Shockingly for some, unsurprising for others, reality TV is still going. Thankfully, it’s not all Big Brother-esque shows (since that would be aggravating to practically everyone). There are still plenty of those around, and with them come indie horror films that take the concept to a sinister level. You’d think that with the stinkers that have come and gone (Cam2Cam comes to mind for me), directors would shy away from using the concept of “watching a film where people watch other people in real-life situations”, but kudos to them that do try. Case in point: Girl House, directed by Trevor Matthews and Jon Knautz.
Saddled with mounting university tuition and the recent death of her father, Kylie (Ali Cobrin) decides to move into a house that streams live video for a voyeur website called Girlhouse. The house is home to other women who go about their day, but also partake in chat sessions and do some occasional stripteasing for viewers. One such viewer, a user known only as “Loverboy” (Slaine), takes a particularly strong interest in the girls. However, once he finds out that the girls have taken to ridiculing him off-camera, Loverboy decides to exact a deadly revenge.
What could have easily been one of those “fire-and-forget” slashers stories, Girl House surprisingly has far more than what the premise initially details. Kudos to writer Nick Gordon for giving us characters that while they do fall into the typical slasher cliches, aren’t characters you won’t give a damn about. Rather, there’s an actual emotional attachment to some characters. Their interactions with each other provides the film with far more depth than what you’d normally get with this type of slasher. Kylie’s relationship with her friend Ben, for example, not only feels natural (despite being cliched), but it also provides more insight into characters rather than being a superficial plot point thrown in to attempt “depth”.
As a rule, slasher films hinge largely on the main antagonist being memorable and creative visually and in character. That’s not a problem with Slaine, who does a pretty damn fine job as the socially-awkward yet clearly disturbed Loverboy. Slaine hits the right notes when it comes to expressions and emotions, while evoking a bit of sympathy for the sob. That is, until he puts on the mask, turning into something that looks like Michael Myers stole the Leatherface mask from The Next Generation. After that, the brutality that was under Loverboy’s awkwardness comes out to play. The fact that this guy can move makes him all the more scarier. As for the rest of the main cast, Ali Cobrin turns in a great performance as the film’s main protagonist. As hinted at previously, Cobrin is very likable and believable in her role, and the chemistry with her and Adam DiMarco as Ben adds a lot. The troupe of women in the house, such as Zuleyka Silver as former heroin addict Anna, and Alyson Bath as the irritable Devon, all put their mark on their characters, despite again being your stereotypical slasher figures.
While Girl House does sound like a fun ride, there are a few issues that remind you that this is a low-budget indie slasher. The some of the acting, namely James Thomas as Gary, the man behind Girlhouse, come off as more amateur and hammy when compared to the rest of the cast. Also, despite the addition of the digital component, the story isn’t that much different than what other slashers have done before. And I know that some people might find the film misogynistic and gratuitous (the voyeuristic aspects won’t help), but that’s kind of to be expected with a film like this. Plus, it’s counteracted with a strong female heroine and characters who aren’t walking around with “kill me” signs on their backs.
Honestly, what I initially thought was going to be another one of those throwaway cheapo slasher films actually turned out to have more to it. Boasting some strong acting from almost everyone involved, coupled with a scary antagonist and some genuinely brutal moments that gorehounds will love, Girl House is definitely one of the stronger slasher films I’ve recently seen. The fact that it’s also well-done indie film makes it more impressive. While it does tread the familiar for many fans, it’s still worthwhile to check it out.