Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sorority House Massacre (USA, 1986)

One of the best titles from the "Golden Age" of slasher films hides one of the all-time worst entries to the genre. It is of no surprise that no one involved in this turkey went on to have any career of note; what is surprising is that the movie eventually spawned a sequel, Jim Wynorski's Sorority House Massacre II (1990). But then, producer Roger Corman always knew a good title when he saw one. (Oddly enough, the flashbacks from S.H.M. II don't even come from S.H.M. I, but are instead lifted from the far superior Slumber Party Massacre (1982), a film primarily remembered today for having been written by Rita Mae Brown.) In truth, while both Sorority House Massacres are pretty crappy, Wynorski's celluloid abortion is the more enjoyable of the two, for he at least fills the screen with numerous shots of naked flesh and mounds of silicon and also evidences some humour. The tits in Carol Frank's film, most of which are shown in one boring and pointless scene in which three of the girls try on every dress belonging to a sorority sister gone for the weekend, may be all natural but they are unimpressive. Too little, too late and too uninteresting.
Director Carol Frank actually worked as an assistant on Slumber Party Massacre, which may be the reason she managed to get the job to write and direct this film. But, aside for a few well made, creepy dream sequences, this unoriginal and dull piece of shit is a perfect lesson on how not to make a horror film. Neither scary nor campy enough to be fun, one of the biggest horrors of the film is the 1980's wardrobe; women who dress like that deserve to die. The only thing in the movie more horrendous than the wardrobe is the film music, a typically dreadful and generic 1980's synthesizer score "composed" by Michael Wetherwax, who obviously simply turned on the tape machine and then indiscriminately pressed the keys, making a point to keep a single key pressed throughout any scene that should supposedly be scary. Much like the composer, director Frank also obviously didn't have an original idea in her head, for seldom has there been a film that rips off Halloween (1978) more than this one. In that few films towards the end of the "Golden Age" didn't do so, the unoriginality of the story isn't reason enough to write the film off. But when an unoriginal film also features a total lack of tension, a meandering pace, dull characters and equally uninteresting murders, then it is time to go to bed. Frank even makes the unforgivable mistake of starting the movie as a flashback being told from the hospital bed of the sole survivor — a mistake so grievous that even Hustler magazine's writing specs for fiction specifically says "no flashbacks" — thus negating the important question of "who's gonna make it?" and robbing the film of any possible suspense. When a movie evidences as little talent as this one, the viewer can only find solace in knowing that luckily for the world of horror, the director has yet to make another film — as is true for most of the actors involved.
In this version of Halloween, Beth (Angela O'Neill) arrives at Theta Omega Theta, her sorority to be, for Memorial Weekend and is promptly plagued by visions and dreams of a knife-wielding maniac and dead people with pick-axes in their chest. Somewhere else in the state, deep in the bowels of an empty high school — oh, excuse me: of a nut house — catatonic Bobby (John C. Russell) suddenly starts getting all uppity. Surprise! He kills an orderly, gets a pass for weekend leave and starts on his trip back to his old home where many years ago he pick-axed his parents to death and knifed all but one of his sisters. Back at Theta Omega, all but Beth and three others have left for the weekend. Eventually the boyfriends arrive, so the body count can begin! But first, through hypnosis, Beth learns that as a child she used to live in the very house the sorority is in, and that she is the only survivor of the legendary massacre that happened there. She is Bobby's sister! Well, Bobby arrives and everyone gets knifed and dies but — as was revealed at the film's start — for Beth, who manages at the last minute to knife Bobby through the throat.
Hell, skip this piece of shit and go straight to the sequel: if nothing else, S.H.M. II proves that Jim Wynorski doesn't just make bad films…

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