Canadian slasher movie, Girl House, made a “blink and you’ll miss it” debut at a small film festival. Afterwards, the Entertainment One slasher made a quiet transition to VOD platforms where it faded into obscurity. On one hand, Girl House was a relatively straightforward approach to the subgenre. Additionally, its “camera in every room” premise wasn’t entirely new either. Recall the abysmal Halloween: Resurrection and its “reality television” spin on the franchise. Yet despite its lack of fresh spin on a familiar narrative, Girl House proved to a brutal, raw subgenre entry for diehard fans.
Struggling to pay her tuition, college student Kylie turns to sex work for extra cash. Her new off-campus job takes her to the “Girl House”. Owned and operated by budding entrepreneur, Garry Preston, the “Girl House” is the latest in online pornographic entertainment. Cameras capture 24/7 livefeeds of each room and the sex workers who reside in the house. While she’s initially unsure of herself, Kylie quickly adjusts and earns a number of fans, including the strange loner, “LoverBoy”. But when “LoverBoy” feels spurned by Kylie, he finds the house intent on a brutal reprisal.
Girl House a Straightforward, But Effectively Nasty, Slasher Movie
Amidst a sea of “too clever for their own good” meta-slashers, Girl House does something very different. It doesn’t do anything different with the slasher formula. Unlike You Might Be The Killer, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, or Final Girls, writer Nick Gordon penned a pretty straightforward slasher. Likewise, director Trevor Matthews plays the material with relative seriousness, taking few detours from audience expectation. With little emphasis on jump scares, Girl House takes the same approach as other 2010s’ slashers, including Laid to Rest. Specifically, Matthews and Gordon focus on a lean, but brutal, narrative that moves at a breakneck pace once the ball starts rolling.
…Matthews and Gordon focus on a lean, but brutal, narrative …
Though Girl House lacks the in-your-face explicit gore of a Terrifier, it’s no less a mean slasher movie. Once Matthews lets “LoverBoy” loose in the “Girl House”, the kills come quickly and with a surprisingly nasty edge. Slaine’s “LoverBoy” is a ruthless predator and his mask offers a uniquely creepy aesthetic. Sledgehammers, broken limbs, suffocation, sauna prisons, and decapitations are committed to the screen with sharp editing and shocking effect. As a filmmaker, Matthews exhibits a much better-than-expected handle on pacing and, yes, a decent helping of suspense. The movie’s early “smart home” is put to excellent use for the third act’s “cat and mouse” chase. And the “Final Girl’s” revenge is as cathartic as it is cringeworthy. To his credit, Matthews even manages to leave audiences with a lingering feeling of “survivor’s guilt” with his final shot.
Girl House Opens Itself To Much of the Same Criticisms of 80s Slashers
One of the strengths of recent “meta-slashers” has been there subversion of the often misogynistic tendencies of their 80s predecessors. Not surprisingly then, Girl House, by virtue of playing it straight, falls prey to the same problems of early slashers. On a superficial level, Girl House seemingly offers the same positive take on sex work as recent Netflix release, Cam. That is, Gordon’s screenplay humanizes “Kylie”, and Ali Cobrin’s strong performance emulates the same strength of some of horror’s best “Final Girls”. But the movie’s gratuitous nudity, lingering shots of cruel violence against its female characters, and final shot align more closely with the underlying conservative tone of 80s slashers. To some extent, Girl House “punishes” its female characters for their sexuality.
Not surprisingly then, Girl House, by virtue of playing it straight, falls prey to the same problems of early slashers.
In addition to the exploitative nudity and brutality of its violence, Girl House’s characterization of its killer, LoverBoy, comes straight out of the 80s. While Entertainment One released Girl House before the term “incel” had much meaning to the general public, its killer is the classic embittered “involuntary celibate”. Consistent with “Golden Age” slashers, LoverBoy’s origins are sad, but contrived, while also “blaming” women for his rage. A later scene where a female office worker berates “LoverBoy” for leering at her exposed panties similarly shifts blame to female characters. Rather than offering some criticism or subversion of this kind of male entitlement, Girl House reinforces it.
Girl House a Better-Than-Expected Contemporary Slasher Movie
Though it’s unlikely to appeal to non-slasher movie fans, Girl House takes the familiar and delivers on the premise with a brutal efficiency. Some horror fans may take exception with the movie’s treatment of its women and failure to more strongly condemn its killer’s “incel” rage. Other fans may find the movie cathartic and the ultimate fate of “LoverBoy” as a form of critique. Certainly, Girl House boasts better-than-expect filmmaking and performances across the board. Arguably, it’s one of the better slashers you haven’t heard of in the last decade.
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