Vanity Fear

A Pretentious A**hole's Guide to B-Movie Bullsh*t

Filtering by Tag: Sorority House Massacre

Rejected By Rod(?) Part Ten - Sorority House Massacre

Not everything I've written for FLICK ATTACK has made it to the show. Mr. Lott insists that these rapidly aging reviews will be posted eventually, but until then I'm just going to assume that they have been:

Rejected By Rod(?)

Sorority House Massacre


For eagle-eyed horror fans the cleverest moment in Sorority House Massacre comes when two of its characters are watching television. Showing on the set is a scene from an earlier Roger Corman produced classic, Slumber Party Massacre, in which a character is—you guessed it—watching a horror movie on television. It’s the cinematic equivalent of one those drawings of a cartoon character holding a drawing of them holding a drawing on into infinity.

Beyond this one moment, though, there’s not a lot to say about the film. While it does feature a memorably creepy dream sequence, the plot itself is lifted straight from the first two Halloweens, featuring as it does a killer who escapes from the loony bin in order to return to the house where he killed all but the youngest member of his family, who’s now an attractive brunette college student plagued by nightmares featuring him and the massacre she doesn’t remember surviving.

To writer/director  Carol Frank’s credit, she avoids the mistake of making her characters deliberately hateful, and merely settles for bland and uninteresting. To her discredit, she chose not to fire her apparently blind costume designer and allowed them to dress her cast in the most hideous clothes the 80s ever foisted upon the planet. That is if a movie this low budget even had a costume designer. If it didn’t, then her biggest crime was casting actors who couldn’t supply decent clothes out of their own closets.

Ultimately, Sorority House Massacre is an especially unexceptional movie and the only reason I’m reviewing it now is because I took the time to watch it before experiencing Sorority House Massacre II, which is an exceptional movie, but not for the reasons you might think.

The Wynorski Project Part Ten - "The Haunting of Morella"


I had intended for last week to be my final word on Sorority House Massacre II and Hard to Die, but in the midst of looking up something I remembered reading years ago in Maitland McDonagh’s Filmmaking On the Fringe regarding today’s subject I inadvertently came across Wynorski’s own description of the events that led to those films creation. In it he specifically answers many of the questions I brought up during the course of my past three posts, so it seemed only fair of me to bring them up here.

Though he does not address the issue directly, it would appear that the footage from Slumber Party Massacre was used because Roger Corman wasn’t sure if Warner Bros still held the rights to the original Sorority House Massacre. For that same reason the film Wynorski made was neither filmed or conceived as a straight sequel—its original filming title was Jim Wynorski’s House of Babes, which was changed to The Séance and Nightie Nightmare before the rights issue was resolved and it was released as Sorority House Massacre II.

According to Wynorski the script was written in three days and shot in seven on sets left over from Slumber Party Massacre III and was actually made behind Corman’s back at the behest of his wife Julie. When Corman finally caught wind of the project he was the one who suggested adding a scene in a strip club, which required adding in the cop characters into the movie.

Since the rights issue kept Corman from keeping all of the profits from SHMII, he requested the immediate remake so he could release essentially the same film without having to give anything away. Hard to Die was then shot as Tower of Terror in 10 days with a slightly larger budget with essentially the same script.

Now that I know this, does it change how I feel about the films?

In a word, no.

If anything what this information does is compel the interesting question of how much does marketing affect how we perceive a film product. Would my perception of SHMII have been different if I had watched Nightie Nightmare instead? Honestly, I don’t think so. All of the issues that I discussed at length in the previous three posts would still be the same, except for the film’s failure to address the original SHM. Beyond that, Wynorski’s use of footage from SPM would still be as relevant, as would the film’s ultimately nihilistic, misogynistic undertones.

‘Kay that’s enough about that!

