted to pummel my 5-year-old self for being mentally scarred from such crap. Like many generic, but often delightful, ’80s horror flicks, the special effects were cheesy, the characters asinine and the token party band terrible. The nudity wasn’t even that gratuitous.
Sorority Row centers around the strict Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt), housemother of a sorority house at an unnamed college. Seven of the sorority members want to stay after commencement to throw a post-graduation bash led by resident mean girl Vicki (Eileen Davidson) and the virginal, sympathetic Katherine (Kate McNeil). The tropes do fly fast in this film. To the shock of no one, Mrs. Slater responds negatively to the planned party, culminating with the crusty house mom performing coitus interruptus on Vicki and her boyfriend via waterbed stabbing. Vicki plots revenge by way of a gun-shooting prank that uses a bold mix of blanks and real bullets. It’s a pretty confusing “murder” of Mrs. Slater, who at least has a somewhat explained mental condition.
After committing homicide, the young women hijack the house anyway and throw the bash. They probably didn’t want to lose their deposit on 4 Out of 5 Doctors, the credited party band.
Although college graduates, these new alumnae insist going almost everywhere by themselves. Unsurprisingly, they are plucked off one by one before the expected Final Girl and a plot twist that’s actually decent. During a third viewing as a 42-year-old, I found the last 15 minutes better than I remembered either as a thirtysomething … or a traumatized 5-year-old.
For most of his life, Evan Dossey has generally avoided horror films. The genre makes him profoundly uncomfortable. This means he has enormous gaps in his cinematic knowledge. Each year, he asks friends and family which essential horror movies he needs to see in order to fill those gaps and spends the better part of October agonizing over them, tossing and turning over them … and writing about them. This year, he’s sharing the month with those friends and family — letting them offer their own thoughts about the tales that terrify (or perhaps just titillate) them. This is our No Sleep October.
NO SLEEP OCTOBER 2019
Pop Skull – Richard Propes
The Ghost and the Darkness – John Tuttle
Graveyard Shift – Eric Harris
Captain Kronos – Bob Bloom
Alien – Nicole Brooks
The Night Stalker / The Night Strangler – Lou Harry
Pet Sematary (1989) – Heather Knight
Marianne – Alys Caviness-Gober
Orphan – Greg Lindberg
Vamp – James Ledesma
NEKRomantik – Andrew Kimmel