Girl House (2014)
03/16/2016 - There's been a rush of "grindhouse" flicks in the past few years, inspired by and capitalizing on the success of the Tarantino/Rodriguez collaborative effort Grindhouse in 2007. The surge isn't unwelcome, necessarily, but producing something that simply looks or feels like some scratched-up and little-known exploitation relic from forty years ago doesn't automatically make it good. And I wouldn't claim, either, that Trevor Matthews meant to be among that crowd with his 2014 debut Girl House, but among them he is.
Girl House isn't far removed from any other slasher flick made in the last thirty years or so: an attempt to make a serious film but fully aware of what its audience really wants - the sizzle without the steak - and it works. The grindhouses may be empty and abandoned, but there's still a hungry mob cheering on the gussied-up thrills and gratuitous spectacle that once garnished their marquees. And, in the digital age, many of these can premiere as online rentals or on-demand features, often having much better production quality than their forebears.
Our young, occasionally-topless protagonist is Kylie Atkins (Ali Cobrin); she's in college and trying to find a way to make ends meet, knowing her mom is struggling financially. Since there's apparently no other way for a girl like her to make decent money, she decides to strip her clothes for cash. She moves into Girl House, which is home to a group of girls teasing men worldwide via their website, and cameras all over the house are capturing every detail. I won't bother with introducing the other girls, all that matters is they're eye candy and ultimately targets for the Bad Guy.
Then, there's the killer. Slaine plays Loverboy, an introverted and overweight man who's got some issues with women. It's a solid performance; although the character lacks any real substance, he's creepy and uncomfortable to watch. He has a backstory, but it really doesn't matter much and it's fairly forgettable except for a fantastic face-plant that'll make you cringe. Loverboy also happens to be a master computer hacker and is incredibly quick for his size, but he'd have to be for this whole setup to work, so we'll let that go. His motivations and exact perversions or misconceptions are a bit blurry, but suffice it to say, he wants to hurt these girls. Oh, and he wears a mask at the end for no discernible reason, so ... yeah.
The script (Nick Gordon) is advertised as being structured around Halloween, but I really don't know if I should care. There's a half-assed attempt at a love story, a few supporting characters to pad the second act, an unhelpful 911 operator, a second master computer hacker, and a little too much reading required. There's not much in the way of character development, cinematographic effort, or even logic. Missing entirely is any discussion of female empowerment or of sex workers' displacement in society (to be fair, Matthews apparently did have something to say, you'll read below). But you need to know what you want with this sort of thing: some pointless nudity and a whole lot of killing. And guess what? That's what you get!
In an interview with Samuel Zimmerman of Shock Til You Drop, Matthews said, "I think that the story is kind of a cautionary tale against being too liberal with your identity... everyone’s posting all of their personal information online." So, I guess everyone should watch this movie to learn this incredibly valuable and otherwise difficult-to-guess life lesson? Haha! See, this is actually what makes for a great "grindhouse" flick: having a director who was perfectly serious the whole time. It's better when they aren't in on the laugh.
Is it a good movie? Nope. Is it fun? Hell yeah. It delivers on its promises, and the final act is full of scares and blood and skin and death. Girl House delivers a climactic orgy of slayings and stabbings with just the right amount of tension to keep up the pace. And, boobs.