Onto the main feature:


The Wynorski Project

Part 10

The Haunting of Morella




Morella Winthrop (Nicole Eggert) has been tried and convicted as a witch who tried to find immortality through the murder of a serving girl and the attempted sacrifice of her own newborn daughter, Lenora. For her crime she is executed by having red-hot pokers jabbed into her eyes. Before she dies she promises to someday return in the body of her grown-up daughter. 17 years pass and Lenora (Eggert) is almost 18 and physically identical to her late mother. Unbeknownst to Lenora and her father (David McCallum), her tutor, Coel (Lana Clarkson), was once Morella’s acolyte and is ready to set in motion a murderous plan to resurrect the executed witch and help her find the immortality she craved at the cost of Lenora’s body and soul. Blood is shed, breasts are bared, stuff explodes and the film ends suggesting it has all only just begun.


Some people claim The Haunting of Morella is my best picture. I hate it. I think it’s my worst picture. It was tough making the picture and I wanted it to look classy, but the script was a little weak. It looks nice but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

-Jim Wynorski as quoted in Filmmaking On the Fringe, page 12


When he’s right, he’s right. In fact, I’m tempted to be a smart ass and just stop the post right here, but I don’t want to establish a precedent I might fall back on like a crutch in the future, so 1000 reluctant words for The Haunting of Morella it is.

First off, I wanna know who these “some people” are. Have they never seen any of Wynorski’s other films? Have they never seen another film? Of all the words I would use to describe the film, “best” is not one that would ever enter my vocabulary under any circumstance beyond, “The Haunting of Morella is the best example thus far of Wynorski making a really terrible movie.”

Even though I ultimately had little good to say about Big Bad Mama II, Deathstalker II, Not of This Earth, SHMII and Hard to Die, I can honestly say that sitting through them didn’t represent a Herculean struggle on my part. The 80 minutes or so it took to get through them flew by quickly enough and I felt no worse off for the effort. The same cannot be said for THofM, which tried my will and patience throughout its entirety.

The central problem with THofM is that it strains for a credibility it never earns. Watching it made me rethink my proposal that a straight version of Deathstalker II would have been just as terrible as his comedic variation, but vastly more satisfying for the audience that actually wanted to see it. THofM is as straight as Wynorski has thus far gotten and after awhile even I couldn’t help but pray for one of his terrible fourth-wall breaking in-jokes.


A wannabe throwback to the classic Corman Poe pictures of the 60s, as well as Mario Bava’s gothic classic Black Sabbath, THofM suffers greatly in comparison. Despite his blaming the script for its failure, the truth is THofM is a flop for which everyone involved is to blame.

There’s a reason Corman remains best identified with the gothic classics he directed that were based (very) loosely on the work of Edgar Allen Poe, as they represent much of his best work as a filmmaker. The Masque of the Red Death, for example, is easily my personal favourite of his films and I regard it to be as much an art-house masterpiece as Bergman’s similar The Seventh Seal. In the case of that particular film, much of the credit has to go to cinematographer Nicholas Roeg, whose extraordinarily vibrant colours are a major factor in its success.

Despite Wynorski’s insistence that “it looks nice,” THofM by comparison is a drab, poorly shot effort that, unlike Corman or Bava’s films, completely fails to transcend its low budget. Morella’s crypt looks exactly like the Styrofoam it’s made out of, the costumes are bland and ill-fitting, the actresses’ underwear is laughably anachronistic, the thunder-flashes are the same stock footage Wynorski has used in all of his other films, and the mise en scene is often hilarious for all the wrong reasons—witness:


But the biggest problem the film has is its leading lady, Nicole Eggert, who had just left Charles in Charge and was about to go on to Baywatch when she took on the dual role of Morella and Lenora. Though slightly better as Morella, she is completely unconvincing in both roles, her blond California surfer girl demeanor completely at odds with the films gothic tone and atmosphere.

But the biggest distraction she brings to the picture came from her refusal to take her clothes off in front of the camera. This being a Wynorski production, there was no way her character’s nude scenes would ever get rewritten, so a body double was required. (According to the new commentary on the recent Shout Factory release of Not of This Earth, Traci Lords was originally offered the role, but declined because she was no longer willing to perform nude on film, which makes the decision to cast the similarly modest Eggert somewhat ironic).

