Sorority Murder full movie review - Typical Lifetime fare
The "feature" I watched Sunday night was yet another Lifetime "world premiere," "Sorority Murder," directed by Jesse James Miller (just what were his parents thinking when they gave him that name?
) from a script by J. Bryan Dick and Ken Sanders, and set in the fictitious "Whittendale University" world that has also given us such previous Lifetime movies as "The Surrogate," "Dirty Teacher" and "Sugar Daddies." (At least this one finally and definitively identifies "Whittendale University" as being located in Vermont, though like most Lifetime movies this is actually Everywhere, Canada "playing" Everywhere, U.S.) The plot of "Sorority Murder" is pretty much the usual Lifetime same-old, same-old: Jennifer Taylor (Scarlett Byrne) is an architecture student who's just transferred from a community college to Whittendale and is hoping the school will be a home away from home, since her real home is dominated by Melissa Taylor (Sarah-Jane Redmond), her mother, who's become an alcoholic since Jennfer's dad died and spends a lot of time either drinking at home or hanging out at skuzzy bars with an equally pathetic boyfriend identified in the cast list just as "Drunk Guy" (Jeffrey Klassen). Casting directors Don Carroll and Candice Elzinga deserve credit for having come up with two women for these roles who actually look enough alike they're credible as mother and daughter; the suspension-of-disbelief all too many movies require when people who don't look at all like each other are passed off as biological relations is a pet peeve of mine.
Jennifer seems to have got her wish when she's recruited by Alex Johnson (Nicole Muñoz) ? that's right, a woman named Alex ? to join the school's most prestigious sorority, whose official name is Beta Sigma Eta but whose Greek letters appear to spell out the English expletive "Beh." The student leader at the sorority is a domineering bitch named Breanne Bartley (Clare Filipow, who turns in easily the most powerful performance in the film and makes it a pity she exits so early), who's viciously insulting towards Jennifer and says she'll never really be one of them. Jennifer moves into the sorority house and rooms with Alex, who's on Breanne's blacklist for having put the moves on Breanne's boyfriend Eric (Madison Smith).
Breanne is found murdered outside the house while most of its residents are at a party being given by the fraternity next door. Jennifer hadn't planned to go because she had a major assignment due the next day ? a model she had built of the building she'd designed in her architecture class ? only she finds the model smashed, blames Breanne and angrily confronts her not only about the destruction of her model but a previous prank in which a dead rat was placed under Alex's bed. (Thinking of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?," I joked, "It could have been worse. She could have served it to you for dinner.") So naturally, when Breanne turns up dead, Jennifer is instantly the prime suspect, and she determines that the only way she can convince the typically dull movie cops (Patrick Sabongui and Rukiya Bernard) she didn't do it is to act like an Alfred Hitchcock hero and find out on her own who did.
"Sorority Murder" is pretty typical Lifetime fare; it's actually better acted than usual, and director Jesse James Miller (will he ever get to do a movie about his namesake?) brings it to the screen with a real flair for suspense and atmospherics, but he's done in by the relentless ridiculousness of the Sanders-Dick script and the sheer obviousness of the conventional thriller tropes the lazy writers used to pad out their film to the obligatory Lifetime running time. Still, Orion Radies as Jennifer's boyfriend-to-be Darren is a nice-looking man and Clare Filipow is genuinely powerful as the bitch who gets her comeuppance . . . permanently