The next time someone asks you "Who's your favorite Final Girl?"- which could end up happening quite often, you never know- I suggest you watch today's offering before you give an answer: The House on Sorority Row (1983)! Now the box art, which you can see here, makes it look as if there's some sort of soft-core goings-on going on, or it's one of those exploitative rape movies like I Spit on Your Grave, but that's just bad marketing. The DVD version I saw had the trailer included, and watching it I thought it would lead one to believe that it's about a sorority full of thrill-killers. Sheesh! No wonder this movie's dismissed! What it IS is a pretty damn decent little slasher flick.
The movie opens with a flashback: it's 1961, and Dorothy Slater is undergoing an extremely difficult childbirth at home. In comes the doctor, who performs a cesarean, but hints that he was unable to save the baby.
On to present day, and Mrs. Slater is now the cranky old dinosaur of a housemother for the girls of Theta Pi. She walks with a cane and rules with an iron fist, and the girls are fed up. The old witch won't even let them host one last big fling upon graduation, insisting that they vacate the house by June 19th- the house must be empty by June 19th! No "drunken sprees" for the wicked girls!
Later on, Vicki, the girls' ringleader, and her boyfriend are making sweet sweet love on Vicki's waterbed. Mrs. Slater interrupts, hissing "You filth...trash like you doesn't belong in my house!" and slashes the bed with the end of her cane. Vicki decides it's time to pay back Mrs. Slater for 4 years of misery- they'll get her back with a prank and have their party anyway! One big one for the "house mother to end all house mothers"! That'll show her! All the girls are game except Katy, who thinks it's all immature and they should just let it go. She's outnumbered though, and caves to peer pressure. I don't get it- I mean, "Just say no" had been coined by this point, and she should've stuck to her guns. Oh well. It's prankin' time!
Hoo, boy, and what a prank it is. The girls continue to set up for the big party, and when Mrs. Slater walks in on their streamer-hangin' she's furious and orders the girls out of the house at once. Vicki casually asks Mrs. Slater if she's forgetting something- she's sans cane, and Vicki knows where it is. The girls lead the old bat out to the pool, which is bright green and filled with crud. And there, out in the middle of the putrid water atop a floating tire, sits the cane. Vicki tells her to go get it. Slater refuses and walks towards the girls, at which point Vicki pulls out a gun she got from her boyfriend and points it at Slater. Ha ha! This sure beats the old "panties in the freezer" gag, don't it? Mrs. Slater ends up getting shot dead- Vicki didn't know the gun was loaded- and the girls, in a panic, decide to dump the body in the pool. Once again, Katy is the voice of protest, and once again Katy is outnumbered and caves.
The girls have their big party that night, and the girls begin to disappear...is it Mrs. Slater? Was she still alive when they threw her in the pool? The plot expands and expands, and I ain't tellin' what happens.
I really liked this movie. The murder cover-up plot thread sets it apart from most slashers, which tend to have plots like a bunch of people are in the same place at the same time and end up getting killed. There's not ALOT of gore...though I will say that someone's head winds up in a toilet, and it's not due to too much Zima. Most of the killing/cane-fu is implied yet cringe-worthy: particularly the silhouetted offing of one girl. Yes...I called it "cane-fu". Katy, our final girl, reminded me of Laurie Strode from Halloween- she's smart, mature, and the voice of reason amongst all her "good-time girl" friends. She's not quite as likable as Laurie, but I think some of that's owed to the skills of Jamie Lee Curtis. So hey you, check out this overlooked gem that I give 8 out of 10 sweet sweet waterbed lovemakings.
For more information, you can read a super swell interview with the director, Mark Rosman, from the fine folks at Terror Trap, where he talks about alternate endings and other good stuff.