David DeCoteau… What am I going to do with you? Before the cult filmmaker starting making homo-erotic z-grade movies in the early 2000’s, he contributed a lot to the world of genuine horror in the 80’s and 90’s. A simple search of his IMDB will show you surprising results that the man, in fact, is an incredible producer who’s been pigeonholed into a particular niche the last fifteen years. I’ve blasted some of his releases from the past few years, picking them up only with the hope that he will return to the mindset that made his career and earned him respect from scary movie enthusiasts. 1313 Cougar Cult was not the return to form I was looking for. Neither was 90210 Shark Attack or Snow White: A Deadly Summer. But what about Sorority Slaughterhouse? DeCoteau has a strong background in killer doll movies, only I’m going to get to that in a moment. Is Sorority Slaughterhouse his return to roots? Is it at least decent? Read my review below to find out.
The pieces were all in place for a great movie – starting with the lead and supporting cast of Jessica Morris (“One Life to Live”), Jean Louise O’Sullivan (“Attack of the Show”), Alexia Quinn (My Stepbrother is a Vampire), Brianna Joy Chomer (Zoombies), Kelli Seymour, Anthony Caravella, Vince Hill-Bedford and Eric Roberts (The Expendables, The Dark Knight) as Dean Whitman and Bobo the Killer Doll. Other 80’s and 90’s heavyweights were on board to give Sorority Slaughterhouse that classic feel. We find Harry Manfredini of Friday the 13th franchise and Zombie Island Massacre fame comprising original scores and Jeffrey S. Farley of Pet Sematary and Slumber Party Massacre II on board as special effects and puppet design. Sorority Slaughterhouse was, of course, directed and produced by David DeCoteau who previously directed or produced almost all of the Puppet Master movies including Puppet Master II (1990), Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991), Curse of the Puppet Master (1998), Retro Puppet Master (1999) and Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010).
Sorority Slaughterhouse follows a popular sorority house in the Hollywood Hills as a pint sized terror takes them apart one by one. Following a prank pulled on the college’s dean (Eric Roberts), one of the sorority sisters puts a love spell on the the man in a bid to take the heat off the rest of her Greek family. When she finally breaks off their affair, the emotional effects of the spell and a misplaced witching item causes the dean to shoot himself – his blood splattering on a 12 inch clown doll and inadvertently transferring his soul into it. Bent on getting revenge for his broken heart and newly downsized stature, Bobo the Killer Clown makes his way to the sorority house just as the majority of the young women have cleared out for Spring Break. Five of them remain, and two of their boyfriends, but one by one they fall prey to the mini-killer as he murders them in bizarre and erotic ways. It’s all fun in games when you’re in college until a crazed, psychotic doll comes knocking at your door! Who will survive and how will they stop a killer they don’t see coming?
As I mentioned above, Sorority Slaughterhouse had all the pieces in place to be a really good flick. The only problem is… DeCoteau doesn’t seem to be trying anymore and wasted all of these opportunities. Yes, I understand that Sorority Slaughterhouse is supposed to have a certain level of camp, as did the Puppet Master movies, but this movie took that little background mood and made it the central theme which made the movie void of any real suspense and horror that it could have had in the first place. And this pains me. Literally pains me. When I was watching it, there were moments when Sorority Slaughterhouse felt like a retro killer doll movie. They were brief, but they were there. The puppet prop and the scores were late 80’s and early 90’s and, coupled with the plot, opened the door for blips of nostalgia. The acting was much better than previous DeCoteau titles and the cinematography and camera work was of higher quality; with the last 10 minutes being absolutely perfect. Sorority Slaughterhouse was so close to being a good movie. No groups of shirtless men (not that I’d complain) and no endless establishing shots making up 60% of the movie… but, sadly, no real horror either.
While a lot of aspects of production were better than before, there were still some remnants of amateurish filmmaking, which I don’t understand because DeCoteau has been in this business for decades. Shadows. So many shadows. Blood. Blood from injuries that wouldn’t require a dying person to cough of blood. All of the kill scenes were wacky and easily avoidable – like literally all the person had to do was roll over and they would have survived. The kills certainly were original, but they were – again – easily avoidable and hokey. It left a lot to be desired. This plays into my gripe with this movie. It has a decent body count, coming in with seven on screen deaths, but they were just… stupid. Sorority Slaughterhouse could have been a real slaughter yet the team behind the movie decided to make it over the top campy and sexual and a comedy instead of a horror film. If they only changed the tone! I can say indecisively that the tone is exactly what destroyed this movie, especially when examining it as a horror film – which is what they want it to be marketed as.
All things considered, though, Sorority Slaughterhouse is probably DeCoteau’s best attempt at a horror film in quite a while. I know I seem like I’m on his ass and hating for the sake of hating, even going as far as to admit that I’ve hated the majority of his most recent releases, but this comes from a place in my heart that knows he’s capable of doing better. He is capable of doing better. Unfortunately, I think he’s stuck making these crap movies because his specific audience eats them up every time. Why shoot the cow when it’s still making milk, ya know? Sorority Slaughterhouse is the furthest thing from dignified horror, but it is slightly entertaining and slightly nostalgic. Final Score: 5 out of 10.