The House on Sorority Row
|The House on Sorority Row|
Theatrical film poster
|Directed by||Mark Rosman|
|Produced by||John G. Clark|
|Music by||Richard Band|
|Box office||$10.6 million|
The House on Sorority Row (alternately titled House of Evil and Seven Sisters) is a 1983 American slasher film written and directed by Mark Rosman, produced by John G. Clark, and starring Eileen Davidson and Katherine McNeil. Set at a sorority house, the story follows a group of sorority sisters being murdered during a graduation party, after committing a prank gone horribly fatal.
Partly inspired by the 1955 French film Les Diaboliques, first-time writer-director Rosman wrote the screenplay for the film in 1980, then titled Seven Sisters. The film was shot on location in Pikesville, Maryland in the summer months of 1980. In November 1982, it received a limited regional theatrical release before expanding on January 21, 1983, eventually going on to gross $10.6 million.
Seven sorority sisters – Katey, Vicki, Liz, Jeanie, Diane, Morgan, and Stevie – celebrate their graduation ceremony at their sorority house, located at the far end of a sorority row. Their celebration is interrupted by their domineering house mother, Mrs. Slater, who denies the girls' plan to throw a graduation party. The girls then devise a prank: They steal her walking cane and place it in the house's unused outdoor pool and force her at gunpoint to retrieve it. The prank goes awry when Vicki inadvertently shoots Slater, who appears to be dead. The girls agree to hide the body in the pool until their party ends.
At the party, an unidentified figure stabs a guest with Slater's cane. The girls realize that if the pool lights turn on, Slater's body will be revealed, so Stevie goes into the basement to disable the breaker. She is brutally stabbed to death by the killer. Later, the pool lights come on, but Slater's body is not there.
Deciding that Slater must be alive, the girls search for her. Morgan enters Slater's room where Slater's body falls on her. Vickie suggests hiding the body in the old cemetery. Morgan is later stabbed to death with Slater's cane. Katey discovers children's toys and a dead caged bird in the attic. Diane is murdered next, and Jeanie is decapitated with a butcher knife in the bathroom. At the house, Katey finds a medical alert tag on a necklace belonging Slater. She calls the number and is put through to a Dr. Beck, who arrives. The two discover the bodies of Stevie, Morgan, and Diane in the pool. Vicki and Liz drive to the cemetery to bury Slater's body. However, both girls are killed by the assailant. At the cemetery, Katey finds the bodies of Vicki and Liz; Slater's body in the back of the van.
After forcibly giving Katey a sedative at the house, Dr. Beck reveals that Slater had a son named Eric who was deformed and mentally underdeveloped thanks to an illegal fertility treatment he had given her. Dr. Beck uses Katey as bait so he can capture Eric and cover up his crime. Eric arrives and hacks Dr. Beck to death while Katey searches for Vicki's gun, which does not fire. She flees to the bathroom to release the gun's safety catch and finds Jeanie's severed head in the toilet. She climbs to the attic, where she is attacked by Eric, now wearing a clown costume. She shoots him repeatedly, only to find the gun is loaded with blanks. She then uses the pin to stab Eric numerous times, and he falls through the attic to the floor below. Katey believes he is dead. However, Eric was only stunned, and opens his eyes.
- Katherine McNeil as Katherine 'Katey' Rose (as Kathryn McNeil)
- Eileen Davidson as Vicki
- Lois Kelso Hunt as Mrs. Dorothy Slater
- Christopher Lawrence as Dr. Nelson Beck
- Janis Zido as Liz
- Robin Meloy as Jeanie
- Harley Kozak as Diane
- Jodi Draigie as Morgan
- Ellen Dorsher as Stevie
- Michael Kuhn as Peter
- Michael Sergio as Rick
- Charles Serio as Eric
- Ruth Walsh as Mrs. Rose
- Kathryn Davidov as Party Girl
- Peter McClung as Peterson
- Brian T. Small as Pig
- Alan Treadwell as Gottfried
- Ken Myers as Murdered Guest
Writer-director Mark Rosman, who had attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and later graduated from New York University, got the idea for The House on Sorority after returning to his hometown in Los Angeles. Rosman had been a fraternity member at UCLA, which he used as a partial basis for writing the screenplay, which focused on a group of sorority sisters who find their lives threatened after covering up a fatal prank. Some elements of the film, primarily the usage of a pool to conceal their crime, were inspired by Les Diaboliques (1955), a French suspense film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. He later stated he envisioned a suspense film in which "the female characters would not just be victims–the whole idea of it was that they were culpable, and that they were sort of bringing this on themselves." The screenplay had several working titles, including Screamer and Seven Sisters. Rosman initially was able to accrue $125,000 as a starting budget, with the help of a friend who worked for VAE Productions, an independent studio that specialized in documentaries, based in Washington, D.C..