As a rule I loathe body doubles, as they represent a tremendous insult to the audience and are invariably distracting no matter how well they are integrated into the picture. The insult comes from the idea that we’ll be just as happy with a pair of disembodied breasts as a pair that actually comes with a face, because tits are tits and who knows the difference, right? Wrong. By using a body double, nudity ceases to be fun and becomes obnoxiously exploitative—tits for the sake of tits for the sake of box office and foreign sales. And it doesn’t help that it is so rarely done well.

THofM is especially egregious in its use of body doubles. During her major sex scene, the editing cuts to shots of Eggert’s noticeably thinner and paler double writhing on her co-star while her badly-matched wig covers her face (which she helpfully keeps turned away from the camera), to close-ups of Eggert that—in the print I watched—are so poorly-framed you can see the bra she is wearing every time she moves up.


It’s even worse in this case, since even without Eggert’s participation the film would not lack for gratuitous nudity. Tragic blond starlet Lana Clarkson (who laughably towers over her tiny co-star) is nude throughout, as is Corman regular Maria Ford and Gail Harris, the star of Wynorski previous (and much-discussed) two films. Given this abundance of traditional skin, it’s ridiculous the lengths they went through to throw in a series of distracting and unnecessary additional naked shots.

Speaking of naked shots, next week I’ll be seeing a lot of them, since that’s when I’ll take a look at Wynorski’s first official collaboration with cinema soul mate Fred Olen Ray, Scream Queen Hot Tub Party—which features Wynorski regulars Monique Gabrielle and Kelli Maroney joining Roxanne Kernohan and Ray regulars Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens in a nearly plotless stripfest cobbled together using footage from their previous films.

Should be fun?

Next Week

Scream Queen Hot Tub Party

The Wynorski Project Part Eight & Nine Concluded

The Wynorski Project

Part 8 and 9

Sorority House Massacre II & Hard to Die

Part Three

Last week I discussed my belief that by completely stripping his films of any discernable subtext, Wynorski ended up producing works that are ultimately guilty of every criticism (usually unfairly) thrown at the slasher genre. For all his humorous riffing, the results are every bit as misogynist and misanthropic as most ignorant people incorrectly believe horror films to be.

What I didn’t say is that despite (or—more accurately—because of) this the two films are compulsively and irresistibly watchable. As disdainful as Wynorski seems to be of his audience, there’s no denying that he’s giving them massive heaps of what they want. The overt sexuality of the films goes beyond mere prurience to pornographic excess, but the quality of that excess is such that it’s very hard to look away. Wynorski clearly knows this. ‘Give ‘em enough T&A and they’ll forgive you anything,’ being the apparent unspoken motto that defines much of his work.

But is he truly at peace with this? After watching his brief cameo in Hard to Die this becomes a legitimate question. The scene in question occurs when two detectives (who only appear in the film because they also appeared in Sorority House Massacre II and no one could be bothered to figure out how to get rid of them in the rewritten script) break in on a porno shoot to interview an adult film actress (Wynorski regular, Monique Gabrielle, who appears twice in the movie—billed first as“Carolet Girard” in the part of the porn star and then as “Lucy Burnett” for the part of a homely Chinese food delivery woman, which is very similar to her short cameo in Not of This Earth. Two years later she would play the final girl in Fred Olen Ray’s Evil Toons, which is as much a remake of SHMII as HtoD is) who used to work at the lingerie company where all the mayhem is occurring. 

Playing the part of the exasperated director is Wynorski himself, who—when accused of making “pornography”—defends himself by saying “…It’s tough enough making a picture these days without making certain—shall we say— ‘concessions’ to public taste….” On the face of it, it would seem like he’s winking at his audience again. Giving them an in-joke they can chuckle over and appreciate for its self-deprecating irony, but this ignores the fact that when the movie was made in 1990 Wynorski was still a fairly anonymous Corman hack who most genre fans wouldn’t recognize in a police line-up, much less in an in-joke cameo.

This makes me wonder if maybe he cast himself as the pornographer not because a handful of Corman insiders would find it amusing, but as a form of cinematic Freudian slip. Is it possible that Wynorski really imagines himself as an artist forced to debase himself to satisfy the public’s need for sex and violence?

