Thursday, February 19, 2015

[REVIEW] Girl House

Fresh-faced college student, Kylie Atkins, seems like your typical girl next door; friendly, ambitious, pretty. Reserved, even, until the cameras start rolling. Strapped for cash with hefty tuition fees piling up, Kylie decides to take up residence in the Girl House, a secluded mansion equipped with beautiful young women and webcams in every room. Think Big Brother XXX. Within minutes of her first broadcast, she becomes the most popular girl in the house, and attracts the attention of a particularly creepy viewer who goes by the handle, Loverboy. I'm sure I don't need to explain where things are headed.

Girl House may not be home (see what I did there?) to much of anything we haven't seen before, but with a competent director at the helm, I found little to complain about. Director Trevor Matthews, writer of the wonderfully creepy and gory, The Shrine, actually seems to take slasher films seriously, but not to a fault. After all, no one is going into a film called Girl House looking for the meaning of life. Instead of insulting our intelligence with too little, or boring us with too much exposition, a fair balance is achieved, giving us just enough of what slasher fans are looking for.

The first two acts take the slow-burn approach in order to build a sense of impending doom and develop the characters (the house, included). The killer isn't overly complex, but is surprisingly effective. Most baddies come equipped with exaggerated evil grins and fiery eyes, but not Loverboy. In fact, he looks quite normal. Chubby, self-conscious, cripplingly shy, sitting at his computer in a dark room, just hoping for a little attention from the opposite sex. It doesn't seem that far removed from your Average Joe, and that's what's so great about him. He's almost sympathetic (...almost), making him believable and that much creepier. Then, of course, he dons a mask that looks like a deranged sex doll. Nuff said, right?

Considering the plot revolves around webcam sex shows, I was surprised that none of it felt exploitative or obnoxious. Kylie even gets into an argument on the subject of webcam modeling, revealing that she does feel shame, but also anger about how unfair that is. Little moments like that were enough to make us see these girls as real people with real problems, instead of empty bimbos. None of it was exactly deep or philosophical, obviously, but it was appreciated, nonetheless.

Once Loverboy finally snaps and tracks down the mansion, the film shifts from slow-burn to bloodbath, putting on a very different kind of show for the website's randy viewers. At this point, it's pure fun and games, and let me tell ya, Loverboy butchers these people like nobody's business.

Director Trevor Matthews and writer Nick Gordon have delivered a film that thankfully returns the sub-genre to its roots, providing all of the ingredients of simple old-school entertainment. Brutal, creepy and fun, Girl House is one of the best slasher films of the last 20 years.


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