Deep Cuts #10: The House On Sorority Row (1982)

There are times that I occasionally forget that I own a film, and then get excited when I see it out in the wild and purchase it for a second time. The House on Sorority Row is one of those films. Hence, I have a second copy of the MVD Blu-ray with retro slip if anyone wants to purchase it…. but I digress. Anyway, things get confusing when I have a stack ten feet tall of un-watched movies and I shop as often as I do for “gems.” Now, after excitedly purchasing my second copy, I will sit down and watch it. Is it worth buying twice? Will this slasher stand out among the best of its genre? Let’s find out. 

Mark Rosman directed The House on Sorority Row, his first directorial credit.  He would be inspired by the 1955 French film, Les Diaboliques. Rosman would go on to direct Disney productions, TV shows, the occasional B movie, and several TV movies, but this slasher film is his only foray into horror. Kate McNeil, a noted soap opera actress and TV star, and fellow soap opera star, Eileen Davidson, play the notable leads in the film. Michael Sergio plays Rick, and you may be asking, who cares about that no name guy? Well, this actor famously parachuted onto Shea Stadium during game 6 of the 1986 World Series with a sign that read, “Go Mets!” 

The House on Sorority Row, aka House of Evil, aka Seven Sisters, aka Screamer, is widely considered to be one of the best slashers of all time. In 2009, Sorority Row, a remake, was released, starring Rumer Willis and Carrie Fisher. Stewart Hendler directed the remake, then followed it up with the 2016 classic (sarcasm) Max Steel, based on the toy line action figure line by Mattel. He has since moved to the small screen to make a living. 

Production began in Pikesville, Maryland, where they found a home in foreclosure, and when they arrived to begin filming, they found two squatters, who, according to legend, they promptly hired as video assistants! To further cement the film’s legacy, Full Mooner Richard Band created the music for the film. And what a great score it is, very dramatic and fitting for a slasher. 

The blue tinted flashback in the beginning is a cool touch, even if it’s hard to discern what is going on at times. This was one of two changes that the distributor requested, changing the black and white beginning to a blue tint, with the other being a change to the ending from a bleak one to a more upbeat one. 

Right from the beginning, there is a great sense of competency. From the music, to the opening montage, to the colors used, to the soft look of the film itself, it reeks of professionalism. Many of these actresses have only one acting credit to their name, and yet they hold their own against the more seasoned soap opera actresses.  

I noticed something right away that bothered me immensely. I suspected, and thru some research found it to be true, that the housemother, actress Lois Kelso Hunt, had her voice completely dubbed by another actress. Apparently, they felt her voice was not scary enough to play the house mother whose wicked ways put in motion the events that launch the plot of the movie. 

In the vein of I Know What You Did Last Summer, we have a prank gone wrong, in which the housemother is accidentally murdered, and the graduating girls hide her body, resulting in someone killing them one by one as punishment for their sins. It’s a simple setup, one that has stood the test of time for many a scary movie, the one motive that never gets old: revenge! 

The prank itself is a little mean spirited. They chuck her cane in the pool and AT GUNPOINT, tell her to go in and get it. Then, because when you prank someone with a gun, you load the damn thing with blanks AND real bullets, they fucking shoot her! I mean, how were they going to explain the whole gun thing to the police if they HADN’T killed her? She would have called the cops, I suspect, and here you have a girl with a gun who was pointing it at her housemother with deadly intentions. Sure, it was supposed to be blanks, but there was at least one real bullet in it! Who put that thing in there? 


Vicki: “My waterbed got slashed to shreds and all you can do is joke about it. I swear she was trying to kill me.” 

Diane: “Oh, come on Vicki, you deserved it, can’t you fuck anywhere else?” 


These girls decide to throw their graduation party anyway, complete with their housemother floating in the pool behind the house. She’s wrapped in towels, but any half-drunk frat guy could stumble upon her body. It doesn’t take a Phi Betta Kappa to figure that out! At the 32-minute mark, we get our first slasher victim. Some rando bites it in a pretty bad mannequin cane stabbing. Surely the effects will get better than this, right? 

A total of 10 kills, one being the housemother, one being the big bad, and the other 8 are his victims. A pretty solid body count for a non-Jason film. However, the gore is a mixed bag. As previously stated, the first one is bad. Several are cut away from, basically happening off screen. The rest are pretty tame and fairly bloodless. It’s a slasher film, so I expect more, but several of the scenes are suspenseful and even creepy, so I can look past this slight disappointment. 

There is some nudity, but it’s of the peekaboo variety, and it’s not enough to really call out the boner patrol.  This takes it down a notch in my book.



“I’m a sea pig.” 



Kathryn McNeil plays the perfect final girl. She is pretty, innocent, at times a crying wreck, and ultimately strong enough to survive the film. The other girls play their roles pretty well too, from the nerdy one to the slutty one, to the one who is filled with anger and kicks off the story. Sure, they are stereotypes, and since they’re all kind of heartless murdering bitches, we don’t really care that they die. And though the killer is mostly POV, when he DOES show himself and he’s wearing the clown getup, it’s pretty cool.  I just wish there was more of a prolonged final struggle.

 I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It doesn’t feel overly dated. There’s no embarrassing 80s stuff going on. It’s a professional looking film. The end, although pretty standard in motive, does come out of nowhere from a character that we didn’t know existed. One can guess the identity of the killer, but there are just enough details added in to make it fresh and interesting.  

The House on Sorority Row is worth a watch. It’s easy to see why it is such a classic that people consistently rank it highly on their lists of slashers. I would probably rank it in the top 15 or so, maybe higher. Had it a higher budget for special effects, it could even rank in the top 5! 

7.5/10 Stab Wounds 

About RetRo(n) 61 Articles
I like the 80s, slasher films, Italian directors, Evil Ed, Trash and Nancy, Ripley and Private First Class Hudson, retro crap but not SyFy crap, old school skin, Freddy and Savini, Spinell and Coscarelli, Andre Toulon, and last, but not least, Linda Blair.