Sorority Wars Review (2009) – If M. Night Shyamalan Made a Teen Chick Flick

Sorority Wars is a made-for-TV film for Lifetime that originally aired in 2009. It bears no relation to either Bride Wars or Star Wars. Or at least, not officially. It stars Lucy Hale as Katie Parker, before her better known role in Pretty Little Liars as the one with the unhealthy relationship with the teacher.

The basic premise of Sorority Wars is pretty simple to understand. It’s about two sororities going to war with one another to win the big sorority prize (the “tri-crown trophy”). At first I was worried this might retread some of the same elements as Miley Cyrus’ awful, awful So Undercover, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. It gives the genre some interesting spins, and puts out a fairly tight story with a good message.

And yes, it's one of those teen movies that decided weird panel effects were cool.

And yes, it’s one of those teen movies that decided weird panel effects were cool.

As Katie’s mother was a big Delta sorority member when she was at college Katie is therefore a “legacy” — a “premium girl” according to Gwen, who is Delta’s “rush chair”. The “rushes” are where girls meet the different sororities and both the girls and the members get a feel for one another, who they would like to apply for and who they would like to accept. I don’t want to get too bogged down in terminology, but it mainly means that Delta really want Katie to join their group, and as Katie’s mother was a Delta, they feel entitled to her. It should be noted at this point that the Beta fraternity has some sort of affiliation with the girls of Delta, too. Keep that in mind. Also Katie has a “less popular” friend named Sara (Phoebe Strole) who she’s rooming with until they find out whether or not they will be staying in sorority houses.

"Less popular." Sorority Wars Review

“Less popular.”

During the rushes Katie happens upon some unsavory banter between some Delta girls in the bathroom at their party. She storms off taking Sara with her, but they get questioned in the front garden. Things escalate as Katie’s desire to join Delta wavers, especially after looking at the other houses they seemed pretty nice too if not nicer. Strong words are shared and Katie gets angry that they’re allowing minors to drink. This overheard by the Rush President, and Katie ends up having to testify in some kind of weird sorority court, for which she becomes shunned and hated by the Deltas.

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This shot is a work of art.

Comparing the film to an M. Night Shyamalan film is a big exaggeration, but the way it plays with assumptions for tiny little twists is great. The initial love interest character turns out to be a jerk, and the one she initially thinks was a jerk turns out to be quite nice, and just got off to a bad start. Who she’s friends with is questioned, and then questioned again — a big rift between Katie and her friend patched up without too much fanfare just because they were friends. The “antagonist” losing gracefully. There are nice human truths in this that you wouldn’t usually expect from the kind of film this seems to be.  Sorority Wars does follow through a lot of the usual teen chick flick tropes, but it’s also quite aware of them, and it’s more than willing to play with your expectations a little bit.

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“Three girls in pink doing a synchronised walk down a hallway? Check.”

The film even tactfully explores elements of bullying and victim blaming through the way Katie is treated by the Deltas and the rest of her peers, and especially through her relationship with her mother, herself torn between her allegiance to the Delta alumni and her own daughter. It’s also nice to see that while there is a romance element, it’s not really a big deal once it’s been firmly set up. After they begin dating the plotline largely goes away, his most standout role in the plot is to very inaudibly murmur “jucy turkey” to defuse a tense moment at Thanksgiving, the audio quality being so bad it may have been recorded by accident and they just decided to use it in edit. Similarly her dad, too, barely impacts the plot, besides being vaguely supportive and mostly quiet.

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“Sadness” by Lucy Hale

Sorority Wars is kind of as it sounds. It’s a film largely focused around female characters, and the relationships between them. It’s refreshing to see this explored in a way that really doesn’t involve men very much at all. They’re only trying to impress and comes to terms with who they are in respects to each other, and ultimately to find out where they belong.While there are some funny, dumb bits as you’d expect from a film like this, it ultimately has its heart in the right place. The movie hangs on the performances of Lucy Hale and Phoebe Strole as the leads, and they do a great job of selling it. As a made for TV movie this is probably overlooked a lot. But you might find it’s actually a hidden gem. It pairs my joy of watching vaguely bad and silly teen chick flicks, with an ultimately good heart and underlying message — and that’s just brilliant.

My face watching the movie.

My face watching the movie.

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