“Whilst very much a back-to-basics slasher effort, GirlHouse proves itself to be a consistently entertaining ride”
In order to make enough extra cash to see her through her university studies, student Kylie signs up to be the latest addition to the roster of online fap-fest “GirlHouse”. The site itself is a members only voyage of voyeurism, whereby subscribers can spend their time viewing the daily (and nightly) activities of the house’s smokin’ hot female residents, and spend money treating themselves to X-rated private chats and cam shows. So far, so 21st Century.
Things generally go well upon Kylie’s arrival – her fellow residents proving to be a (for the most part) friendly and accommodating bunch – and it isn’t long before she comes across a particular regular of the site who uses the avatar of Loverboy. Played with a surprisingly malignant flair by rapper-turned-actor Slaine, the rotund and withdrawn Loverboy is a cable-wrangling IT professional by day, basement-dwelling shut-in by night – and he appears to be dangerously obsessed with the girls whom he spends his every free minute staring at through his computer monitor. He doesn’t take it kindly, then, when his trust is betrayed by Kylie not only being unavailable for some planned private time, but also by her sharing a photograph of him with the other girls.
This slight won’t stand, and so Loverboy tracks down the location of the titular home and, using his IT smarts, infiltrates and takes control of the high-tech building in order to give viewers a show the likes of which they’ve never seen before.
Whilst very much a back-to-basics slasher effort, GirlHouse (titled Girl House in the US) proves itself to be a consistently entertaining ride. Ali Cobrin shines as the reserved, but realistically-minded Kylie, while writer Nick Gordon wisely avoids heading down the road of introducing the kind of unwarranted, wanton bitchiness one would expect in an attempt to create drama within the house – because when Loverboy shows up, these girls have more than enough drama to deal with. The cast and crew behind the offerings of the fictional GirlHouse website are a generally bubbly and likeable lot, even if they remain predominantly broadly drawn in terms of characterisation. It’s enough to get by on before the carnage starts, adding to the film’s inherently easy watch.
Also contributing to this easy-going feel is the film’s refusal to objectify its female protagonists. Though the nature of their jobs may do that, GirlHouse’s lens does not – it never feels exploitative of its cast and, for the most part, avoids throwing explicit nudity or sex around with abandon. What it does have is a nice injection of good-natured humour, and enough blood and brutality in the final act to satisfy all but the most demanding of slasher fans.
Though Loverboy himself is certainly a formidable and intimidating presence, the awfulness inflicted on his quarry rarely lands with gravitas, even when it’s being watched by suitably horrified online viewers. The film tends to lack a true sense of danger and fear, which is largely down to the paper-thin characters. A solid example of this is the inclusion of a subplot involving an ex-resident of the house who returns out the blue, having previously been fired due to her erratic behaviour (stemming from a heroin addiction).
Her return (and acceptance, given her claims of now being drug-free) is abrupt, and the character serves to offer very little to the story from that point until her inevitable demise – nothing more than a little extra meat shoved into line before the grinder. The same can pretty much be said of another subplot involving Kylie reconnecting with an old school friend, the flame of love beginning to burn between them, only to see him desperately try, with the aid of his roommate, to locate the GirlHouse and rescue Kylie before Loverboy gets his hands on her. It fails to really amount to much, which perhaps works – at a big stretch – on a female empowerment level, but leaves the core narrative operating on little more than the most basic.
But then again, that’s hardly a fatal flaw when these problems are so capably backed up by maintained entertainment value – something that GirlHouse does just fine with. It’s never boring, it’s very well presented and professionally pulled off by everyone involved (both in front of, and behind, the camera). GirlHouse is a by-the-book slasher flick with a modern spin but, thankfully, completely devoid of the post-modern irony that has plagued the subgenre since Wes Craven’s Scream. It comes in, does its job in delivering the unpleasantries, and even chucks the soggy tissues in the bin for you on the way out.
Can’t complain too much about that.
Director: Trevor Matthews & Jon Knautz
Starring: Ali Cobrin, Adam DiMarco, Slaine, Alyson Bath
Release date (UK): DVD 20 July 2015
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