Scarehouse_poster

Sorority sisters, haunted houses, and nights of revenge are all typical slasher movie elements; but Killer Party this is decidedly not. A Canadian blast of cold gore porn, The Scarehouse is a story of two competing horrors: the tortures inflicted by its vindictive protagonists, on the one hand, and the vapid “21st century party monster” mentality of their bevy of victims on the other. As to which is more appalling, that is for each viewer to decide. Co-ed sadists Corey (Sarah Booth) and Elaina (Kimberly-Sue Murray) are out of prison and out for vengeance after taking the rap for a sorority prank that resulted in an involuntary manslaughter. Determined to torment their fellow sisters, the pair has designed a haunted house attraction to mask the actual torture laboratory within.

The lighting and atmosphere of the film should satisfy devotees of the genre, and genuinely homicidal psychos should also be entertained. The lead performances, particularly Booth’s, are strong; but The Scarehouse, like other torture-oriented horrors, suffers from lack of likable characters. The backstory explaining the night’s motivation is never sufficient emotional justification for the shocking degree of onscreen brutality, and serves only to ensure that even the screaming victims of the atrocities garner little audience sympathy. Occasionally humorous, The Scarehouse is more often disturbing, and this reviewer would much prefer to have seen a movie about these two characters not killing people.

2.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Scarehouse is:

4. Homosexuality-ambivalent. From the perspective that there is no such thing as bad publicity, The Scarehouse is pro-gay for featuring homoerotic flirtation between young women; but the portrayal of the lesbian lead as a psychopath is hardly flattering.

3. Anti-Christian. Jesus freak Jaqueline (Katherine Barrell) stands for the film’s contempt for “fire and brimstone shit”. Other irreverence takes the form of the sadists’ appropriation of crucifixion symbolism: Corey has a cross tattoo on her back, while Elaina at the end can be seen wearing a crucifix.

2. Anti-drug. “You might want to stick to water.” Drinking, along with a rufie, results in the accidental death that sets the plot in motion, and drunks are also more susceptible to the torture porn treatment. One of the songs on the soundtrack also refers to alcohol poisoning.

1. Anti-feminist. Whatever The Scarehouse’s intentions, it shows something of a divided mind with regard to its array of targets. Elaina and Corey advertise no overt ideological motivation for their murder spree, but do demonstrate a distaste for traditionalism as it takes on grotesque, hypocritical forms. Jaqueline’s Christian good girl moral code is a lie, so she must be punished. Similarly, Katrina (Emily Alatalo), for “Frankensteining” herself in an exaggerated devotion to a male chauvinist’s hourglass figure ideal, must answer for her betrayal of her sorority oath to embrace woman’s “inner beauty”.

Corey and Elaina, if they are supposed to be radical feminist progressives, discredit their cause with their violent antics. The moon phases pictured on Corey’s tank top may mark her as merely a walking, talking, rampaging case of PMS. “Why does everyone think I’m a lesbian?” she wonders aloud, to which Elaina replies that “there is some truth in it”, the implication perhaps being that the political agenda of Corey and her type is motivated more by sexual frustrations than by reason or fairness. Elaina blunders through the sorts of clueless academic abstractions that cause social experimenters’ projects to fail. “You know I only have textbook theory,” she frets. “I built this place on a lot of theory, and this is a test run, so give me a frickin’ break on a few minor flaws.”

The fact that horny, drunken fraternity men appear as the gullible victims and not the perpetrators of murder and sex crimes undercuts the popular misandrist myth of an ubiquitous “rape culture” on college campuses. Women’s degradation and endangerment appears as their own doing in The Scarehouse. The sisters only degrade themselves by calling each other “cunt” and “bitch”. As women’s femininity has been eroded, their pedestal toppled by political empowerment, they no longer enjoy their previous freedom from violence and sexual mutilation at the movies. (“I am going to punch her in the box,” Corey threatens.) Just as a man can be kicked in the crotch with the utmost casualness, as has been the case for decades, “liberated” (i.e., dehumanized) women are now more apt to see their breasts removed or their eyelids ripped off on the big screen. A satirical indication of the degeneration wrought by the sexual revolution comes when the sight of the bloody and ravaged Katrina makes one character wonder if this is a “sex party”.

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