Ohio film maker Henrique Couto is on a roll. He’d been making short films since 2003 and helmed his first feature, the comedy horror film Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches in 2006, but since 2012 he’s filmed five feature length films and according to IMDB has one more in post-production right now while he films a seventh. He’s built up a tight little group of performers and technical talents, and with each film he’s able to up the budget a little bit and make better and better films. Haunted House on Sorority Row is a change of pace from Couto’s regular horror outings, as he dives headfirst into the realm of supernatural horror. Thanks to a script by John Oak Dalton that actually pushes the envelope for what one would expect from a film with this title and this budget, what we get is something a little special. Of course there are rough patches. The movie was filmed in four and a half days scattered over a month or so, but you’d be hard pressed to tell. A couple of the performances are stiff, but there’s nothing that would make you stop watching. There’s a little too much gratuitous nudity for my personal tastes, but skin sells, man. I get that. And that’s it with the bad. Haunted House on Sorority Row is ostensibly about a group of young women who decide to start their own sorority and avoid all the bullshit hazing and politics of established sorority houses. The founder, Alex (Joni Durian) has found a cheap house in the middle of nowhere (Couto filmed on location in Waynesville, OH) and with her friends nervous Sherrie (Erin R. Ryan), sexpot Melissa (Haley Madison), and nerdy Kathryn (Brandi Baird) — as well as loveable Dave (Mike Hilinski) and douchebag Jim (Eric Widing) — they move in and prepare for a prosperous future of community service, fund-raising, and whatever else it is sororities do. But what it’s actually about is guilt, anxiety, and coping with trauma. With a lot of boobs thrown into the mix. Joni Durian brings a lot of energy and a strange touch of den mother to the lead role of Alex. She’s protective and enthusiastic about making a future for herself and the girls. Her best friend Sherrie is played by Couto’s regular lead, Erin R. Ryan who really digs deep to bring a sense of traumatic pain and fear to the role. Of the four girls, it’s Sherrie who ends up suffering the most and, not to sell anyone else short, I think she’s the only one who could have made the role work. She’s very impressive. Haley Madison, as Melissa is fairly natural and takes on the most sexual role of the four, and while she’s naked a lot, her own guilty background plays into this, and the extended scene she shares with Durian as the two confess their sins and figure out what’s going on in the haunted house was a solid piece of acting on both their parts. She’s going to get better and better the more work she does. First-time actress Brandi Baird is the weak link here, and her character doesn’t really get a chance to shine as a result. But given the fact that (according to the commentary track) she’s no longer in touch with anybody else involved with the film, it looks like she’s probably not too concerned with it. She provides a useful, if awkward, info dump at the start of the film to let everybody know about the history of the house — which was a bordello at one point, until all the whores were found starved and frozen to death. As for the guys, Eric Widing has a little too much fun playing the aggressively unlikeable dickhole Jim, while pulling double duty as the film’s editor. And Mike Hilinski, a stand-up comic from Dayton, brings more than just some laughs. His character went through and revisits some pretty traumatic stuff, and Hilinski nails it all. The production design is solid with Geoff Turner serving as both the Production Designer and working with Erica Blackstock on the makeup effects — which are extremely effective. For a low/no budget film, the camera work and lighting are superb, giving the film quite a bit more bang for the buck. IMDB provides an estimated budget of $65,000, which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t. Couto makes every penny count and makes Haunted House on Sorority Row a special find that is well worth a look. Extras Commentary Track: Director Henrique Couto and performers Joni Durian, Erin R. Ryan, Eric Widing, and Mike Hilinski talk about the making of the film and dish the secrets to making a low/no budget film that actually brings some scares and psychological depth. Couto is engaging and a natural showman, keeping the conversation going with anecdotes sprinkled with technical details about the lighting and equipment. Everybody seems pretty happy with their work and the final product. There are a few choice nuggets in here for aspiring film makers to take note of, specifically paying attention to scheduling, making sure you’ve got a cast and crew who are dedicated to the project, and investing profits into the purchase of equipment in order to save money on future projects. Making of: This is an interview short, featuring most of the cast and crew providing a little more insight into the making of this film. Again, if you’re interested in low budget film and want some idea of what it takes to get your project finished, take a look. Short film – Bed Demon: I went into this hesitantly, but it’s actually pretty cute and funny. Erin R. Ryan plays a woman trying to get some sleep and the voice of Henrique Couto plays a demon under the bed trying to get her to stick her head over the side. It’s clever and made me laugh. So there. Haunted House on Sorority Row is on sale today, Tuesday, July 22. See larger image Haunted House On Sorority Row New From: $9.77 USD In Stock Haunted House on Sorority Row (2014)4.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.