Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review: Sorority Party Massacre (2014)

Sorority Party Massacre (2014)

Rated R for violence, language, sexual content and brief drug use

When you throw in a film titled Sorority Party Massacre, you expect only a few things. One, gorgeous young babes in tight, skimpy outfits. Second, buckets of blood. Lastly, cheesy B-grade thrills with more than a bit of camp. The "classic" slasher movie is a simple formula that ought to be impossible to screw up. Unfortunately, the makers of this film found a way to do just that and make a by-the-numbers mess that's too lifeless to be entertaining even on a "so bad it's good" level. From an opening scene that shamelessly copies Scream without even trying to recapture an ounce of that film's wit, through a monotonous and badly-padded first act that doesn't even introduce our sorority girl victims until half an hour in, through a bunch of bland kills lacking in both blood and creativity, Sorority Party Massacre is a dreadful excuse for a film even by the standards of a genre where quality writing and acting have always been at a premium.

Even when it comes to the title, it fails. In a film titled Sorority Party Massacre, you'd expect a killer to go on a rampage at a party being held by a sorority, right? Nope. Instead, this film takes place at a retreat held by a sorority where seven of its members are competing for a grant of some kind. One of the girls never arrives, having been killed in the aforementioned opening scene (which is still one of this film's better parts, speaking volumes as to how bad the rest is), and since she was the daughter of an LAPD precinct chief (played by Kevin Sorbo in what amounts to little more than a cameo), he sends Detective Bill Watts out to the retreat to investigate the disappearance. Fun fact: the film spends most of its first act explaining Bill's backstory, showing us that he was suspended for police brutality but is being sent on this assignment as a personal favor for the chief, yet this never once plays a role in the story after that. We never get any hints that the guy is a violent asshole from his behavior outside of a post-script scene at the very end that, like so much of the rest of this film's filler, doesn't serve the story one bit. It's the cardinal sin of filmmaking: telling rather than showing.

Things get no better once we reach the retreat and meet the girls, none of whom are going to win any acting awards and most of whom serve merely as knife fodder. Each one is introduced with a roughly 30-second introductory clip that shows us the ridiculous caricatures that are their personalities (the "tough chick" is literally named Brooklyn, for one), once more violating the "show, don't tell" rule; a better film would've outlined their personalities through their behavior. The tone is all over the place, feeling at times like an episode of a third-rate Comedy Central program with its attempts at humor which mostly fall flat, but at other times taking itself deathly seriously. Going by that, you'd think this film would be going for "midnight movie" camp and cheese, which wouldn't be a problem if it didn't also skimp out on the violence and sex. For a film so seemingly dedicated to showing the viewer gorgeous women, only one of them strips down to less than a bikini (and even then you only see her from the back), while the obligatory lesbian kiss scene feels half-hearted and weak. The same thing goes for the kills, at least three of which are entirely off-screen, as though the filmmakers ran out of money before they could film them. What little gore we do get, such as one girl covered in bee stings and another who has half her face burned off, looks decent enough, but with so little else to redeem this film, its absence in other scenes is that much more glaring.

To top it all off, the ending of this film... wow. The ending is a mass of sudden plot twists that are pulled out of nowhere and defy all logic, ultimately revealing that there were three killers all acting separately -- the bumpkin sheriff (who, by the way, is literally named Lumpkin), and two of the sorority girls competing for the grant. The film keeps piling them on so fast that it can't even keep track of them all, oftentimes directly contradicting itself between scenes. To say that this film devolves into a morass of stupidity would be an insult to those with genuine mental disabilities.

What little this film does right is nothing more than standard slasher formula, and even then its efforts are subpar. This is a film that runs at over 100 minutes, far more than is necessary for a slice-and-dice like this, and I felt every minute. The killer's costume is a basic black hoodie, and as we see after the reveal of who it is, he/she doesn't even wear a mask (the film only shows the killer from behind or from the waist down until then) -- strange, given that the killer uses a voice-changer and a caller ID spoofer in the opening Scream homage/ripoff scene, so you'd think that he/she cares about concealing his/her identity. Outside of said opening (which had the advantage of copying a classic moment from a great movie), none of the kills work on any level, at least twice cutting away before it can even bother to establish tension. Even on a purely technical level, while it looks slick and professionally made (even with its uninspired directing), the sound design is sometimes so muddled that I had to turn on the subtitles to understand what was being said at times. This is simply unforgivable for a film where the characters are speaking plain American English.

Score: 1 out of 5

Even if you're looking for cheap slasher thrills, this movie fails to deliver. If you're looking for a good sorority slasher, throw in Sorority Row or the original Black Christmas instead.

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