Probably not, but it will be interesting to see if any similar cameo’s are made in later productions where he abandons all pretense of respectability and just flat out makes softcore porn (see future reviews of The Bare Wench Project 1, 2 & 3). I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume the cameo is just a goof, but it’s the kind of goof pretentious asshole reviewers like me cannot help themselves from grasping on.


Beyond Wynorski’s cameo, though, the other interesting part about this scene is that it is clearly based on the scene in SHMII where the same two cops (the female half of whom is played by Wynorski regular Toni Naples, working under the name Karen Chorak) go to a strip club to talk to the younger sister of the girl who killed the maniac whose spirit is causing all of the mayhem back at the sorority house.


Watching as a hyper-aware genre-enthusiast, it was this scene that caused my brain to start doing backflips, because with it Wynorski manages to take SHMII and turn it from being an unrelated in-name-only sequel to Sorority House Massacre into an alternative universe sequel to Slumber Party Massacre, from which the flashback footage is taken. Having at that point already written about Slumber Party Massacre II (rather successfully—if a comment made at the 37 minute point of this YouTube video is to be believed) I was dumbfounded to see Wynorski take the character Deborah Brock had cast as a virginal member of an all-girl pop band into a slutty, fishnet clad stripper.

My first thought was of Uatu the Watcher, the big-header star of Marvel Comics What If…. series, in which popular Marvel Universe stories were upended with simple twists of fate. For example, issue #7 dealt with what would have happened if someone other than Peter Parker had been bit by that radioactive spider that fateful day. The most amusing aspect of the series was how it allowed the writers to let loose with their wildest apocalyptic, nihilistic fantasies, as virtually every scenario seemed to end with the destruction of the universe (thus proving that the way it “really happened” was truly meant to be).

As unintentional as this had to be on Wynorski’s part, it does force an inevitable comparison between his and Brock’s takes on the slasher genre and it’s one where he definitely does not come out on top. Whereas Brock was able to make the first slasher film that was set entirely in the pov consciousness of a young woman’s mind, Wynorski was only able to deliver a film that aims for moronic parody and fails.

 More telling, though, is the profession chosen for the character in SHMII. The fact is that in a film already so full of gratuitous nudity the strip club sequence is by far the unnecessary and redundant. Knowing what I do about his previous work, I suspect both it and the rest of the police sequences were added late to the script when it became evident the original draft was too short. I’d even guess they were shot long after the film was first completed, were it not for the fact that the same scenes are all essentially replicated in Hard To Die, making this scenario highly unlikely.

Whatever the reason for the sequence, it speaks volumes about who Wynorski is as a person and filmmaker that in his universe, this character turns out to be a stripper. Brock imagined an innocent girl driven to insanity by her horrific experience, while her Corman co-hort simply saw an opportunity to add another pair of tits into the mix.

I strongly suspect that out there is an alternative universe where I prefer his take on the material over hers, but only Uatu truly knows.


Okay, so that’s it for these two flicks. Next week I’ll discuss a more serious work in the Wynorski canon that the director has gone on record as stating that he personally hates.

Next Week

The Haunting of Morella

The Wynorski Project Part Eight & Nine Continued

The Wynorski Project

Sorority House Massacre II & Hard to Die


Part Two

Two weeks ago I expressed my amazement over the sheer chutzpah of these two films. Sorority House Massacre II being a sequel that not only completely ignores the first Sorority House Massacre, but even goes so far as to us flashback footage from Slumber Party Massacre instead. Amazingly, that same footage appears again in the concurrently filmed Hard to Die, which was obviously shot with a script only slightly altered from the one used for SHMII, making it perhaps the first instant remake of an in-name-only sequel ever made.

As a result of these shenanigans, Wynorski seems to have inadvertently created his first meta-movies—making two unconsciously post-modern films that work far better as his commentary on the state of independent genre filmmaking in the 90s than they do as actual independent genre films.

