The film was released in January 21, 1983 in the United States, where it grossed $10 million. Despite the mixed reception, The House on Sorority Row has since become a cult classic among fans of the genre. A remake, titled Sorority Row, was released in 2009.
Seven sorority sisters pull a prank on their strict house mother, Mrs. Slater, who is known for carrying a sharp walking cane. Their plan is to put her cane out in their dirty pool and force her at gunpoint to retrieve it. The prank goes awry when Vicki, believing the gun to be loaded with blanks, shoots Slater who collapses and appears to be dead. The girls agree to hide the body in the pool until their graduation party is finished.
As the party begins, a guest wanders around the pool and an unidentified figure stabs him through the throat with Slater's cane. When other guests attempt to throw Jeanie in the pool, they are stopped by the sorority sisters. The girls realize that if the pool lights get switched on they will reveal Slater's body, so Stevie goes into the power room to disable them. While doing so, she is brutally stabbed to death by the cane-wielding figure. Later, the pool lights do come on, but Slater's body is no longer in the pool. The girls speculate about what could have happened to both Stevie and the body.
Deciding that Slater must still be alive, Vicki orders the girls to search for her. Morgan enters Slater's room where Slater's trussed-up body falls on her from the attic. She is joined by the sisters, and Vickie suggests hiding the body in the old cemetery. Morgan runs upset to her room where she is stabbed to death by the killer with Slater's cane. Meanwhile, Katey goes into the attic and discovers children's toys, a clown statue, and a dead bloodied bird lying in its cage. Diane is waiting in her van for the other girls, but the murderer stabs her to death through the sunroof. Jeanie, the most nervous member of the group, is attacked while running back to the house, but manages to escape. After informing Katey about the attack, Jeanie arms herself with a kitchen knife and is chased into the upstairs bathroom. As she hides in a stall, the killer enters the bathroom and looks in each stall. As the killer reaches the last stall, Jeanie bursts out of the stall to attack, but the killer gains the upper hand and slices into her throat with her own knife
Katey finds a medical alert tag on a necklace belonging to Slater. She calls the phone number and is put through to a Dr. Beck who soon arrives at the house. The two discover the bodies of Stevie, Morgan, and Diane in the pool before beginning to believe that Slater is responsible for the attacks. Meanwhile, Vicki and Liz are attempting to bury the body. As they are about to bury the body, Liz and Vicki are both shortly killed by the assailant. Katey and Dr. Beck travel to the cemetery where Katey finds the bodies of Vicki and Liz at the bottom of an open grave while Dr. Beck finds Slater's body in the back of the van.
After forcibly giving Katey a sedative upon returning to the house, Dr. Beck reveals that Slater had a son named Eric who was horribly deformed and mentally underdeveloped thanks to an illegal fertility treatment he had given her. It is revealed that Eric was living in the sorority house's attic and witnessed the death of his mother to extract revenge on the girls. Dr. Beck uses Katey as bait so he can capture Eric with a tranquilizer gun and cover up his crime. Upon seeing someone coming through the door, Dr. Beck shoots the person, only to see that it was Peter, Katey's date. Eric then arrives and hacks Dr. Beck to death while Katey searches for Vicki's gun. She discovers Eric standing over Dr. Beck's body, but when she pulls the trigger the gun will not fire, and he spots her. She flees to the upstairs bathroom to find and release the gun's safety catch, which she does, but is horrified when she finds Jeanie's severed head in the toilet. Katey climbs up into the attic where she is attacked by Eric, who is now wearing a clown costume. Katey shoots him repeatedly, which reveals the gun is loaded with blanks. She then grabs a doll and uses the pin sticking out of its neck to stab Eric numerous times, and he falls through the attic hatch to the floor below. Katey peers down and is relieved to see him motionless, believing that he is dead. However, Eric was only stunned as he opens his eyes, leaving both of their fates unknown.
The House on Sorority Row was filmed on location in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1982, with a budget of a mere $425,000.
In an interview with director Mark Rosman, it was revealed that Lois Kelso Hunt's performance is entirely dubbed, as her voice was deemed not "scary" enough for the role.
According to Rosman, Film Ventures requested two changes to the final cut of the film. The first was that the original opening scene, which was shot in black & white, be colorized. So the opening sequence was color-tinted in black & blue. The second change was in regards to the original ending. In the director's original ending, Katherine is discovered floating dead in the pool, apparently Eric's final victim. Film Ventures felt the ending too downbeat, so as a result Katherine survives in the finished version.
The one-sheet poster and advertising were created by Film Ventures International's regular advertising agency, Design Projects Incorporated. Design Project's owner, Rick Albert art directed the key art and title treatment design. The key art was illustrated by Jack Lynwood, who painted illustrations for many motion picture campaigns during the late 1970s and 80's. The copylines were written by Film Ventures' Edward L. Montoro.
The film's music score was written by Richard Band and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The Washington D.C. based powerpop band 4 Out of 5 Doctors appears in the movie, performing several of their songs.
La-La Land Records issued a disc of Band's score in 2015.
Elite Entertainment released The House on Sorority Row on DVD on November 14, 2000. The disc featured the film's original theatrical trailer as a supplementary feature. The DVD was re-printed and released again on November 18, 2003. By 2008, the DVD was out of print and extremely difficult to find. However, the movie was re-released on January 12, 2010, on Amazon as a special 25 year special anniversary edition.
On January 24, 2011, Scorpion Releasing and Katarina Waters's Nightmare Theater will release the 2-disc remastered edition.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the website reports that 50% of 8 sampled critics gave the film mixed reviews, with an average score of 5 out of 10.
The film was released in US theaters on January 21, 1983, and took in $617,661 in its opening weekend on 153 screens, ranking a low No. 14 at the box office. By February 21, 1983, exactly one month after its original release, the film had grossed $4,330,028. Its ultimate gross totaled $10,604,986.
On September 11, 2009, a remake titled Sorority Row was released by Summit Entertainment. The film was directed by Stewart Hendler, with Mark Rosman, the director of the original, serving as an executive producer. stars Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Audrina Patridge, Margo Harshman, and Carrie Fisher. The script has been rewritten by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger. It is based on the original screenplay Seven Sisters by Rosman, though the plot is vastly different. The film mostly negative reviews from critics but was a moderate box office success.