The House on Sorority Row returns to Blu-ray as Spine #29 in MVD’s Rewind Collection in association with Scorpion Releasing (who had released the prior Blu-ray editions).
The film follows the story of a group of sorority sisters who accidentally kill their crabby house mother when a mean-spirited prank goes too far. In a panic, they hurriedly hide the body in their filthy swimming pool, but upon returning to the scene find that it’s no longer there.
The flood of questions that that discovery brings about (Did she survive? Did someone else retrieve the corpse? Were they seen?) becomes the crux of the film, and as the sisters are soon picked off one by one, it’s clear that they’re being targeted for punishment — or vengeance. Unwilling to turn to the police for fear of their own culpability, they must simply let the savage dance play out and hope to survive.
The House on Sorority Row is a cut above the general slasher fare of the 80s, and its pedigree is a part of that equation. Keen viewers may observe that writer-director Mark Rosman’s clever slasher film borrows elements from Henri-Georges Clouzot’s suspenseful classic, Les Diaboliques (aka Diabolique).
The House on Sorority Row has had a couple of small-run Blu-ray releases before through Scorpion Releasing, the second of which featured a new 2018 remaster. I assumed that would be the version of the film ported to this new MVD edition, but was surprised to find that’s not the case.
MVD’s new disc actually includes two different scans of the film, featuring both the original version of the film (with a blue-tinted opening), and alternate version with mono audio and changes to the color timing on the opening (with the latter’s inclusion noted as a bonus feature).
I’ll compare both of the MVD transfers with the previous 2018 remaster here. The good news on the MVD front is that you get both versions of the movie, with the main presentation being the director’s original version, which seems appropriate. The bad news is that both are a downgrade in picture quality.
The 2018 Blu-ray master (ie the older disc) is actually the best looking version, featuring sharp image quality and crisp grain and natural color timing. It’s phenomenal. MVD’s “bonus” presentation follows next— it’s not quite as sharp, and definitely compressed which shows up at times in the form of banding. The print coloration is also less vibrant, though that’s a matter of opinion and some viewers may see it as a big plus.
Unfortunately the decision to highlight the director’s original vision makes MVD’s “Main” presentation the weakest of the three. Not only is it considerably softer than the others with coloration and contrast that run a little hot, it’s also inset tighter on the frame and has a slight vertical stretch.
For ease of comparison, I’ll share the comparisons in the same sequence as above: First the older 2018 Remaster, then the new MVD “Bonus” version, then the MVD “Main” version.
The opening scene demonstrates the main difference in the versions: Scorpion 2018 and MVD’s “bonus” version use a revised black and white coloration. The director’s original version (MVD “Main”) on the other hand uses a blue tint in these scenes. I also found these scenes to be where the compression was most evident on MVD’s bonus version.
The frame above is a good point of comparison — both the screen text and the scratches in the print (on the photographer’s right arm) are gauges of sharpness. Note also the differing detail on the car behind him.
As an aside, I noticed an interesting change in MVD’s new “Main” presentation. The shot below has a noticeable print damage which appeared to have been cleaned up. I isolated it for comparison and realized the frame was not edited, but rather omitted (the image shown in the comparison below is the next frame). Not a criticism, just an observation.
From a packaging standpoint, MVD’s edition is quite attractive. Per the aesthetic of their Rewind Collection, it has a reversible cover featuring two different pieces of art and includes a folded mini-poster. My copy also came with a slipcover, which features the classic poster artwork along with a video rental motif. The slipcover is noted as being exclusive to the first pressing of this edition.
Purchasing the Blu-ray directly from Roninflix.com also scores you a nifty exclusive VHS-style magnet, while supplies last (first 500 sold).
Special Features and Extras
Mono Audio Version with Re-timed Pre-Credit Sequence
Despite being listed as an extra, it’s arguably the better way to watch.
– Audio Commentary with director Mark Rosen (solo)
– Audio Commentary with director Mark Rosen and stars Eileen Davidson and Kathryn McNeil
Interviews with stars Harley Jane Kozak (41:39), Eileen Davidson (7:14), and Kathryn McNeil (14:24), director Mark Rosnan (21:24), composer Richard Band (45:18), and post-producer Igo Kantor (10:11)
Note the segment lengths — some are shorter, others get considerably involved, over 40 minutes.
Some of the interviews on the disc feature hostess Katarina Waters and were originally part of Scorpion’s “Katarina’s Nightmare Theater” hosted mode which played the film with an bumpers and extras in the fashion of a televised “horror host” screening. That full hosted presentation (something of a Scorpion trademark) is understandably not present on this disc, but they did allow the interviews to port over.
Original Pre-Credit Sequence (2:06)
Alternate Ending, Storyboards, and Still Gallery (7:11)
What’s listed in the menu as “Alternate Ending Storyboards” is actually three different extras: Mark Rosen’s description of the alternate ending (set against a surviving shot of the setup), some storyboard-to-film comparisons, and a gallery of behind the scenes stills from the production.
Trailers & TV Spots (3:10, 4:36)
Promotional Trailers for MVD Titles
Dahmer (1:55), Mikey (HD, 2:17), Mindgames (1:12), Mortuary (2:30)
If you own the 2018 Remastered Blu-ray (the cover of which features a red-hued version of the poster art), there’s no compelling reason to grab this new one unless you just like the awesome packaging aesthetic.
The PQ on this release is disappointing compared to what’s come before, but viewers who don’t already own the movie in one of its (rare) prior editions shouldn’t hesitate to pick up the new Blu-ray, especially since the prior editions are out of print and rather expensive. Just be informed that the cut listed under “Extras” is actually the better looking of the two transfers on the disc.
That all being said, I personally watched the new disc’s main presentation without any such frame of reference, and simply enjoyed the movie, which is a blast. Don’t let a somewhat disappointing transfer stop you from enjoying this terrific film.
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.