In a climate where the desire for instant profitability turned the concept of what a sequel actually was essentially meaningless, it makes sense that Wynorski would prove utterly indifferent to the original SHM. If the only thing that mattered was that they shared the same title, why bother even attempting to connect them beyond that? And if flashback footage was needed to flesh out the plot (and add valuable running time) why not take it from a superior film? Why settle for less if you didn’t have to?

And by the same token, if you’re making a sequel that is essentially an original film, why not produce an alternate version that could be sold as just that? With most films feeling so interchangeable by that time, what were the chances anyone was ever even going to notice?


With these two films Wynorski is explicitly stating his belief that plot itself has no bearing or meaning in the genre universe. All that matters is you provide the proper amount of tits, ass and blood, without which SHMII and Hard to Die would cease to exist. The question then is whether or not he is indicting us for watching them or instead freeing himself from the yoke of narrative tyranny. Is it that he's pissed at his audience for being so base in their desires? Or is he thrilled by the opportunity to make movies entirely defined by the elements he himself so clearly enjoys?

The idealistic optimist in me wants to believe it’s the latter, but watching the films it becomes hard not to conclude the former. Despite his reputation as a director who just likes to surround himself with busty babes, both films clearly move beyond the veil of gentle satire into something far more brutal and unpleasant. By boiling down a genre frequently scorned for consisting only of pretty naked girls being murdered in various unpleasant ways to nothing beyond those purest elements, Wynorski removes any potentially vindicating subtext from the films, turning them into exactly the kind of films critics might deservedly condemn. Based on the legal definition of a work designed purely to arouse the prurient interest, it becomes difficult to see them as anything other than grimy softcore pornography.

And what’s wrong with that?

Absolutely nothing, so long as you have access to a shower afterwards.

Of the two films, SHMII is by far the more cynical and disturbing, thanks to an ending that serves as a direct rebuke of the cliché that most often exonerates the slasher genre from frequent accusations of misogyny.

SHMII begins with Linda (Gail Harris, a British “Page-3” model who plays the heroine in both this and Hard to Die and whose strong Yorkshire accent is never explained or justified in either film) begging an unseen force for mercy before flashing back to the moment she and her friends arrived at the location where the titular massacre will eventually occur.

With this she is clearly established as the film’s “final girl”—a designation that is supported by the fact that she is clearly the most sensible, intelligent and levelheaded member of the group (which admittedly is—at best—a negligible achievement).

Her heroics, however, are undermined by a twist presented in both films, in which the characters she plays mistake the creepy neighbor/janitor Orville Ketchum as the maniac, when its really one of her friends/co-workers possessed by the evil spirit of a dead psychopath. In both films the majority of the humour is based on Ketchum’s superhuman ability to absorb her punishment—a trait usually found in slasher stalkers, not innocent dupes. 

The problem with SHMII is that following the climax where Linda manages to dispatch the true killer, there’s a coda where the police arrive at the scene of the crime and discover that she has now become possessed by the killer, which causes Ketchum to jump up from catastrophic injury once more and blow her away. He, naturally, manages to survive the hail of police gunfire that results.


On its face it's simply a semi-clever inversion of the cliché in which the seemingly unkillable killer is finally dispatched by the resourceful pretty girl, but by robbing Linda of her victory it becomes impossible to justify the sexualized carnage that came before it. I suppose the point is meant to be that there’s no good reason why the hero of a slasher film can’t be a creepy fat guy, but this is immediately undone by the simple fact that there is a very good reason why the resourceful pretty girl is almost invariably portrayed as the one who is victorious.

The only way to justify the ending is to assume that the audience should have identified with Ketchum instead of Linda in the first place. The implication being that most of the people watching the movie look far more like him than they do Harris. As true as this may be, the result is not a flattering portrait of the viewer. Instead of following the traditional mode in which the viewer firsts identifies with the killer as they dispatch a series of assholes who don’t deserve to live, then shifts their allegiance once the killer trains their focus on the virtuous good girl who represents the viewer at their best, SHMII asks us to cheer on the deaths of the hot sorority chicks, but then refuses to allow us to identify with the heroine whose actions will mitigate our initial bloodlust. By killing off Linda and leaving Ketchum alive, Wynorski leaves us unable to justify our lack of sympathy for the film’s victims, which ends the film with a disturbingly nihilistic tone.

