When the leading lady of a sexploitation/slasher film says something as horrifically obvious as “I really don’t see how anything bad could happen” you know full well that things are going to get out of hand. College student Kylie Atkins (Ali Cobrin), mourning the recent death of her father and attempting to lessen the economic burden on her bereaved mother, decides to move in to the ‘GirlHouse’ and frolic on webcam for a motley crew of online subscribers who range from randy teenagers, IT execs and Japanese dry cleaners, to desperate college students, and a homicidally depraved basement dweller whose nom de plume is Loverboy (Slaine). Why couldn’t she just wait on tables or work in a shop? We’ll never know…
In a Big Brother style environment, the housemates, unsurprisingly all attractive females in their twenties in various states of undress and explicit activity, are monitored by innumerable cameras for both the titillation of their fans and their own security. Entrepreneur Gary Preston (James Thomas) – who considers himself the Hugh Hefner of the 21st century – maintains that the secret location of the house and top notch security ensure that the girls are completely safe at all times. It’s the “Fort Knox of websites” he says. Oh, Gary…
So what is the Canadian directorial partnership of Knautz and Matthews trying to say with this film? The way in which girls are lured to the porn industry by the money on offer and the threat from online predators are two elements raised before essentially giving way to gratuitous violence and general mayhem.
After the opening credit sequence, which is intercut with sounds and images of an overtly sexual nature, a quote from none other than Ted Bundy refers to how porn can incite men to commit violence. Shortly thereafter a young chubby chap is chased and taunted by two girls who fool him into a game of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” They laugh at the size of his little man and the instigator is duly dispatched for this mockery – but she deserved it, right? The film, at least initially, suggests we should sympathise with this juvenile psychopath and excuse the fact he pushes a girl off a bridge.
The young chubby chap grows into an older even chubbier chap and when a similarly embarrassing incident occurs inside the house the suppressed rage and sexual deviancy of housemates’ favourite Loverboy erupts – cue rampage and vicious deaths by any and all means available to him.
People sometimes balk at the prospect of watching a film in black and white or in a foreign language with subtitles; I am more strongly opposed to films where the majority of the action involves the mutilation, disfigurement and butchering of women. Other than one head being slammed in a doorway and some pepper spray to the face, Girl House features next to no violence against men but devotes nearly half its running time to displaying its female characters being strangled by heroine tourniquets, suffocating on sex toys or taking a croquet mallet to the side of the head. But hey, if that’s your thing then I suppose this is the film for you.
To give the film some credit, the isolation of the house accentuates the helplessness of its residents when things go south and keeps things rolling as Kylie’s boyfriend, Ben (Adam DiMarco), desperately tries to save her. The tension is ratcheted up by classic slasher tropes of Loverboy hiding in darkened corners and “he’s behind you” moments à la Halloween or Scream. His mask is a derivative of these films as well and his unlikely speed, agility (given Slaine’s lumbering size) and frantic attacks do add some weight to what is otherwise a fairly generic bad guy.
The differing viewpoints – from security cameras, camcorders and portable devices, as well as from a number of the characters – add depth by making the action multi-dimensional without being bewildering and is also used to tie the cat-and-mouse narrative together as we move towards its conclusion.
Mid-way through Girl House Kylie and Ben enjoy some R&R by seeing Rear Window at an art house cinema in Charlotte. Ben comments its well worth driving 70 miles to see a Hitchcock film; I would agree. The master of suspense crafted his films with the precision of a surgeon wielding a scalpel, Girl House was made with a spoon and I wouldn’t drive all that far to see it.