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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The House on Sorority Row aka "House of Evil" [Blu-ray]

 

(Mark Rosman, 1983)

 

 

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: VAE Productions

Video: Scorpion Entertainment / 88 Films

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! / Region 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:31:53.257 / 1:31:53.216

Disc Size: 22,681,191,495 bytes / 23,860,424,722 bytes

Feature Size: 14,820,771,840 bytes / 14,678,900,736 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.00 Mbps / 18.00 Mbps

Chapters: 12 / 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Red, Slim, Blu-ray Case with alt-cover slipcase (see below)

Release date: April 22nd, 2014 / October 23rd, 2017

 

Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1824 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1824 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentaries:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB

 

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1824 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1824 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

 

Subtitles:

None

English, none

 

Extras:

• Commentary with writer/director Mark Rosman, Kate McNeil and Eileen Davidson
Commentary with writer/director Mark Rosman and hostess Katarina Leigh Waters
Interview with actress Harley Jane Kozak (41:40 in 1080P)
Original Pre-Title Sequence (2:06)
Alternate Ending/Storyboard Comparisons/Production Stills (7:10 - 480i)
Theatrical Trailer (2:57 in 1080P)
Three TV Spots (1:33 in 1080P)

Included DVD
Interview with actress Kate McNeil (14:25)
Interview with actress Eileen Davidson (7:15)
Interview with director Mark Rosman (21:25)
Interview with composer Richard Band (45:18)
Interview with producer Igo Kantor (10:10)

 

Audio Commentary by the Hysteria Lives Podcast team

Brand new Interview with Composer Richard Band (33:01)
Brand new Interview with Film Critic Kim Newman (23:54)
Trailer (2:59)
12-page liner notes booklet by Calum Waddell

 

Bitrate:

 

1) Scorpion - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Description: Flirtatious young sorority sisters who are days away from graduation set out to throw one last decadent celebration. Unbeknownst to them, the strict matron of their house hides a horrendous secret thought long buried. A gruesome accident is witnessed by a hideous fiend, hidden within the once nurturing dwelling, which triggers a rampage of death and destruction. Before the end, the peril faced by this sisterhood will push them to the brink of annihilation. And rivers of blood will drown all who enter... The House On Sorority Row. Now see the cult classic in a 2 disc set, with a recent brand new HD master with additional color correction and the pre credit sequence re-color timed to director Mark Rossman's approval, to make this the final definite version!

***

88 Films is ready to unleash a certified teen-tormenting gem in the timeless terror title HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1983). Remade as a Carrie Fisher-starring blockbuster in 2009, this original effort - about a dorm prank gone wrong and the terrible consequences - doubtlessly inspired such later revenge-flicks as I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. A trendsetting genre template, HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW is the latest in our Slasher Classics line.

 

 

The Film:

Sorority sisters are frighteningly plucked off one by one in this low-budget horror film by Mark Rosman. Katherine (Kathryn McNeil) is a serious-minded, thinking woman whose intelligence is about to stand her in good stead when events turn dark and murderous. She and the more evil-minded Vicki (Eileen Davidson), along with five other women, cannot believe it when their housemother forbids them to throw a big party on June 19th. As a response, the sorority women drown her in the swimming pool. One would think another date might have been negotiated. What they do not know is that the 19th marks the birthday of a very unusual offspring, born to the housemother 20 years earlier in an experimental procedure that left much to be desired. Apparently this son does not appreciate the murder of his mother, and mayhem begins from that point onward, and onward, and onward until the final climactic moment arrives at last.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Seven sisters of the Theta Pi sorority are graduating and they want to throw one last bash to remember; however, housemother Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt) always closes up the house on the same day every year, and she does not want the girls staying on. When Mrs. Slater catches alpha female Vicki (Eileen Davidson, TV's THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS) with her boyfriend and slashes her mattress, Vicki decides that not only are they going to have their party, but the sisters are going to get even with her for four years of misery. Unfortunately, a real bullet finds its way among the blanks Vicki loaded into a gun she got to scare the old bat and now there's a body in the swimming pool. Good girl Katherine (Kate McNeil, MONKEY SHINES) wants to call the police, but Vicki convinces her and the other girls to hide the body and press on with the party. Mrs. Slater won't stay down, it seems, since her body disappears from the swimming pool and someone begins stalking the girls with the aged housemother's lethal walking stick.

A late entry into the slasher craze (well, the theatrical phase), THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW was writer/director Mark Rosman's - previously first assistant director on Brian DePalma's student-crewed HOME MOVIES - attempt to put a Hitchcockian spin on a commercial formula (by way of LES DIABOLIQUES). While the girls indulge in the usual sex, drugs, and pranks, they are not targeted for their morals (or for behavior mirroring a previous generation who somehow scarred our killer), they are targeted because they are culpable in a crime. There's nothing that will surprise seasoned slasher viewers and the gore effects are pretty restrained (although a random party-goer gets the cane jabbed in his throat to bloody effect simply because make-up effects artist/extra already had a cast of his own head handy), but it is still one of the stronger and more entertaining entries in the slasher genre with some soap opera-ready bitchiness from Davidson (only her Vicki and McNeil's polar opposite "final girl" Katherine are developed characters, but the script also equips Harley Jane Kozak with a handful of tart quips before she goes off on her own into the dark garage to be stalked and slashed). The film was shot in Baltimore (with some John Waters alums in the crew) and acquired by Edward L. Montoro's Film Ventures International - and eventually released by sister company Artists Releasing Corporation - whose post-production department brought on composer Richard Band (RE-ANIMATOR) to score the film (temp-tracked with Bernard Herrmann and Pino Donaggio cues) with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (who would also perform Band's score for Film Ventures' MUTANT, on which Rosman was the initial director), and the score is one of the film's lasting elements.

