The House on Sorority Row
Author: Josh Stolberg & Pete Goldfinger
Writer’s Potential: 7
Logline:A year after accidentally killing one of their sorority sisters, a group of girls find themselves hunted by someone or something at their graduation-night party.
Synopsis:At a Theta Pi sorority party, a group of sisters play a prank on GARRET, a nerdy kid. He’s the brother of CHUGS, a tubby drunk who sold him something she told him were roofies (actually vitamins) to give to his girlfriend, MEGAN, whom he recently cheated on. In on the joke are JESSICA, the queen bee, and CLAIRE, the queen bee wannabe. Not in on the joke are sweet and innocent CASSIDY and fragile ELLIE. When Megan starts foaming at the mouth and coughing blood, these two — as well as Garret — are terrified. Cassidy rushes in to do mouth-to-mouth while Garret runs to call 911. Megan starts kissing Cassidy, letting both her and Ellie in on the joke. Neither find it amusing, but Jessica makes them go along.
When Garret returns, they insist that they can’t wait for an ambulance, so they put her in Chugs’ car and start driving. On the way, Megan pretends to die, terrifying the already-panicked Garret. Jessica changes their plans, heading instead to a lake and telling Garret they’ll throw the body down an old mine-shaft. Garret gets out of the car and pukes. Megan, finding the whole thing amusing, records it as a video on her cell phone. The girls continue to escalate things in Garret’s mind, telling him it’s an easy secret to keep and that nobody will ever find out as long as they dismember the body. He wanders away to be alone while Cassidy and Ellie confront Jessica about the prank going too far. Cassidy’s about to spill the truth when Garret rams a tire iron through Megan’s chest, really killing her. Horrified, Cassidy wants to go to the police, so Jessica gets the others to agree that if she does, they’ll tell the police it was all Cassidy. Reluctantly, Cassidy helps them dump the body down the shaft.
One year later. Graduation day. ANDY, Cassidy’s boyfriend, gives a valedictory speech. In Cassidy’s apartment, Andy tries to convince Cassidy not to go to a sorority luncheon. Cassidy says she has to go because her mother will be there and she wants to create the illusion of friendliness — but she won’t go to tonight’s party. They make plans to go to meet Andy’s parents so Cassidy can get to know them. At the luncheon, Cassidy and Andy feign politeness toward Jessica. Cassidy is genuinely nice to Ellie, who has been changed by this experience — she’s hurting badly but tries to feign enthusiasm. As Jessica gives a speech to the sorority sisters and their parents, Ellie shrieks with fright when she sees Megan. She faints, and the sisters surround her, trying to cover it up by saying it’s heat exhaustion. Ellie’s convinced that she saw Megan, but it’s actually MAGGIE, Megan’s younger sister. She plans to go to the same college and rush the sorority in the fall. She invites herself to the party, but Jessica refuses to let her go, saying it’s against the rules. MRS. CRENSHAW, the house mother, gives a pseudo-inspirational speech to the girls after the parents have departed. The girls set up for the party with the help of KYLE (Jessica’s boyfriend) and MICKEY (Claire’s boyfriend). All the girls’ cell phones ring simultaneously — a photo message of a gloved hand with a tire iron. The girls freak out, but Chugs tries to laugh it off as a Garret prank.
Andy tells Cassidy that Ellie has talked her into going to the party. He’s angry, but he agrees to put in an appearance. Mrs. Crenshaw wishes the girls well and departs. Chugs goes to visit her shrink to get some drugs for the party. She finds him tied up and ready to play some disturbing sex games. Chugs goes into the bathroom to prepare and call Jessica that she’ll be late for the party. Meanwhile, an anonymous person wearing a cap and gown kills Chugs’ shrink with a tire iron. She sees the carnage, but before she can say or do anything, the killer jams a prescription bottle down her throat, then kills her with the tire iron, as well.
The party’s in full swing. Ellie goes down to the basement but is creeped out, so she calls Cassidy for moral support. Then she screams. Cassidy runs down, grabs Jessica and Claire, and they find Ellie staring in horror at half of Cassidy’s bloody jacket, which Jessica had wrapped around Megan’s body to frame her. They’re no longer so sure this was Garret’s doing, but they call Chugs to put a leash on him and get her VoiceMail. Ellie goes outside for air. In a foul mood because of what’s happening, Claire dumps Mickey. He tries to hit on Ellie, who threatens to kill him. Mickey tries to hook up with some na√Øve girls, when he has an encounter with the killer. He screams for help, but nobody can hear him over the music and fun. Ellie witnesses the entire thing. She screams, but when the girls go to her, she only repeats the mantra “cap and gown.” Cassidy tries to comfort her. They go upstairs to investigate and find Mickey’s body.
All their phones ring again — this time, it’s the video Megan recorded of her own murder, followed by two text messages. One urges them to return to the scene of their crime; the other says that if they don’t within 20 minutes, the sender will take the video to the police. Cassidy tells Andy to get into his car and get out of the house, but he’s not sure he can with all the parked cars. She begs him to try, then goes off with the other girls. They drive to the lake. On the way, frantic/drunk Jessica almost hits Maggie, who’s walking to their party. When they get to the lake, they find Garret waiting with the other bloody half of Cassidy’s jacket. Horrified and blaming them for the death of Megan, he comes after Cassidy with a broken piece of mirror. Jessica backs up and runs Garret over. They investigate the body and find he’s already slashed his wrists. They decide to look in the mine-shaft, with Ellie easing Cassidy down using a rope tied to Jessica’s car. At the bottom, Cassidy finds Megan’s body is gone, replaced with “Theta Die” scrawled in blood.
