Here in the age of the iPad and it’s contemporaries, virtually everyone walking around today is a filmmaker, at least in the spirit of the term. Everything gets recorded these days, video blogs and school fights and traffic stops and some dipshit lighting bottle rockets in his ass…pretty much everything you never wanted to see gets plastered on the wonderful world wide web for all to see. Blend that facet with the one singular constant on the ‘net (no, it’s not memes, it’s porn; all six of you that didn’t know that, sorry to break it so harshly), and you’d think to have some pretty damned fertile soil for a horror flick, no? I mean, internet porn is a ready-made setting for some bad things to happen, all from a voyeuristic perspective; that’s a good jumping-off spot for a scare-flick, going all the way back to (at least conceptually) Peeping Tom. Oddly enough, it’s a lightly-tread avenue for modern horror, with only a few films that really tried to incorporate modern social technology into the tapestry of horror. Last year saw Lucky Bastard (not horrible, but not great), The Den touched upon vid-chatting as a basis for “found-footage” horror (again, not awful, but kinda disappointing), and there’s always Halloween: Resurrection (which I’m not even gonna get into here; too traumatic). There are, of course, other flicks that’ve touched upon the internet and/or internet porn or used them as plot devices, but there’s a surprising shortage of ones that have actually successfully utilized it as the framework and catalyst for a horror film.
Along comes Girl House, the new voyeur-slasher from Trevor Matthews; I gotta tell ya, folks, when this one first came across my desk, I took one look at the title and thought “Marvelous! Another completely original (is there any other kind?) T & A slasher flick!!”, followed very quickly by “Wonder if I can talk someone else into reviewing this one…?”
Kylie is struggling through college; not on the GPA end, but on the financial end, and the recent death of her father has placed a heavy burden on her mother. Wanting to be able to complete her education and be able to help her mom through the upcoming economic difficulties she’s bound to face, she commits to something that flies in the face of her “good-girl” nature: she agrees to join the Girl House, an internet site where attractive girls live in a house completely wired with cameras for the viewing pleasure of paying customers. This isn’t just a “reality TV” type of situation; Girl House is straight up pornography, with everything from private peepshows to personal sex-lives to bathroom visits and showers on display for the viewers. The more customers drawn by a girl, the more money she makes, so the impetus for sexy and lewd behavior is definitely present. Kylie finds herself able to come out of her shell somewhat, overcoming her reservations and shyness in the presence of the faceless audience; still, she draws the line at on-camera sex, and begins a gentle romance with Ben, an old friend from back home. The way she makes a living is a bit of an issue, but Ben recognizes that what she does isn’t who Kylie is, and the love between the two blossoms despite Ben’s early concerns. The fact that the house’s location is kept secret by “the finest, most impenetrable internet security in the world” is also a comfort to the Kylie and the other girls…but when a customer called “Loverboy” with very, very unhealthy, obsessive viewing habits and deep-rooted psychotic tendencies uses his considerable internet skills to track down the address of the home, it’s all too apparent that untraceability works against the good guys as well as the bad…the paying customers are treated to a hell of a lot more than they bargained for when “Loverboy” shows up with his bag of tools as both Ben and law enforcement race to find the Girl House….
I have to say, I was impressed; my earlier reservations evaporated within the first twenty minutes or so. Everything I remember from the really good slasher flicks back in the day were here; all the stereotypes are hit upon, but done with enough character development to give them some depth and actually make me give a damn about them (even the poor heroin addict!). The romance that blossoms between Kylie and Ben feels natural and logical, and the chemistry between them is both cutesy enough to please the ladies yet real enough where us guys don’t simply groan. There’s some commentary about pornography and its acceptance in today’s society (although it’s very existence results in a lot of carnage in this case), but it’s not preachy or shoved in your face. Writer Nick Gordon and director Matthews obviously have a passion about classic slashers, and do a great job of making an entertaining flick that manages to avoid being “just another slasher, add internet”. The acting is convincing across the board, with each of the “house girls” having distinct personalities, with their own quirks and trademarks, regardless of time on-screen. Ali Cobrin and Adam DiMarco, in the lead roles of Kylie and Ben, play very well, their nuances and body language as they move through first awkward moments and later romantic situations are very realistic and natural. It’s hip-hop artist Slaine, however, that brings this flick home for me; let’s face it, any slasher is only as good as it’s villain, and Slaine’s “Loverboy” is absolutely spot-on as our creepy-as-all-hell nutjob. His expressions and emotional displays play out in some truly terrifying moments, every time we see him.
When “Loverboy” goes into action, the film kinda falls back on some old tropes in terms of the mask and coveralls look, resulting in a visage that resembles Michael Myers crossed with Leatherface, but it still proves to be mighty damned scary with the swift, brutal, shop-tool-filled action displayed. Speaking of brutal, a lot of the best action takes place just off-camera, but a lot of the gore effects you will see are some of the most vicious I’ve seen in a film as close to mainstream as this (watch for the “door” scene; you’ll see what I mean); the film also boasts one of the most intimate, harrowing, and disturbing openings I’ve seen in quite a while.
I enjoyed the flick, peeps; although it is a slasher, and you’re not gonna see anything you’re not expecting, you will be seeing it in a creative way, with characters that feel like more than cardboard set-decor and a bad guy that will genuinely give you the creeps.
That’s a lot more than I can say for most slashers I’ve sat through in the last ten years or so.
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