New Video // 2007 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // November 12th, 2010
From the title The Haunting of Sorority Row you're probably expecting a bunch of busty bimbos running around being terrorized by a spectral ghoulie. You get a little skin, a little gore and a bit of entertainment right? Then you notice it's a Lifetime movie.
One of the writers from Mystery Science Theater 3000 said the TV movie only serves one purpose, to fill the empty time slot. If it achieves that end, then maybe that's enough. But come on, you can still tell a good story with time constraints and restrictions to budget and content. Look at it this way, Robert Wise's film The Haunting is a classic creepy tale. It would easily pass any television censors and still scare the pants off people. So just because you can't show boobs and blood doesn't mean you can't craft a decent horror film.
The cast and crew behind the film tried their best to do just that. This is a straightforward tale told simply, but a few things keep it from really working.
Samantha Willows (Leighton Mesester, Gossip Girl) has joined the Delta Phi Theta sorority on her campus. As she prepares for hell week, she befriends the shy Jane (Kailin See) and deals with Oliver (Adrian Petriw), her highshool boyfriend who is feeling left out. But things start to get spooky when every night at 2:12 the sorority house becomes freezing cold, and one of the alumnus is found dead in her car. Samantha does a little research and discovers that exactly one year ago a Delta Phi Theta pledge went missing after having a nervous breakdown. Does Leslie (Lisa Marie Caruk) the head of the house know more than she's letting on? Will Samantha figure out the secret behind the haunting before more girls are killed?
There's a lot of potential here. The Haunting of Sorority Row does a good job at combining the anxieties of starting college, realizing you're are growing apart from your high school sweetheart and being tormented by ghosts into a swirling soup of pressure. Meester does a good job with Samantha, you understand her desire to be something new in college and yet still care about Oliver. And yes, because this is a Lifetime movie, The Haunting of Sorority Row focuses on these issues a bit heavier then the actual scares.
But there's some creative stuff on that front too. The mystery of who or what is haunting the house is pretty straightforward, but the writers tie it with the current group of pledges in an interesting way. Most of the kills occur on screen, but there isn't anything particularly gruesome about them. They are going more for creepy, but it never quite works.
That's my main problem with the execution. Instead of going from building dread (a problem when you know you've got commercial breaks to deal with), and creating scares from atmosphere and suggestion, they go for the CG effects. Since this is a television movie, they aren't too good. A scene where the room becomes suddenly colder and a mirror covers in frost could have been nice and disturbing, but instead it looks silly. The final confrontation ends up being laughable because of the effects and the lack of any tension building to this moment. Its a shame because the performances are pretty good all around and some of the earlier scenes show promise.
In the end The Haunting of Sorority Row is neither bad, nor good. It's there, and it fills a 86 minutes void. Maybe that's enough.
Much like the film, the DVD is just kinda there. The transfer looks like it was taken directly from your television with no noticeable improvement in visual or audio quality. You don't get any extras either.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated