“Carrie” meets “I Spit on Your Grave” in first-time feature director Jim Hemphill’s homage to the notorious rape/revenge films of the mid 70’s as well as his favorite films, “Carrie” and “Terror Train”. Having heard all of that, I had high hopes for “Bad Reputation” and to some degree, I wasn’t disappointed. The basic story revolves around high school outsider Michelle Rosen (an excellent Angelique Hennessy, who early on reminded me a bit of a young Uma Thurman and later on of a trampy Britney Spears, or is that redundant?) who is inexplicably invited to a school party by one of the popular jocks, Aaron (Jerad Anderson). He claims he is just “being nice” but at the party, after getting Michelle drunk and then spiking her drink with Rohypnol, he and one of his buddies, with another holding her down, gang rape her. The three jocks’ girlfriends find out what has happened and the Queen Bitch girlfriend of Aaron, Debbie (Dakota Ferreiro), drags the still half-drugged Michelle downstairs and duct tapes her to a tree, writing “Slut” and “Ho” on her with lipstick. Everyone at the party is a witness to this humiliation but no one does anything to help.
Back at home, instead of a fanatical religious mom like in “Carrie”, we have the uber-bitch mom (Mimi Marie) who blames Michelle for what happened because she had bought a new dress for the party which Dear Old Mom said made her look “slutty”. Well, now, as far as her classmates are concerned, Michelle IS the school slut and proceed to make her life a living hell. Even the slimy school counselor (T.W. Porrill, who also produced the film) comes on to her and asks her what SHE did to bring this on herself. Only Wendy (Danielle Noble), in the Sue Snell role, feels any remorse for what happened as she tried to talk Debbie out of humiliating Michelle. But the damage is done. And to get her revenge, Michelle proceeds to “out-slut” any real sluts her school may have. And one by one, she takes out her attackers by seducing them a la Jennifer Hill and her tormentors by…well, everything culminates not at Prom but at a Halloween party where Michelle is able to cleverly switch “disguises” as she finishes off the remaining perpetrators. The ending was a bit of a surprise for me but fit with the films “Bad Reputation” was paying homage to.
My biggest disappointment with the film was that it didn’t go FAR enough, seeing as it was being compared to the notorious “I Spit on Your Grave”. The gang rape is not graphic, there is no nudity and Michelle is not beaten or bloodied by her attackers. The school humiliation was tame compared to what poor Carrie White endured and while Michelle’s revenge was bloody, the special effects by Amy Blair, Ben Bornstein and Josh Cameron were obviously in line with this being a low-budget film. Also, there was nothing supernatural involved in Michelle’s revenge as with Carrie’s but that is a minor quibble – just made this more of a thriller than a real horror movie.
I will say the actors were all good and age-appropriate with Hennessy, Anderson and Noble particular standouts. And the viewer does really feel for Michelle due to Hennessy’s sympathetic portrayal, even when she “goes to the dark side”. “Bad Reputation” is a smarter teen slasher movie but not on par with the truly dark rape/revenge films it wanted to emulate. Still for a first-time film, writer/director Hemphill doesn’t “dumb down” the story. Not a bad entry into the horror/slasher genre.