How Sorority Row Could Have Been a Good Horror Movie

While 2022 marked a great year for horror, the same can not be said for the 2000s. While the decade produced some good horror films, it was highly populated with tired, cliché-riddled slashers. One of the most common clichés in the horror genre is that the hedonistic blonde girl doesn’t get to survive. And Sorority Row uses this cliché among others.

Sorority Row is a 2009 slasher that is a reimagining of the 1982 cult classic House on Sorority Row. Sorority Row, however, missed the mark. It contains just about every horror cliché in the book, leading to a predictable movie that brings nothing new to the table. If it took a leap of faith and broke a few clichés, it could have been a good horror flick. However, Sorority Row’s most detrimental choice was killing off the promiscuous party girl.

RELATED: Will Justin Long Be the Latest Example of the Oscars Dismissing Horror?

​Sorority Row Studies Chugs Before Killing Her Off

Sorority Row introduces a tight-knit group of sorority girls: Cassidy, Jessica, Ellie, Megan, Claire, and Chugs. Megan plans to play a prank on Garrett to get back at him for cheating on her. She pretends to overdose, and Garrett and the girls proceed to drive her to the hospital. On the way, Megan pretends to die, and a panicked Garrett drives to a steel mill to dump her body in the lake. Jessica, the queen bee, milks the prank and says that they need to get the air out of Megan’s lungs so that she won’t float to the surface. Garrett then stabs Megan in the chest with a tire iron, which ends up actually killing her. Jessica, not wanting to ruin her future, convinces the rest of the girls to drop Megan’s body and all the evidence down a mineshaft. Months later, in the midst of graduation, a cloaked figure picks off the girls one by one with a tire iron. The first girl to die is Chugs, the promiscuous partier of the group.

Before Chugs meets her untimely demise, Sorority Row reveals that she has some deep-seated issues. She goes to her slimy therapist’s house for an appointment, and her demeanor is a complete contrast to that of the confident, one-liner-zinging girl that the audience has been introduced to. As soon as she sets foot in her therapist’s house, she appears unhappy and vulnerable. While searching for her therapist, she immediately helps herself to a bottle of wine, which suggests that she might not be just a hedonistic sorority girl but a budding alcoholic.

When she finds her therapist handcuffed to his bed after a sexual encounter with a previous client, he asks her to have sex with him in exchange for all the new sample prescriptions that he has, and she unhappily obliges. Many people in her shoes would walk away and find a new therapist, but the fact that Chugs is ready to go through with the deed despite being disgusted suggests that she abuses prescription drugs and that she’s trapped in a vicious cycle with her therapist. She even berates herself before doing it; she knows that she’s sacrificing her well-being for drugs, and she loathes herself for it.

RELATED: 22 Years After Scary Movie, No Horror Parody Has Come Close

Chugs Could Have Been a Dynamic Heroine in Sorority Row

Margo Harshman as Chugs from Sorority Row (2009)

There is also an implication of a history of incest between Chugs and her brother, Garrett. Early on in the film, Chugs makes a comment that her brother is good in bed. The line is played off for laughs, but there could be a sinister subtext to her supposed throwaway quip because most people, no matter how crass they are, would probably not make that kind of comment about their sibling. It’s also established early on that Chugs and Garrett are very close. In fact, a big reason why Chugs agrees to cover up Megan’s death is that she knows that Garrett would end up facing time behind bars as well, and she’s adamant about not letting that happen.

Chugs is also quick to defend Garrett when the other girls suggest that he may be the one who sent them the text message that contains an image of the bloody tire iron used to kill Megan. On the surface, it may seem that Chugs is simply a devoted older sister. But after adding Chugs‘ crass comment about her brother to the mix, the idea that Chugs and Garrett have an incestuous history becomes a possibility.

After shining a light on Chugs, it becomes obvious that she is quite complex, which makes for an interesting character. Had she been kept alive, her issues could have been further explored, and she could have been given a dynamic character arc. What should have happened is that Chugs should have still encountered the killer in her therapist’s house, but instead of being killed in the attack, she should have been knocked unconscious. After she regains consciousness, she should have rushed to reunite with the other girls and warn them about the killer on the loose. Along the way, there could be more references to her alcoholism, drug addiction, questionable relationship with Garrett, and regret over fudging Megan’s death peppered in. And at the climax, when Cassidy is about to be killed, Chugs, rather than Ellie, should have brandished the shotgun and saved the day. If Sorority Row had taken this route, it could have displayed a unique final girl who goes from a troubled hedonist with dark secrets to a shotgun-slinging hero. It also would have allowed her to redeem herself after taking part in hiding Megan’s death.

Sorority Row is the poster child for the vast array of 2000s horror movies that conform to clichés. Sorority Row’s adherence to the horror clichés is the reason why Chugs gets killed. Chugs may be hedonistic and promiscuous, but why are those qualities punishable by death? There is really nothing wrong with a woman partying and sleeping with a lot of people if she pleases, and the fact that the horror genre has a history of punishing women with those traits is sexist. Sorority Row could have transcended that trope. But since it didn’t, it fails to stand out among the other slashers of the 2000s decade.