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Girlhouse is simply one of the best old school style slashers that I have seen in years. Yes, it has some modern touches, but at heart, it’s right out of the 80s slasher era.
The story opens in 1988 with a chubby and shy boy (Issac Faulkner) being teased and humiliated by two mean girls (Camren Bicondova and Baylee Wall) …and a bit later, his vicious revenge. We then cut to modern times where pretty, down-on-her-luck college student, Kylie (Ali Cobrin) has accepted an invitation to join Girlhouse, a secluded and hidden mansion where a group of nubile young woman live and are filmed on webcams, non-stop, for broadcast on the Girlhouse site. Members pay to watch and chat with the girls who are free to get as sexual as they want with their viewers. It’s up to them how far they go for their internet voyeurs and Kylie needs the cash the site pays for her tuition at school. She gives it a go with some playful striptease, and her girl-next-door beauty is an overnight hit. Kylie also attracts the attention of Girlhouse regular Loverboy (Slaine) who is a somewhat chubby, reclusive and disturbed computer tech. When a mean prank by one of the other girls sets him off, Loverboy blames Kylie and uses his skills to track down the location of Girlhouse and take out his revenge…online for all the members to witness.
Written by Nick Gordon and directed by Trevor Matthews and Jon Knautz, this is both old-fashioned slasher flick and a cleverly contemporary one, with its use of webcams and its reality TV/Cyber Sex set-up. Sure, there are a lot of films that use laptops and cameras to convey action nowadays, but this is not found footage and only uses the format occasionally to successfully generate suspense. Strip away the modern tech and approach and you still get the classic slasher formula of a deranged individual stalking a girl-next-door type to avenge a prank or humiliation. The film establishes immediately that Loverboy is the chubby kid in the prologue, all grown up and all the more twisted. It gives him personality and establishes him as an unnerving threat long before he puts on his equally disturbing mask and enters Girlhouse to exact his cruel and vicious revenge. The girls are all given enough time to let their personalities sink in before the killing starts and thus, we are sympathetic and if that’s not enough, the kills are quite brutal and graphic and it’s hard to not feel bad for even the least likable of the women. Kylie is obviously our final girl and is smart, resourceful and fills the classic shoes very well, especially in the chilling and suspenseful last act. Matthews and Knautz know and use the formula well. They generate some nice chills and suspense, and the brutal opening sequence establishes the atmosphere almost immediately. Even when the film is introducing our characters, the audience knows that something bad is coming…and when it does, the filmmakers orchestrate the night of terror in classic form. There is a very effective score by Tomandandy and some stylish cinematography by Chris Norr to support the filmmakers vision.
As for the players in this slasher, Ali Corbin makes a hell of a good final girl. She’s sweet, yet sexy and when her lethal admirer comes knocking, Corbin gives us a clever and resourceful fighter in her Kylie. A classic and yet, quite modern final girl. Actor Slaine makes for a very disturbing Loverboy. He oozes creepiness and there is a lot of smoldering anger and frustration behind his blank stare. His character gets established early, so when he puts on his bizarre mask, we don’t need to see his eyes or facial expressions to know what is going on under there. Slaine is also a large man, and he has enough physical presence to make quite a satisfactory killer. The mostly female supporting cast are all effective in being varied types that avoid being too stereotypical. Adam Dimarco makes a charming romantic interest for Kylie and James Thomas makes Girlhouse entrepreneur Gary Preston a fairly likable person when a role like this is usually reserved for a generic sleazy creep. A good and functional cast that serve the film’s purposes well.
Overall, I really liked this flick a lot. As a fan of the 80s slasher movies, I really enjoyed how this film used the formula loyally and updated it at the same time. It reminded me of some of the better flicks of the 80s slasher era and yet had its own style and remained contemporary. Matthews and Knautz have some definite potential and know their material. They gave the film atmosphere, style, suspense and some brutally shocking moments. They used the modern technology angles well…and cleverly…and were equally successful in presenting the time-honored trappings of an effective killer and a endearing final girl. A damn good slasher and a fun/scary horror flick.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Loverboys.