Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Episode 10: Sorority House Massacre II (1990)


An in-name-only sequel to Carol Frank’s micro-budget classic, Sorority House Massacre II became essential viewing and a horror staple immediately after I discovered it on the long defunct Action Pay-Per-View, a local cable station devoted exclusively to genre films which bypassed mainstream cinemas and garnered a dedicated following through VHS distribution. When your local video shops neglected to stock the latest Puppet Master or Witchcraft sequel, you’d either pay through the nose to special order a personal copy, or fork over $3.99 to rent it from home. Thanks to this channel, I developed both an unwavering appreciation, as well as a ravenous hunger, for content Hollywood studios wouldn’t dare touch. 

As most films of its kind often do, Sorority House Massacre II contains a pretty basic, easy-to-follow plot: a bevy of buxom college co-eds purchase, for a bargain price, a rundown, dilapidated residence for the purpose of converting it into their new sorority house. Unbeknownst to four of the five leads, the house was the setting of a grisly mass murder. Five years prior, Clive Hockstatter, a suburban dad who one day snaps and unleashes years of pent-up aggression on his unwitting family.

On the very night the girls move in to their fancy new digs (which appears to be miles from any university campus and contains nary a trace of Greek paraphernalia, despite its intended purpose), the girls come to find the basement littered with old family memorabilia, which just so happens to include a Ouija board. Predictably, they devise plans for a séance (after, of course, stripping down to their most revealing evening attire). Convening by a roaring fire, they call upon the spirit of Clive Hockstatter, an idea they come to regret when the board seems to come to life and an explosion of flames spill past the soot-stained mantle. Shaken, they abandon the board and head upstairs to retire for the night. But shortly after lights out, the girls are methodically stalked and slaughtered by way of a rusty hook. Has the spirit of a long dead mass murderer returned to do them in, or have they fallen victim to a lecherous, pock-marked neighbor by the name of Orville Ketchum?

Originally titled Jim Wynorski’s House of Babes as well as Nighty Nightmare (which subsequently became the film’s subtitle, used exclusively on the original VHS and poster artwork), Sorority House Massacre II was the first Wynorski film I recall seeing. From then on, I knew I was in for a good time the moment his name appeared in the opening credits of just about any movie of this particular era. Even today, I smile whenever wonderfully cheesy moments from the likes of Chopping Mall or 976-EVIL 2 come to mind.

For the purposes of this commentatary, I begrudgingly used Concorde’s original 2002 DVD, which runs 1:17:10. Not only is the film presented in full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but the transfer lacks any formal color correction or digital remastering. Worst of all, it contains a very noticeable skip at the start of the third reel. Sadly, this appears to be the only digital release available, despite my whining tweets to Scream Factory about a reissue.

So, kick back and join me as I discuss my 25-year obsession with Sorority House Massacre II (as well as its spin-off, Hard to Die, which is the subject of B-Movie Bonanza - Episode 4), along with my own childhood experiences with séances and the occult.

“Hey, you guys... This thing’s still warm!”

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