 

Eric Cotenas

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The House on Sorority Row arrives on Blu-ray from Scorpion Entertainment. Eric covered the 2012 DVD HERE. It is advertised as being "HD master with additional color correction and the pre credit sequence re-color timed to director Mark Rossman's approval". It looks quite good - a single layered transfer with a modest bitrate. Like the SD, it is transferred in 1.78:1 - colors appear to brighten and contrast is more layered. Detail rises but the transfer is at the mercy of the original production - a relatively low-budget affair. There are some speckles but generally the image is clean and I don't doubt that this is the best we it will look on digital. I have no major complaints and appreciated the image consistency.

 

There are some slight differences with the image but by looking at the same bitrates, running times, and the graphs - these releases, both 1.78:1, have the same transfer image.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

1) Scorpion - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Scorpion - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Scorpion - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio is transferred via a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1824 kbps. Effects export some potent bass via the lossless. As Eric stated "post-production department brought on composer Richard Band (Re-Animator, The Pit and Pendulum, Puppet Master etc.) to score the film (temp-tracked with Bernard Herrmann and Pino Donaggio cues) with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (who would also perform Band's score for Film Ventures' MUTANT, on which Rosman was the initial director), and the score is one of the film's lasting elements." I concur. There are no subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Exact same audio transfer for the feature - DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1824 kbps. But 88 Films offers optional English subtitles (see sample above) and their Blu-ray is Region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras: Supplements appear to mimic the 2012 Scorpion DVD (minus the 'Katrina's Midnight Theatre' extras), reviewed HERE;

The feature is accompanied by two audio commentaries. The track with director Mark Rosman and actresses Kate McNeil and Eileen Davidson dates from the 2010 Liberation special edition (which reportedly featured an interlaced transfer) which went out of print quickly. The track is humorous, but also detailed with a lot of information imparted by all three participants. Rosman explains his reasoning for the film's original ending and the funding issues (including having to do without dailies for several weeks after bouncing checks with Technicolor, and borrowing $7,500 from an orthodontist relative), while McNeil and Davdison reminisce about the night shoots, the difficult living situations (a bat-ridden campground), and their relationships with the other cast members.

Scorpion recorded a new commentary track with Rosman (moderated by hostess Katarina Leigh Waters). There is plenty of overlap with the previous track and some of Rosman's anecdotes seem delivered almost verbatim, but it is a more structured talk with more scene-specific comments (although less entertaining). Also on disc 1 is a new forty-odd minute interview with actress Harley Jane Kozak, who spends the first half discussing her memories of the film. She also discusses her subsequent film work (including ARACHNOPHOBIA and THE TAKING OF BEVERLY HILLS) as well as her work as a novelist (she also contributed an essay on the film and its remake SORORITY ROW for the 2011 book BUTCHER KNIVES AND BODY COUNTS). The film's alternate ending is depicted through a series of still photographs with commentary from Rosman, and is ported over from the Liberation edition, as is the storyboard-to-film featurette. Disc 1 also features a lovely-looking trailer and four TV spots (the latter were not on the previous edition).

Disc 2 features new video interviews with Rosman and actresses McNeil, and Davidson conducted by Waters. There is a little overlap, but the interviews give more detail about what each of them are doing now (Rosman had finished the "William and Kate" TV movie shortly before the interview, McNeil has a degree in special education and is working with children, and Davidson - who recently left the soap THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS - is working on her fifth mystery novel). Disc 2 features two more interviews not conducted by Waters. Richard Band discusses his work on HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW for the first half a forty-five minute interview before talking briefly about his subsequent scoring assignments (including his Empire Pictures and Full Moon Pictures work for his producer brother Charles Band). Igo Kantor was the in-house producer and post-production supervisor for Film Ventures International and discusses the collaboration with Band (and the London Philharmonic) and the changes he made to the film's ending (as well as his speculation on the whereabouts of Film Venture's Edward Montoro, who disappeared shortly after Film Ventures went bankrupt) in a ten minute interview.

  - Eric Cotenas

88 Films doesn't have as much as the Scorpion release but does include an audio commentary by the Hysteria Lives Podcast team who cite it as a personal favorite. They comment that the prologue is in black and white and the 4 gents provide an intelligent appreciation of the film - filled with production details, the obvious DUBbing of Lois Kelso Hunt (Mrs. Slater), and much more!. There are brand new interview with Composer Richard Band - for over 1/2 an hour and another, running 24-minutes, with Film Critic Kim Newman who is always insightful and a pleasure to hear. There is a trailer and the Blu-ray package has a 12-page liner notes booklet by Calum Waddell.

Scorpion - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 88 Films - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
As far as comparables in the genre/era - this would be in the upper tier. The House on Sorority Row has some keen positives going for it. The Les Diaboliques link adds some appeal and the pace builds well. Marketing exploits the sexy-girls-angle but it is quite tame (certainly more so by today's standards) and the gore is not extensive. It excels as many effective horrors do - with suspense and sparingly revealing the unknown factors. Sorority is more polished than you might anticipate and hence is effective. The Blu-ray does a good job - advancing on the DVD visually and the package is stacked with supplements (albeit repeated from the SD.) Recommended!

 

The 3-year old Scorpion Blu-ray is now, apparently, out-of-print and this 88 Films is a darn good release of a classic of the genre - it has elevated to cult status. The new commentary is excellent, there are new interviews and the same transfer as the previous Blu-ray. Go for it! 

Gary Tooze

May 1st, 2014

November 9th, 2017

 

 

 


 




 

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