Following the success of Halloween, the slasher subgenre saw a massive boom in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Every holiday was getting its own slasher, as were summer camps, of course college campuses. The entire slasher model was based around a killer killing off young people, so colleges seemed like the perfect place to set them.
One such result was 1982’s House of Sorority Row. A film that wasn’t well received upon release, but has since gained a cult following. So in honor of its 40th anniversary today, here are 40 fun facts about House on Sorority Row!
1. Writer/Director Mark Rosman cited Mario Bava films and 1955’s Diabolique as inspirations for House of Sorority Row.
2. Additional dialogue was written by Bobby Fine. His only other writing credits are additional dialogue on Tiger Town, and writing 3 episodes of She’s the Sheriff and a single episode of Full House in 1990.
3. Rosman’s goal was for his characters to not just be innocent victims, but somehow culpable in the fate that was befalling them.
4. Three years prior, Mark Rosman had worked as a first assistant director on Brian De Palma’s Home Movies. However, he wanted to make his own movie and decided to just go for it.
5. Rosman claimed that the movie was based on his own experiences in college. Which given the subject matter raises a lot of questions…
6. Initially was going to be distributed by MGM, but they backed out, and Film Ventures International bought distribution rights. Unfortunately, they went bankrupt and out of business a few years later.
7. Mark Rosman actually lived in the sorority house during production.
8. The house itself is a 3 bedroom in the Baltimore area, and was last sold for $550,000 in 2021.
9. For most of the sorority actresses, this was their film debut. And for Robin Meloy, Jodi Draigie, and Ellen Dorsher, this remains their only film credit to date.
10. Given that it was a non-union production, several of the actresses claimed they were only paid $50/day ($164 in today’s money), as a per diem rate.
11. Eileen Davidson was the only “LA actress” (with most of the others being amateurs or New York theater ones). In an interview she admitted that she asked Kate McNeil to slap her for real for authenticity, but that she regretted asking this after several takes.
12. Davidson would go on to be on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hill.
13. Shot in and around Baltimore, MD. As a result John Waters (also from the area) visited the set during production.
14. The mansion in which they filmed had been foreclosed, which allowed the production to use it for cheap. This changed the original plan to shoot in Washington, DC.
15. When the production entered the house, they found two squatters who had been living them and offered them jobs assisting the production.
16. The band that performs during the party scene was a real band called 4 Out of 5 Doctors. They were based out of DC and semi popular in the area during the early 1980s.
17. The decision to kill Diane (Harley Kozak) early in the movie was because it was thought that she and Vickie (Eileen Davidson) had hair styles that were too similar, and it was feared the audience would get them mixed up.
18. Many of the extra gory shots of the kill scenes were filmed after production in Mark Rosman’s parent’s backyard in an effort to add more gore.
19. Rosman has a cameo as the piano playing guest in the party scene.
20. The crane shots were done using a cherry picker as this was cheaper than a traditional crane.
21. Initially budgeted for $300,000, the film ran over budget, and Mark Rosman had to get a loan from his cousin in Los Angeles in order to finish the movie. This brought the budget to $425,000.
22. Lois Kelso Hunt (Mrs. Slater) had her entire voice dubbed via ADR because Mark Rosmana and others felt that her voice was too high pitched. Thus it was decided to cast a voice actor with a deeper, huskier voice.
23. Because the house they filmed in didn’t have a communal bathroom, the bathroom scene had to be filmed at the Baltimore School of Dentistry.
24. She did however perform her own stunt of falling into the swimming pool.
25. The film’s original ending had Katie’s dead body floating in the pool. However, it was felt that this was too much of a downer, and it was changed so that she survived.
26. Another alternate ending of the film featured Katie surviving and waking up in a hospital, but her wheelchair ws being pushed by the killer Eric.
27. The opening sequence set in the 60s was originally shot in black and white, but the distributor added the blue tint in post production.
28. The music was composed by Richard Band, brother of famed B-movie producer/director Charles Band.
29. Years later, Mark Rosman admitted that he hated the US poster used for the movie. He wanted it to feature a hand coming out of the swimming pool, but was frustrated that the marketing focused on scantily-clad women.
30. Grossed $10.6 million on a $425,000 budget.
31. Opened in limited release in Nov. 1982, then wide release in Jan. 1983, opening as the #1 new release, but #14 on the overall box office list.
32. It grossed roughly $600,000 the first weekend, and the other $10 million in its second weekend, a massive jump rarely seen.
33. Despite its box office success, House of Sorority Row was largely met with negative reviews. This was also during the slasher boom of the early 80s, and most critics hated the subgenre.
34. In more recent reappraisals, many critics have pointed out that it was a well-made low budget slasher that largely holds up today. It was even named one of the greatest slashers of all time by Complex in 2017.
35. Retitled “House of Evil” for its UK release and “Siete Mujeres Atrapadas” (“Seven Trapped Women”) for its release in Spanish-speaking countries.
36. Quentin Tarantino personally selected House of Sorority Row to be included in his Film Fest in Austin, Texas, back in 1996.
37. The film’s cinematographer Tim Surhstedt would go on to do cinematography for The Wedding Singer, Office Space, and Little Miss Sunshine.
38. In 2009, a remake titled Sorority Row was released. Mark Rosman served as an executive producer.
39. He also kept the prop cane and music box and still owns them to this day.
40. In 2018, the movie was given the RiffTrax treatment.
Which of these did you already know? Which ones surprised you? Let us know in the comments!
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