Everyone’s invited: A critical review of “Sorority Party Massacre” (2012)

Let me say at the start, I don’t consider myself a feminist, largely because that word has become semantically loaded over time. However, even I have to wonder why “Sorority Party Massacre,” a film that is apparently about a sorority–a college club for women mind you–has two male names atop its cast list. Not even the sorority thriller from the 1950s did that.

This is a sign. Whether its a sign of social injustice or unfair media representation this blog will leave for someone else. For us, it is a sign that this is a movie that doesn’t quite know what to do with its subject matter. On its surface it appears to hit all the stops. There is a sorority, and there is a massacre. There’s not exactly a party, but the other two nouns are arguably more important for this type of movie. What’s harder to argue is how everything holds together.

The facts we can agree on are this: Detective William Watts (Thomas Downey, also an executive producer), an LADP cop with anger management issues, has been sent by his captain to see why his daughter, a UCLA student, has stopped answering his incessant phone calls. She was at a sorority function at Grizzly Cove, a lakeside community where everyone speaks with a Southern accent despite it being hours from Los Angeles. We also know she was murdered in the first scene, but the cops don’t know that. Yet.

Watts discovers the sorority is selecting is selecting a grant winner from among its membership, and the missing student was one of their number. As more sisters go missing or turn up dead, and Watts finds the local police force woefully ineffective, he takes matters into his own hands to crack the case.

“Sorority Party Massacre”–no relation to that other sorority massacre–is an unfortunately average movie. It bills itself as a horror-comedy, but it never seems to find its balance. Its first scene, a stranded college student being executed by a masked baddie, plays like a self-aware horror movie. However, the film quickly shifts to broad laughs and lots of skin, resembling a raunchy college comedy.

As a horror film, “Party” never does better than just OK. The murder makeup is good, and there is a kind of mystery at the film’s core. There’s also an ongoing theme of the sisters being dispatched in ways that reflect their worst fears, which feels disconnected. Killing people by their greatest fear is never rationalized by the film. It just happens to be convenient.

Unless the whole movie is about the dangers of fear, whether it’s the fear of loud outsiders entering a quiet community or a simple fear of deadly bees. Of course, one character says that fear of failure is abstract, then offers fear of dying alone as a more concrete fear. I’d say they’re both abstract. Maybe the movie’s metaphysics shouldn’t be examined too closely.

“Party” is probably more successful as a comedy. There are laughs, and while the movie tends to stick on certain jokes too long, you’ll see those jokes presented earnestly by a lot of familiar faces. There’s Kevin Sorbo! And Richard Moll! And Ron Jeremy? Yes, Ron Jeremy. And Leslie Easterbrook and Ed O’Ross. No reviewer seems to have had any complaints about the cast. Not only does the movie have a lot of cool character actors and cameos, everyone looks like they’re having fun, and that translates to the audience.

The photography is crisp, and a couple of shots are well executed, included an image of the sisters framed by windows seen from below by Detective Watts. However, the editing can be distractingly stylish, with jump zooms and Tarantino-esque visual effects.

The final product is about 10 minutes too long, and the ending is kind of a non-ending, although there is a suggestion for a sequel. That hasn’t materialized yet, and you’d have to experience “Sorority Party Massacre” for yourself to decide how necessary it would be. That wouldn’t be the worst experience, if you’re in the right mood for a raunchy comedy with low budget slasher aspirations.

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