Horrified, they return to the sorority house, which is completely trashed. The party has died, though, abandoned by all but a few passed-out drunks. One explains that there’s an after-party at a frat. The girls throw out the remaining drunks. Jessica tries to turn off the music while Claire goes after the grinding, overheating Jacuzzi in the yard. Cassidy gets a text message from Chugs, saying she’s going to miss the party…because she’s dead. This terrifies Ellie. Claire tries to find the end of the extension cord giving power to the hot tub when she confronts the killer, who uses the cord to throw her through the window of the house, scaring the hell out of everyone. The killer then drags the body outside and finishes the job before Claire can answer whether or not the killer is an undead Megan.
They all go upstairs, seeking higher ground. While Ellie rambles about giving in to fate, Cassidy and Jessica find Kyle — wearing a graduation gown. Only he’s not the killer; he put the gown on to cover up the fact that he just had sex with — Maggie. They’re about to get into a huge fight when Cassidy notices a shadow down the hall. They investigate, Jessica picking up an emergency fireaxe. They see the distinctive shadow of a shotgun, and just as Jessica swings, the shadow reveals — Mrs. Crenshaw. She slams Jessica in the nose with the gun-barrel, breaking it and telling Jessica she deserves it. Jessica confesses they didn’t mean to kill Megan, letting Crenshaw and Maggie in on their secret. Suddenly she finds herself having to explain the entire story, and also admits she told Kyle. Cassidy’s enraged, because she’s the only one who kept the secret. Crenshaw catches sight of the killer in the window, fires the gun. It chases her into the kitchen and kills her before she can kill it; with her last breath, she shoots, but the killer dives away.
Ellie, Maggie, and Kyle have disappeared, leaving enemies Jessica and Cassidy stuck working together. Cassidy’s phone was smashed in the Claire incident, and the landline phone is dead. They go upstairs to grab Mickey’s phone. Maggie sees the killer downstairs with a molotov cocktail; she runs, and the killer doesn’t waste time with her. It drops the bomb on the porch, setting it ablaze. Cassidy grabs Mickey’s phone when Kyle bursts into the room, choking her and smashing the phone because calling the police would mean confessing their crimes, which would mean his plans with Jessica and political career will end before they begin. To lure him away, Jessica starts berating him. He goes after her with the fire axe, giving Cassidy the idea to grab the extinguisher. She sprays him, temporarily blinding him, then knocks him out.
Jessica and Cassidy run to a dead end and realize the house below is on fire. Kyle regains consciousness and continues after them with the axe. They hide in the bathroom, where Cassidy considers climbing a tree. Kyle tries to smash through the door, knocking out Jessica in the process. Cassidy opens the shower and finds Megan’s decomposed body. Kyle finally gets through the door and is about to advance on Cassidy — when Andy busts through the door and impales Kyle’s head with the axe. He hugs Cassidy, and Jessica notices the cap and gown in his bag. She gestures to Cass, who’s suddenly horrified. Jessica kills her, then Andy explains all his best laid plans — he needed to kill everyone who knew to protect the secret, and then they could be happy. Cassidy’s disgusted, but she plays along so she can get away. Andy’s going after Ellie, so Cassidy tries to get to her first. They both get outside, but Cassidy sees Maggie in the window. So does Andy, and he goes after her. Cassidy goes back into the burning house and uses Andy’s cell phone to post a photo of him attempting to kill Maggie onto a blog. Andy turns on Cassidy, about to kill her when Ellie gets him with the shotgun. They leave the house safely. At the bottom of the mine-shaft, where they left presumed-dead Garret, the nerd awakens with revenge in his eyes.
Comments:This is actually a pretty good updated take on slasher movies. It bears very little resemblance to the original film, which is to its benefit, and although the characters could have more depth, they have enough individuality to differentiate one from the other. When the brutal murdering starts, we feel some emotional impact. The plot is simple but effective, the killings are fairly clever and well laid out, and the “whodunit” element subtly lays out a half-dozen possible suspects, narrowing it down only by their deaths.
It goes awry in two places: first, Andy’s terrible, James Bond-villain-style explanation of every single thing he’s done, how, why, and when. It’s two and a half pages of rambling dialogue to deliver information that even moviegoers making out in the back will already know — not to mention it’s cheesy and poorly written. I don’t mind Andy as the killer, but I do mind the on-the-nose details of his crimes. The second problem spot is, of course, the “set-the-stage-for-a-sequel” ending with Garret. It’s sloppily constructed: if there is a sequel, there’d be no suspense regarding who’s going after them. Also, most of them are dead, and the ones who aren’t have graduated. The “eyes popping open to prime audiences for a sequel” is an old cliché, but it’s rarely been this incomprehensible.
Despite these problems, this is a surprisingly well-written horror script with snappy, often funny dialogue, good pacing, and solid plotting.
This is one of those that will go far beyond hardcore horror fans, crossing over to mainstream success. Its college setting, female-dominated cast, and the quality of the script will bring in any 20-something (male or female) who’s willing to sit through a slasher movie, which recent slasher-remake successes have proven is a sizable chunk of moviegoers.