It begins with garden-variety bullying. A little girl calls a little boy a pervert because he doesn’t have a father (pretty sure she means “bastard,” but the girl is six so I’ll cut her a break). He runs home, which just happens to be a brothel. It’s the nicest brothel I’ve ever seen—much nicer than the one that was down the street from me. It’s a gorgeous old Victorian manse, the kind that’d be a quaint bed and breakfast today, only with prostitutes.
Suddenly a double-barrelled shotgun is aimed at a harlot with a purple feather boa and her john.
Now it’s 13 years later at Edmonson College. Sorority pledges are gathered around their pledgemaster. The young women run the gamut: there’s the pretty one, the athletic one, the nerdy one, the virgin, the one who just wants to make pants sandwich with her boyfriend, and, of course, the fat one who is, of course, not fat at all. For their initiation, the pledges must stay the night at a haunted house. Guess which house? Hint: it’s the brothel. But before that, the girls go to a party where white people are dancing like no one is watching. There are some epic moves on display here. One standout is the overly tan hunk of beef who sways maniacally on the dance floor while biting his lower lip. The other standout is the guy bouncing out of rhythm while he carries another guy. I don’t know what’s going on, but I do know that I could watch 90 minutes of it.
The pledges arrive at the house, which has been conveniently rigged with grade-school pranks. The girls are tasked with searching for things on a list while the pledgemaster kicks back with a dog-eared copy of—what else—Suspense in the Cinema by Gordon Gow. As the girls skulk around, a skull falls from the ceiling, a jack-in-the-box sets off, an axe falls, and a tape recorder plays blood-curdling screams. But then the pledges begin having visions of the grisly murders and scandalous ongoings that occurred in the brothel over 30 years ago. Soon the girls get picked off one by one. Who could be behind it all?
Blood Sisters is in a long line of sorority slashers (The Initiation, The House on Sorority Row, Black Christmas, Hell Night, Sorority House Massacre, etc.) and while it doesn’t add anything new to the sub-genre, it does have dialogue that is actually more in line with how young women actually talk to each other. This is because the script was written and directed by an actual woman, horror legend and classic New York City curmudgeon Roberta Findlay. Even after the passing of her husband and long-time collaborator Michael Findlay, she continued pumping out horror films. She wrote, directed, produced, composed, and shot at a time when there were painfully few women working in the genre. While her movies still have plenty of nudity and sleaze, they also contain dialogue that feels realistic and familiar. Girls complain that they have to go the bathroom or are cold. One pledge can’t find her glasses while another encourages her friend to eat healthy. The conversations are mundane and don’t necessarily drive the narrative forward, but that’s what makes it refreshing. Here are real young women talking like real young women and not talking the way men think real young women talk like.
Blood Sisters is not without weaknesses. There are many, many shots of people turning door knobs and the tape-recording of a baby’s relentless cries becomes, well, relentless. The first half is slow to warm up, but once it gets going, it boils. The practical effects are simple but well executed, the cinematography is at times artful and surreal, and the blood spills tastefully. In the end, this film confirms that pledging a sorority is just a terrible idea. If you want to live, then stay out of Kappa Gamma Tau, Becky.
The sickest burn in Blood Sisters is when Linda hassles her boyfriend and he says, “You remind me of my mom.”