And this in itself wouldn’t be such a big deal if Wynorski had shown any restraint in his portrayal of the female cast, but by presenting them all as brainless, sex-obsessed bimbos who spend the majority of the film running around in lingerie so ill-defined I would get banned from YouTube (again) if I featured them here in clip form, it becomes impossible to not conclude that his intentions were not merely unintentionally misogynistic, but deliberately so.

Okay, so that’s enough for this week. Next week I’ll conclude my look at these two films by exploring the alternative film universe Wynorski creates in SHMII and the potential indications of self-loathing found in his cameo as a director in Hard to Die.

Next Week

Sorority House Massacre II and Hard to Die


The Wynorski Project Part Eight & Nine "Sorority House Massacre II & Hard To Die"

The Wynorski Project

Part Eight & Nine

Sorority House Massacre II & Hard To Die


Sorority House Massacre II Synopsis

Five voluptuous members of a local sorority find themselves tasked with the clean up and renovation of their new chapter house. Before they begin working they’re visited by their weird neighbor, Orville Ketchum, who tells them the story of how the house’s previous resident, a maniac named Hokstader, went nuts and murdered most of his family before finally being killed himself. After a hard night of work, the girls decide to hold a lingerie Ouija board séance and unwittingly unleash the spirit of the murderer back into their midst. By possessing the bodies of the girls he begins his killing spree anew. Blood is shed, (many) breasts are bared, nothing explodes and Orville’s the only one who doesn’t die.


Hard To Die Synopsis

Five voluptuous temp and fulltime employees of a local lingerie company find themselves tasked with performing the annual inventory. Before they begin working they’re visited by the building’s weird janitor, Orville Ketchum, who tells them about his experience with a maniac named Hokstader, who went nuts and murdered five girls before finally being killed himself. Going through the boxes they have to inventory they inadvertently open a Chinese spirit box that contains the spirit of the murderer. By possessing the body of one of the girls he begins his killing spree anew. Blood is shed, (not quite as many) breasts are bared, nothing explodes and Orville finds true love at last.


Somewhere around October of last year, I sat down and watched Sorority House Massacre II and it kind of blew my mind. Not because I thought it was an amazing piece of cinema—it’s really pretty fucking terrible—but because it played so fast and loose with the idea of what qualifies as a horror movie sequel, going so far as to not only completely ignore the first Sorority House Massacre, but to actually employ flashback footage from a completely different series that had—by that time—already been sequelized twice.

The chutzpah of this is one thing, but when you go on to consider that while making SHM II Wynorski decided to reshoot the same script with only a handful of minor character and location adjustments and release it as an “original” movie called Hard To Die (which despite it’s title and advertising bares no resemblance to Die Hard) and you quickly come to appreciate that the famously bearded director has what must be the biggest pair of balls in the known universe. Or—at the very least—a pathological inability to experience shame.


If The Return of Swamp Thing represents the closest approximation of what Wynorski could have accomplished if he were a more ambitious, less cynical filmmaker, than the one-two punch of SHM II and Hard To Die serve as the harbingers of the jaded, dispassionate hackmeister he would eventually become.

Despite featuring all of the hallmarks of his established oeuvre, the two films mark the first time where his poking fun at the conventions of genre filmmaking no longer seems affectionate, but instead actively derisive. Whereas once his in-jokes seemed to be made in collaboration with his audience, now they seem to come at the expense of them. If before the subtext of his humour was “Hey, isn’t this stuff cool?” here it turns into a much darker and less entertaining, “So, this is the shit you assholes want, huh? Here it is.”

That this anger comes through despite the abundant spectacle of T&A he uses to disguise it, explains why I found the experience of watching SHM II so fascinating. How could something be so simultaneously craven and transgressive? And at what point does a filmmaker abandoning all personal dignity to give his audience exactly what he thinks they want, actually become a form of hostile artistic expression—the cinematic equivalent of the infamous Baltimore stripper described by John Waters, who used to shout “What the fuck are you looking at?” to the men watching her take off her clothes.

