October Horrorshow: Haunting on Fraternity Row

Haunting on Fraternity Row movie posterWhat a vile, vile movie. It could have been worse. Oh, so much worse. But, this flick still managed to plumb the depths of taste, artistry, technique, and every other highfalutin term about film one can come up with. It’s the type of film that counts on awakening the hormonal 13-year-old boy in all of us. I’m not even sure 13-year-old boys would like this trash much, though.

Haunting on Fraternity Row comes to us via writer/director Brant Sersen and fellow screenwriter Jeff Cahn. Released last year, Haunting tells the story of a massive end-of-term fraternity house blowout that turns deadly when a ghost spoils the show.

It’s the last Luau for seniors Jason (Glee alumnus Jacob Artist), Tanner (Jayson Blair), Dougie (Ashton Moio), and chapter president Grant (Cameron Moulène). This will be the last great party before they head off and become responsible adults. They plan to get drunk, stoned, wired, laid, and everything else that occupies the mind of the young fraternity member. Tanner, in particular, is a real treat. He’s a hunky meathead who is wrapping up his sixth year of college, and is looking to end the Luau with his sixth Luau threesome in a row. These are the people that occupy this film.

There are also a gaggle of pledges, most prominent among them being Wiggles (Breon Pugh). Viewers don’t see that much of the pledges, though, because they’re the ones holding the cameras. That’s right. Haunting on Fraternity Row is a found footage flick. Only, it’s about the weakest use of the format I’ve ever seen.

For one, the camera work is too good. Shaky camera work has always been a source of complaint when it comes to found footage, but seeing competent camera work throws one right out of the illusion. We’re supposed to believe that not only are the pledges dutifully and unfailingly filming everything that happens in the fraternity house, they are also skilled enough to set up some complicated shots. Framing, pans, multiple cameras and angles to cover all the relevant action in a room, and they hardly ever participate in the scene. Characters on camera react to all the ghostly happenings, yet the pledges behind the cameras hardly twitch, nor do they have much to say about the incredible events they are witness to. It would have been better to film this conventionally.

Anyway, the whole fracas gets started when a keg takes a tumble down the basement steps and cracks some drywall. Jason, Dougie, and Tanner pull away the wall and discover a hidden room. Inside, the walls are covered with electric lamps, and there is a small altar in the middle. It looks like they found an old room that past members would use for some bizarre hazing ritual. Honestly, that’s a pretty logical conclusion to make. But, it turns out that the room was a prison for an evil entity, who is now free to roam the house and squish people’s eyes.

Before that, though, it’s time to party!!

There is a long sequence in the middle of this flick that resembles a Girls Gone Wild commercial. Tropical drinks and gratuitous nudity abound. It’s a touch more watchable than the youthful shenanigans of Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave, but no less shallow. Shallow shit is much better to be a participant in, rather than a mere watcher on the other side of a screen.

The characters, in general, are douchebags. We all know the type. The good news is that the douchebaggery of the fraternity brothers and partying sorority sisters is played tongue-in-cheek. The bad news is that Sersen wasn’t up to the task of bringing the right amount of absurdity to the movie. Blair was up to the task, as was Chester Rushing, who played Tanner’s 16-year-old, and very annoying, brother. For the most part, though, these are just very unpleasant people to be spending time with.

It’s not scary, the CGI stinks, the acting is first-take quality, the found footage technique was misused, and the characters make me want to apologize for my own college days. For a movie this bad, it has an above average amount of quality moments, but they do nothing to drag this flick out of the gutter. Haunting on Fraternity Row is a bad one, good for a hate watch only. It settles into the #250 spot in the Watchability Index in between Summer City and Battleship. Yuck.

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