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House On Sorority Row (Special Edition), The

MVD Entertainment Group // R // July 6, 2021
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted July 19, 2021 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Written and directed by Mark Rosman, who has since gone on to churn out a lot of comedies and TV work in addition to writing the recent remake of this very film entitled simply Sorority Row, this low budget slasher film from 1983 isn't even close to the best of its breed but it has a certain quirky, nostalgic charm that makes it marginally endearing to fans of the genre.

When the film begins, a woman loses her baby during childbirth. After this scene, we meet Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt), a cranky old woman who runs a sorority house populated by a group of foxy and nubile young ladies who are planning to use the house for a big party against her will. They try to keep it a secret but when she walks in on them yapping about it while chugging booze in their pajamas, the secret is a secret no more. Unhappy with things going the way they are, she later disrupts one of the girls, Vicki (Eileen Davidson), in the midst of having relations with her boyfriend, at which point the girls decide to teach to old bat a lesson. They borrow a gun and decide to prank her into falling into the pool that is in the backyard and which is full of green algae.

Of course, the prank goes wrong and before the party starts they wind up killing the woman by accident. Katherine (Kate McNeil), the only one of the bunch who seems to have any morals, wants to call the cops but the other talk her out of it. While the band plays in the living room and the party starts to heat up, various party goers start getting knocked off, one by one, and Mrs. Slater's body, which was left at the bottom of the pool, is mysteriously missing.

Despite the fact that much of the violence takes place off screen, that the film is fairly bloodless, and that when there is any gore its handled fairly poorly, it's hard not to like this picture. Yes, it's almost entirely by the numbers but it's such a dopey premise played with such ham-fisted seriousness that you can't help but dig it. No one in the film is particularly good as far as their performances go, but you've got to give Eileen Davidson credit for playing the bitchy bratty type with such stereotypical gusto and to Kate McNeil for looking cute and playing the nice girl as woodenly as she does here. Lois Kelso Hunt's turn as the bitchy matron type resembles sort of a demonic and uber-bitchy Mrs. Garrett from The Facts Of Life, played as if she's got some sort of bizarre fetal complex. On top of that, we get some performance footage from a band called 4 Out Of 5 Doctors during the party scene, a group so horribly dated that they fit right in with the rest of the eighties era clichés that run rampant throughout the film.

A few suspenseful moments remind us that we are watching a horror film and the orchestral score composed by the prolific Charles Band and performed, amazingly enough, by the London Philharmonic Orchestra is definitely a highlight. In the end though, as fun as this movie is, it's hard to take any of it all too seriously. It's plenty nostalgic for those of us who grew up in the era in which it was made and it's a fun film, but you can't really say that it's a good one, not in the traditional sense - it's entertaining enough though and worth seeing.

The Blu-ray


The House On Sorority Row is presented on a 50gb disc and appears to be taken from the Scorpion Releasing remaster from 2018 that was used for their now out of print Blu-ray edition. The results of the AVC encoded 1080p presentation, framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and taking up 23.2GBs of space, are quite nice indeed, with the colors definitely looking noticeably superior to past Blu-ray editions. Black levels are strong, skin tones look spot on and there's nice depth and detail throughout. The image is quite clean, showing only minor print damage and quite infrequently at that. Compression artifacts are a non-issue and the disc is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement problems. This is quite a strong picture!


The audio is handled by a 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Stereo track, in English, with optional subtitles provided in English only. The audio quality is on par with the video, it's good but not quite perfect. Dialogue is fine, no problems following it, but there is a little bit of sibilance here and there. Otherwise, no there are no problems to note and the audio is properly balanced.


The extras also duplicate what was included on the aforementioned Scorpion release. Carried over from the old Liberation Entertainment DVD release is a commentary track from writer/director Mark Rosman who is joined by actresses Eileen Davidson and Kathryn McNeil. Rosman does most of the talking here, explaining how when he sold the movie to Film Ventures he had to colorize the opening scene that was originally shot in black and white before moving on and discussing why the opening sequence was designed to look the way that it does. Rosman also talks about how the film was originally called Seven Sisters but that the distributor changed it so that people wouldn't think that it was a movie about nuns. There are a few moments where they clam up a bit but these are few and far between and for the most part this is a relaxed, amiable but fairly interesting talk about their various experiences on the film and about how the project came to be, even if the commentators spend a bit too much time explaining what's on the screen at times. A second audio commentary with director Mark Rosen, moderated by Katarina Leigh Waters, is also included. It covers a fair bit of the same ground as the first one but also manages to go in a few unique directions from time to time. It isn't paced as well as the original track but diehard fans of the film will appreciate it. This track originally appeared on Scorpion's 2-disc DVD release from 2012.

Also carried over from that release are a bunch of additional video interviews. First up is a forty-two-minute piece with actress Harley Jane Kozak who speaks about how she landed the role and how it wound up having an effect on her career. She also shares some interesting stories from the film shoot and her thoughts on the production. From there, Waters winds up hosting a fourteen-minute interview with Kate McNeil where she talks about how she wound up in the picture and what it was like working on it. Waters appears again in a seven-minute piece with Eileen Davidson and a twenty-one-minute piece with Rosman. These cover a lot of the same ground as the original commentary does but in a more condensed format. Composer Richard Band is also interviewed in a lengthy forty-five-minute piece with Waters where he talks about how he wound up working on the project and what he tried to bring to it with his music. Producer Igor Kanter is also interviewed, for ten minutes, wherein he details his background in the film industry and some of the projects he worked on in his earlier days before then discussing his involvement in this particular project.

Rounding out the extras on the disc is an original trailer for the feature, a trio of television spots, a quick featurette on the film's original ending accompanied by almost five-minutes of storyboards for that lost footage, a pre-credits sequence and bonus trailers for a few other MVD properties (Mortuary, Dahmer, Mikey and Mind Games).

Interestingly enough, this release also includes the ‘Alternate Mono Audio Version With Re-Timed Pre-Credit Sequence' version of the movie, which runs 1:31:53 as opposed to the standard version's running time of 1:31:47. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer for this version gets 13.3Gbs of space and features Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio. There are no subtitles provided. The difference is that this version opens with an ARC logo, before going into the ‘June 19th 1961 black and white intro. The feature version opens with a Multicom logo, then a Trafalgar logo and then a Bloody Disgusting logo before going into the ‘June 19th, 1961 opening scene', which has a different color scheme to it, looking more blue than black and white. Additionally, as you can see from the caps below, the color timing affects more than just the opening scene, it's different throughout. It's also slightly squished - or is the feature version slightly stretched? It's a subtle difference but it's there.

As to the packaging, we get a nice slipcover with this release and folded up inside the Blu-ray case is a collectible mini-poster replicating the film's iconic poster art. We also get some cool reversible cover sleeve art.

Final Thoughts:

While far from the greatest slasher of its era, The House On Sorority Row is pretty entertaining stuff. It benefits from a solid concept, a great location and a few strong murder set pieces. MVD's Blu-ray reissue offers a nice presentation of the film on a disc loaded with extras. Recommended!

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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