The majority of the casting for The House on Sorority Row took place in New York City, though Eileen Davidson and Janis Zido were cast out of the Los Angeles area. Davidson recalled auditioning at Rosman's house in Beverly Hills. Kate McNeil, who was cast in the role of Katey, won the part while still attending graduate acting courses in New York City.
Harley Jane Kozak recalled attending a casting call in a "warehouse in Manhattan" and receiving a phone call several weeks later with the news that she had won the part. Lois Kelso Hunt, who portrays the cantankerous housemother, was a local stage actress cast out of Washington, D.C..
The House on Sorority Row was the directorial debut of director Rosman as well as the first feature film of cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt; both had met while working as assistant directors on Brian De Palma's Home Movies (1980). Filming took place on location in Pikesville, Maryland, with establishing campus shots at the University of Maryland, College Park, in the summer of 1981. The production had originally been slated to shoot in Washington, D.C., where the production company was located; however, Rosman found the house location featured in the film in Pikesville, which was in foreclosure, allowing the crew to film for a low cost. Upon arriving at the house to shoot, the crew found two squatters living in the house, whom they allowed to work as video assistants. Vincent Perronio, a frequent collaborator with John Waters, agreed to serve as the film's production designer, and dressed the entire house to appear as a sorority.
The budget for the film was $300,000. However, the production ran out of funds midway through filming, and Rosman had to secure a loan from a cousin in Los Angeles in order to complete the film. Throughout principal photography, the cast stayed at Koinonia, a farm retreat in Pikesville where they lived together in "dorm-like" conditions. The film was a non-Screen Actors Guild production, and Kozak and McNeil both recall receiving $50 per diem compensation for their days on set.
While principal photography occurred exclusively in Maryland, additional transitional shots and pickups were completed in Los Angeles. Among these included the shot of Davidson's character being impaled through the eye with the cane.
Film Ventures International, an independent distributor, purchased the film for distribution after principal photography was complete, and also gave the filmmakers an additional $125,000 to complete post-production (the majority of which went toward scoring and mixing the film). In an interview with director Mark Rosman, it was revealed that Lois Kelso Hunt's performance is entirely dubbed, as her voice was deemed not "scary" enough for the role. While her demeanor and performance were apt, Rosman found her voice not as husky as he had envisioned.
According to Rosman, Film Ventures requested two changes to the final cut of the film: The first was that the opening flashback scene, which was shot in black and white, be colorized; the sequence was then color-tinted to be black blue. The second change was in regards to the original ending. In the director's original ending, Katherine is discovered floating dead in the pool, apparently Eric's final victim. Film Ventures felt the ending too downbeat, so as a result Katherine survives in the finished version.
The film's music score was written by Richard Band and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded at Wembley Studios. The Washington D.C. based powerpop band 4 Out of 5 Doctors appears in the movie, performing several of their songs.
The one-sheet poster and advertising were created by Film Ventures International's regular advertising agency, Design Projects Incorporated. Design Project's owner, Rick Albert art directed the key art and title treatment design. The key art was illustrated by Jack Lynwood, who painted illustrations for many motion picture campaigns during the late 1970s and '80s. The copylines were written by distributor Film Ventures International's Edward L. Montoro.
Initially, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expressed interest in distributing the film, but ultimately backed out, after which Film Ventures International bought it for distribution. The House on Sorority Row was released on November 25, 1982 in the United States, screening regionally in New Mexico. The theatrical release expanded on January 21, 1983, and took in $617,661 in its opening weekend on 153 screens, ranking a low No. 14 at the box office. By February 21, 1983, exactly one month after its expansion, the film had grossed $4,330,028. Its ultimate gross totaled $10,604,986.
During a 1982 theatrical run of the film, critic Anthony DellaFlora of the Albuquerque Journal wrote of the film: "[Horror films] are supposed to put you in a state of unmitigated terror. This one does neither. The House On Sorority Row may have brought new meaning to the term "Greek tragedy," but it certainly didn't scare anyone. Mark Rosman, who produced, directed and wrote the alleged thriller must take most of the blame for this."
On Rotten Tomatoes, the website reports that 50% of 8 sampled critics gave the film mixed reviews, with an average score of 5 out of 10. Film scholar Scott Aaron Stine notes that the film has "competent production values, but this in no way compensates for the rote proceedings." John Kenneth Muir refers to the film as "a textbook example of the 1980s slasher film" that "boasts a devilish sense of humor." Critic Jim Harper notes the film as a moralistic slasher film and probable influence on films such as I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).
In 2017, Complex included the film in a retrospective of the best slasher films of all time. In a May 2018 retrospective published by Inquisitr, the film was deemed "a disturbing tale of revenge that plays as timely social commentary," and noted as a horror film that "has stood the test of time."
