To most of us free-thinking, intelligent-minded individuals, just the idea of Greek sororities and fraternities is hell on Earth. For the young women of Phi Lambda, being Greek has just become life or death in The Row, a brand new Slasher/Thriller that arrives in select theaters and On Demand as of Friday, July 27, 2018, thanks to Lionsgate.
Vanterton State University, somewhere on the sunny West Coast. Freshman Riley Cole (Lala Kent: One Shot 2014, Dudes & Dragons 2015) has just arrived on campus, dropped off by her hyper-vigilant, uber-protective cop dad, Detective Cole (Randy Couture: Big Stan 2007, The Expendables 2010). Almost instantly, her bubbly blonde bestie, Becks (Mia Rose Frampton: Make It or Break It series, Bridesmaids 2011), begins hyping the Phi Lambda house, dubbing them the “Victoria’s Secret of sororities.” Riley’s not exactly sold on chapter-membership, but Becks begs her to tag along to a rush party, even if it is just to ogle Zeta frat’s resident heartthrob, Carter West (Dylan Sprayberry: Teen Wolf series, The Malibu Tapes 2018).
As the girls enmesh themselves into the world of Greek life – highlights of which include pool parties and getting wasted – a mystery begins to mount around them. First, there is the fact that Riley’s deceased mother, whom she seems to know little about, was once a member of Phi Lambda. Then, there is the bodies that are piling up around the sorority. It all starts during a hazing ritual, when the body of Isabel (Sarah McDaniel: Deported 2017, Perfect 2018), Carter’s ex-girlfriend, turns up murdered and staged to look like some kind of human doll. As the situation progresses, Riley’s father will lead the race against time to solve the mystery of the campus murders, all while the circle of death narrows around his daughter.
Clocking in at 85 minutes in-length, The Row was directed by Matty Beckerman (Alien Abduction 2014) and written by Sarah Scougal (Albion: The Enchanted Stallion 2016). The film also stars Shea Buckner (Marauders 2016, Gotti 2018) as Riley’s love interest, Miller; Jennifer Titus (Zoombies 2016, Reprisal 2018) as house mother, Nina; Colin Egglesfield (All My Children series, Rizzoli & Isles series) as Psych Professor Villiers; and Tyler Jon Olson (Jarhead 2005, Gotti 2018) as Detective Grey.
Here is the key to The Row: much like a sorority sister, it is not smart. Billed as a Thriller, the film has elements of Slasher-Horror, so, yes, you should expect some blood, but, no, there is nothing scary or shocking – or even creepy – here; just a lot of boobs, booze, and drugs. In fact, do not expect much by way of anything else, as all of the suspects are predictably cliche , and narrowing down the whodunnit is pretty easy if you are a fan of Thrillers and/or Horror. Just remember: everyone has a sketchy past, and everyone has a motive!
Acting-wise, the cast of The Row are not given much to work with beyond the standard tropes. Kent’s Riley is a pretty young woman, struggling with her past while trying to embrace her future. For all basic purposes, she is a bit of a hesitant Greek: a freshman who wants to enjoy life, but someone who also has a level of respect for her studies and herself. Couture, as her cop father, is appropriately over-protective, offering some slight comedy in spots, but ultimately comes across as a bit (unintentionally) creepy at times.
Also creepy is Egglesfield’s Villiers, though this is clearly intentional. Meanwhile, the sorority girls and Sprayberry’s Carter are merely present as eye-candy. The wild card of the entire production seems to be Buckner’s Miller, who comes across as a nice guy, a hard-working guy, but is too old for college life and too young for the character that he portrays. If you do the math, Miller would need to be, at the absolute youngest, in his late thirties to fit the timeline that the script paints; while Buckner is far from pushing 40.
Whatever the case, no matter how you slice it or what you are willing to forgive, The Row is not an intelligent, awe-inspiring film offering; rather, ask no questions and just take this solely for its entertainment value. Ultimately, that means that The Row is geared towards teens and young adults, audiences that will revel in the booze and boobs prevalent in the film, but search for no deeper values.
For all its faults, okay, The Row is not all bad, and it can hold your interest for its run-time, but this is certainly nothing campy, nothing that is going to make you want to watch again and again. If you are willing to simply let-go of your mind for 85 minutes and dip into a pool of college lust and ritualistic Greek Life, go for it. Not ready to pledge Phi Lambda, CrypticRock give The Row 3 of 5 stars.