Sorority House Massacre (1987)

You knew the instant I finished the Slumber Party Massacre film series, I was gonna have to do these too.

Anyhoo, continuing on with the Massacre series and venturing into the Sorority House side of things, I was pleasantly surprised with this entry. Sorority House Massacre definitely pulls from its progenitors and cribs heavily from Halloween, and I wonder how much of an influence A Nightmare on Elm Street had on it considering the nightmare angle in the film. Yet overall the finished product is quite good. It’s not what I’d consider top tier slasher material exactly, and it’s not flashy at all compared to some of its contemporaries, but what it does it does well.

The plot is simple: Beth is a college girl looking to join a sorority. Over Memorial Day weekend she is allowed to stay in the local sorority house while many of the girls are gone. The few who remain decide to have a small get together and work on an upcoming sorority event along with some of their boyfriends. But Beth starts having bad dreams and strange waking visions of a mass murder in the house. Meanwhile, a mentally ill man named Bobby breaks out of an asylum and makes his way to the house to continue the killing spree he started years ago against his family. Bobby happens to be Beth’s older brother, but she was so young when the murders happened, she’s completely blocked out the memory. Now she has to fight against him while her mind forcibly restores her memories via hallucinations, and there is some unexplained psychic link to her older brother.

Let me take a moment to say that this movie is not nearly as exploitative as I was expecting. A bunch of sorority girls running around all night in a horror movie sounds like it would result in lacy underwear pillow fights and bad stripteases while guys commit voyeurism. At least that’s how the Slumber Party line of the Massacre films all go, and the movie poster here certainly implies this flick is gonna end up the same way. But in Sorority House Massacre, this does not happen. There’s nudity, yes, such as in one partial sex scene which gets interrupted in murder, as well as in another where our heroines try on another girl’s clothes. However, it doesn’t reach the same heights as other films in the series. If anything, a lot of the sex is understated.

The violence also isn’t particularly graphic when compared to other films in the series; though we do see quite a few shots of knives being stuck into people, the bloodshed isn’t nearly as nasty as many other movies. “Tasteful” isn’t exactly the right word for how things are handled, but it’s pretty close. It’s much more akin to how violence is portrayed in the previously mentioned Halloween than, say, The Burning or Friday the 13th. Yet there is a surprisingly high body count, which Bobby handles with all the quiet ferocity and matter-of-fact manner of Michael Myers.

Here’s where I feel like praising things: the characters here are not stupid. They’re college educated and intelligent, and they use their critical thinking skills at times to try and understand Beth’s strange dreams, to attempt to escape from Bobby or slow him down, and to even arm themselves to fight back. I hate it in a horror movie when nobody tries to fight back, and I nearly thought that would happen here until one of the sorority girls, Linda, tells Beth, “Let’s get weapons” and goes for gardening implements. No, Linda isn’t very effective with it, but at least she tries. Most of the mistakes that occur come from panic, and they’re generally believable mistakes. The only real criticism I have is that they don’t seem that emotional about when certain folks get killed, but I suppose that could be chalked up to shock. These people freak out and screw up, but it appears much more natural than others I’ve seen in the genre.

Well done, Sorority House Massacre. By slowly building, using your hallucinations to set a dreadful tone, making the characters’ behavior understandable, and presenting human frailty in times of strife, I gotta say that I’m impressed. And here I was expecting something only slightly above softcore pornography.

Also, you may notice in the trailer a few shots from Slumber Party Massacre

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