Elite Entertainment released The House on Sorority Row on DVD on November 14, 2000. The disc featured the film's original theatrical trailer as a supplementary feature. The DVD was re-printed and released again on November 18, 2003. It was again re-released on January 12, 2010 to commemorate the film's 25th anniversary.
On January 24, 2011, Scorpion Releasing and Katarina Waters's Nightmare Theater released a 2-disc remastered edition on DVD and Blu-ray. Scorpion Releasing and Code Red released a new Blu-ray edition on May 11, 2018, featuring a new 2K scan of the original master negative. This edition, sold exclusively online and limited to 1,600 units, features a slipcover and newly commissioned artwork.
On September 11, 2009, a remake titled Sorority Row was released by Summit Entertainment. The film was directed by Stewart Hendler, with Mark Rosman, the director of the original, serving as an executive producer. stars Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Audrina Patridge, Margo Harshman, and Carrie Fisher. The script has been rewritten by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger.
In 2017, Complex named The House on Sorority Row the 21st-best slasher film of all time, writing: "The House on Sorority Row is, fortunately, more than just a puberty motivator for young boys. Director Mark Rosman does his best to stage prolonged moments of suspense, approaching the film’s kill scenes with his Hitchcock influences intact."
- DellaFlora, Anthony (November 28, 1982). "'House on Sorority Row' a Gory Fiasco". Albuquerque Journal. Albuquerque, New Mexico. p. 43 – via Newspapers.com.
- Stine 2003, p. 153.
- "The Director on Sorority Row: An Interview with Mark Rosman". The Terror Trap. February 2001. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
- "The House on Sorority Row". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
- Harper 2001, p. 113.
- "Saturday Nightmares: The House on Sorority Row (1983)". Dread Central. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 12:27.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 12:50.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 1:25:18.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 12:55.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 13:46.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 20:25.
- Davidson, Eileen (2011). "Kats Eyes: Eileen Davidson". The House on Sorority Row (DVD) (Interview). Disc 2. Interviewed by Katarina Walters. Scorpion Releasing.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 7:21.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 8:15.
- Kozak, Harley Jane (2011). Interview with Star, Harley Jane Kozak. The House on Sorority Row (DVD) (Documentary short). Disc 1. Scorpion Releasing.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 2:11.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 6:20.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 2:27.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 3:39.
- Rosman, Mark (2011). "Kats Eyes: Mark Rosman". The House on Sorority Row (DVD) (Interview). Disc 2. Interviewed by Katarina Walters. Scorpion Releasing.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 3:54.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 5:14.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 20:38.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 20:45.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 6:57.
- McNeil, Katherine (2011). "Kats Eyes: Katherine McNeil". The House on Sorority Row (DVD) (Interview). Disc 2. Interviewed by Katarina Walters. Scorpion Releasing.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 14:40.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 1:12:50.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 1:05:45.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 11:36.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 1:06:25.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 1:10.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 50:33.
- Rosman, McNeil & Davidson 2011, event occurs at 1:05:40.
- "Now Showing". Albuquerque Journal. Albuquerque, New Mexico. November 25, 1982. p. 54 – via Newspapers.com.
- "The House on Sorority Row". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
- Muir 2012, p. 253.
- Harper 2004, pp. 113–114.
- "The House on Sorority Row". Complex. Archived from the original on November 12, 2017. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
- Lee, Carter (May 6, 2018). "Best Horror Movies On Amazon Prime Right Now: 'M.F.A.' And 'The House On Sorority Row'". Inquisitr. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
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- Turek, Ryan (January 5, 2012). "2-Disc The House on Sorority Row DVD is Coming". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
- Squires, John (December 19, 2017). "'The House on Sorority Row' Gets New 2K Scan for Upcoming Blu-ray". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
- "The House on Sorority Row - Ronin Flix Exclusive / Remastered". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved May 28, 2018.
- Rollo, Sarah (September 18, 2008). "Carrie Fisher may join 'Sorority Row'". Digital Spy. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
- Barnes, Jessica (September 10, 2008). "Rumer Willis Heads Back to 'Sorority Row'". Cinematical. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
- Barone, Matt (October 23, 2017). "The Best Slasher Films of All Time". Complex. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
- Harper, Jim (2004). Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies. London, England: Critical Vision. ISBN 978-1-900-48639-2.
- Muir, John Kenneth (2012). Horror Films of the 1980s. 1. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-47298-7.
- Rosman, Mark; McNeil, Katherine; Davidson, Eileen (2011). The House on Sorority Row (DVD) (Audio commentary). Disc 1. Scorpion Releasing.
- Stine, Scott Aaron (2003). The Gorehound's Guide to Splatter Films of the 1980s. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-41532-8.