Without a commentary to explain the decisions that went into the making of the two films I am forced to guess at the reasons behind them, which is always a dangerous thing to do, but also a large part of what I find so intellectually intriguing about such stubbornly anti-intellectual films.

It doesn’t help that the credits only add to the confusion. SHM II is credited (on the actual print, not via the IMDb) to Bob Sheridan and James B. Rogers (a protégé of the Farraly Brothers who would eventually direct American Pie II), while Hard To Die is credited to Rogers and Mark McGee despite the fact the rewrite required to differentiate the two films couldn’t have taken more than a single day to complete. Wynorski takes full directing credit on SHM II, but credits the job on Hard To Die to Arch Stanton, a pseudonym I’m assuming is a reference to the name on the grave where the gold is buried in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

What I am 100% certain about is that in 1986 Roger Corman produced a movie called Sorority House Massacre. It’s an exceptionally unexceptional slasher effort; made memorable only by how ardently it rips off the plot beats of John Carpenter’s Halloween. And it would have been very easy to use footage from the film as flashback fodder for the sequel, but that isn’t what happened. Instead, at some point the decision was made to use footage from the original Slumber Party Massacre in its place.

And it would seem that this was a decision made while the script was being written, since the backstory Orville Ketchum tells the girls in both SHM II and Hard To Die bears no relation to the story of Sorority House Massacre. It also bears no relation to the story of Slumber Party Massacre either, but that’s easily solved via editing and Ketchem’s narration. Interestingly the story he tells changes in the two movies, despite the fact that the exact same footage is shown in both films.

The biggest question this begs is, simply, why? It would seem to me that the minimal time and effort expended to incorporate the footage from SPM into SHM II could have just as easily been used to change the script enough to justify SHM II’s sequel status, rather than confuse things with scenes from another franchise. Was it a matter of authentic confusion (it’s not hard to mix up the titles of the films), outright indifference, some random legal impediment (such as one of the actors in the original film refusing to have their likeness appear in the sequel) or just a deliberate “Fuck you!” to anyone devoted enough to the genre to notice?

Whatever the reason, the end result is a film that almost becomes its own meta-commentary on the strange relationship genre fans have with horror movie franchises that often seem to exist for no other reason than to anger and disappoint them.

While the motive behind turning a project into a franchise is the same regardless of genre—capitalizing on previous success—the nature of the horror genre dramatically lowers the standard by which that previous success is judged. During the 80s and 90s, the decision to make a horror movie sequel wasn’t based on how many people it was believed actually wanted to see it, but rather by how many video cassette units it was believed the sequel could sell. Video store operators were just as guilty as audiences of preferring the recognizable to the new and were much more likely to order the latest Leprechaun sequel than something original, despite the fact that no one you ever met ever actually claimed any desire to see Leprechaun 4: In Space.

For that reason, there were many franchise films that bore absolutely no relation to each other, often because they were retitled by their distributors simply to capitalize on a marketable name. SHM II would seem to be one of those films, but it takes the added step of implying it’s actually a sequel to a completely different franchise, one that by 1990 was already three films strong. The implication being that when it came to these kinds of films, the title was meaningless, so long as it sold a videotape, which made the actual content itself only an afterthought.

The cynicism of this appears to have inspired Wynorski to make two films that would seem to exist on no other than the most base exploitation movie level—80 minutes of non-stop tits, ass and blood—but he does so in such an extreme fashion that they transcend their LCD ambitions and force the viewer to reconsider what they are watching and why they are watching it. His apparent antipathy infecting the material in such a way that it actually achieves a strange measure of relevance.

Things get even more bizarre when you realize that two years later, Wynorski’s friend and sometime-collaborator would essentially remake both SHM II and Hard To Die as Evil Toons.

But, unfortunately, it’s getting late and I have to wrap this up so I can get it formatted and posted before the day ends. Next week I shall actually discuss the content of the films, such as they are.


 Sorority House Massacre II & Hard To Die