I don’t know about you, but times are pretty tough for me right now. Money is pretty tight, and that makes it hard to see nearly as many movies as I used to. Truth be told, there were times when I’d seen every movie at the local Edwards 18. Nowadays I’m a bit more discerning when it comes to the movies I see in theaters. I’d like to chalk it up to a predilection for films of substance, refined by years of study, but it really comes down to the fact that I just can’t afford to pony up the cash to see the same shit I used to. And as a horror fan, that’s a hard row to hoe. With horror I’ve found that there is a fine line between enjoyable and unbearable, and even though there are an ungodly number of horror films out there, most of them fall into the latter category. Now, I may be a genre snob, but when it comes to horror, I’ll usually give things a chance. But times being what they are, I can’t afford to take the same risks I used to by going to see something questionable on the off-chance that it will turn out to be a pleasant surprise.
You might have noticed these redbox kiosks popping up at your local grocery store or 7-Eleven or McDonald’s. Breaks down like this: go to a redbox, find a movie, swipe your credit card to pay the $1 rental fee, and you’re good to go. Also, at redbox.com you can reserve a title at the redbox kiosk of your choice. You can take the movie back to any redbox, and if you forget to take it back, they’ll just charge you another dollar for each extra day you have the movie, after twenty-five days (read: about $25) the movie is yours to keep. Pretty simple.
In the age of Netflix, why would I want to use redbox? Well, as much as I love Netflix, sometimes I don’t want to wait for my next movie to arrive, and there are some movies that I just don’t want to wait for or don’t seem worth sacrificing a position in my Netflix queue. If a movie is going to suck, waiting for it to arrive, waiting for it to get back to Netflix, and waiting for something better to replace it just adds insult to injury. And redbox is only a buck. The kiosks are everywhere, at least in LA they are. It’s so easy. Now I can afford to take a chance on some of the more questionable movies I was interested in, but not willing to pay $10 (or more) to see. So, thanks to the good people at redbox, I’m starting this new column, dedicated to films that I couldn’t bring myself to pay to see in theaters and/or was anxious about giving a place in my Netflix queue.
First up, Sorority Row.
I was extremely wary of this film. The preview made it seem like everything I hate about bad slasher remakes rolled into one neat little package. Fortunately, to my astonishment, I actually enjoyed it. Granted, I’ve been watching a lot of slasher movies lately… a lot of really bad slasher movies… so the bar might have been set kinda low. I had recently watched the original House on Sorority Row, and was more than a little curious to see what the remake was like. Just as I was beginning to seriously regret my decision to give Sorority Row a chance, things began to look up… they killed Audrina Partridge‘s character. And that’s no spoiler. It’s in the trailer.
It’s a pretty standard slasher setup: after a sorority prank goes horribly wrong, ending in the death of a sorority sister, a group of Theta Pi seniors hide the body and vow never to speak of the incident again. Eight months later, as the sisters prepare to throw an epic graduation party, a mysterious party-crasher begins to stalk and kill everyone who’s in on the dark secret.
Nothing too convoluted here. A fairly straightforward “unknown killer seeks revenge” story, and it’s certainly nowhere near as bizarre as Sleepaway Camp. (Though, Sleepaway Camp does have that sort of car accident vibe, where you feel like you should look away, but can’t help but gawk.) Sorority Row is a much less disturbing experience.
You can’t have a slasher movie without some filler characters, who are essentially there just to be killed off, which I guess makes them killer-filler. Usually, these killer-filler characters are pretty uninteresting, but with Sorority Row they seem like actual people instead of just moving targets. They’re entertaining, witty, some of them are even funny, and better yet, some of them are actually likable. Thanks, in part, to the writers: Josh Stolberg & Peter Goldfinger, who are also the writing team behind the upcoming Piranha 3D, which I’m now all the more excited about.
Of course, it helps to have a talented cast as well. I’ve heard mixed things about Rumer Willis, but after seeing her in Sorority Row, I’m sold. She has a set of lungs to rival Jamie Lee Curtis, making her a definite contender to take over the title of Scream Queen. I only hope that she will follow in Jamie’s footsteps and star in a few more slashers… I also hope that any followup slashers are better than Jamie’s were. (1980s Prom Night and Terror Train were both pretty painful disgraces to Halloween.) Rumer, however, is not the heroine in Sorority Row; that honor is bestowed on dancing queen Briana Evigan, who, oddly enough, reminds me of Demi Moore (Rumer’s mom). Briana plays Cassidy, an excellent, empowered 21st century slasher heroine, much more in line with Ellen Ripley than Laurie Strode, more willing to stand and fight, less likely to run and hide.
And you can’t have a slasher flick without that character you love to hate. Leah Pipes embodies uber-bitch, Jessica, the self-serving, opportunistic, catty yin to Cassidy’s yang. Margo Harshman’s Chugs is a wonderfully vulgar, hard-drinking, hyper-sexualized, party monster.
Sorority Row was a very pleasant surprise, a fun slasher that hits all the right beats. Though, there are some irksome moments. It’s a much more satisfying horror movie than the original, with some sly moments in homage put in for good measure. I’d definitely buy that for a dollar.