Sunday, March 5, 2017

Review: The Ladies of the House

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet

The Ladies of the House       
Directed by John Stewart Wildman
Wildworks Productions / Soaring Flight Productions / Femmewerks Productions /
Gravitas Ventures / MVD Visual
93 minutes, 2014 / 2016

I have wanted to see this film for a while now, so I’m glad for the opportunity. I have only been to a strip club once for a bachelor party, and it seemed like the only one who was more bored than me were the strippers. But this film is another kettle of fish, more because of what they do at home than on a stage.

In this story, three bros go to a club to celebrate a birthday. Two brothers, the birthday boy Kai (RJ Hanson) and Jacob (Gabriel Horn), who don’t really want to be there, and their macho moron pal Derek (Samrat Chakrabarti), the latter of whom refers to the trio as “Cowboys and Indian.” Yeah, the deep, sensitive type.

Michelle Sinclair
During the performance of one of the strippers, Ginger (Michelle Sinclair, aka real-life adult star Belladonna), Derek slaps her butt, and then pressures the brothers to follow her home, where she shares a house with three other dancers. His intention is to pay her for sex as a present to Kai. The banter between Derek and Ginger on the front steps is nothing short of cringe worthy, especially if you have any social or moral conscious. Yeah, this is a genre film, but it made me feel uncomfortable and squeamish, so the writers (husband-and-wife team Justina Walford and the director Wildman) successfully hit the mark with that one. It’s obviously meant to do just that, so when they get into the depths of the story, it’s not like the guys are innocent flies in a web (even the mentally challenged Kai has a bit of “Lennie Small” from Of Mice and Men in him). Ten minutes in, and I’m looking forward to the comeuppance, especially Derek’s.

Of course, things go awry, and when the other women come home, that’s when the second act begins and the picture kicks up into a much higher gear. These are certainly not women you want to trifle with, that is for certain, as the guys learn, one by one, becoming prisoners.

Brina Palencia
As time goes on this tragic start leads to a revenge-fuelled carnage. But I’m getting ahead of myself. It comes down to the three bros against three of the women, being the strange and childlike Crystal (the very cute Brina Palencia, who has sort of a Jill Banner vibe from 1967’s Spider Baby), the determined Getty (Melodie Sisk, rocking the look of the muscle-making woman in the “We Can Do It” poster), and the “matriarch” leader, Lin (Farah White). While mad, they are more cunning than reactionary. They have obviously dealt with men in such a fashion before, as they have a calm routine way of… dismantling.

With the film having a catch phrase like “They’re dying to have for your dinner,” well, it’s no surprise what the end result is supposed to be (won’t say one way or another what is the actual ending, so don’t worry). The cannibal women subgenre is not a new one, such as The Cannibal Girls (1973), the goofy-yet-fun The Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989), and the even more recent Model Hunger (2016) and The Neon Demon (2016). There is also the stripper horror subgenre, with the likes of Zombie Strippers (2008) and Stripperland (2011), but this is something else. Despite there being a history – albeit small – in this subgenre, this is a pretty original storyline. That being said, there is a very nice gender-reversal nod to an iconic bit from the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).

Melodie Sisk
One of the things I like about the film is that while it’s technically not a horror film, relying more on terror and suspense, it certainly does not shy away from a bit of violence and gristle here and there (well done by Oddtopsy SFX, led by indie effects maven Marcus Koch); when it does, because it is not the main focus, it comes out as a bit more shocking and welcomed, without wearing out its welcome.
The four female leads are spot on, with just the right amount of sexiness (minimal nudity) and cold-hearted determination. They are to be feared, but without losing their humanity; that is, even considering their dietary regimen before these tools enter their lives and abode. And then there’s Piglet (Frank Mosley).

Yet through the carnage and chopping and caging and slicing and hacking, somehow, on more than one level, this remains… a love story?! This shows some solid directing by an ex-actor of genre films himself (Wildman starred in the amazingly titled and even more gloriously goofy cult classic Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, in 1988). The lighting, the angles, and the gore, all look and feel glorious.

Farah White
The original ending to the film is included in the extras as an alternative deleted scene, but I have to say, the non-linearity (or, as the director might have said, lineerity) of the final product is much more subtle and effective, and fits in well with certain aspects of the film throughout.

There are some quite enjoyable extras, such as a few deleted scenes, which were right to be deleted as they would have changed the tone of the film (the finger one, especially), yet they were not like many of the deletes I have seen that were just a waste of time; rather it was an interesting choice and it helped me appreciate some aspects of the film because they were excised.

The other is a series of seven interview segments with members of the cast and crew – both singular and in groups – that lasts between three and 13 minutes a pop. Most of it was interesting. While it didn’t change anything in knowing more about the story, that’s okay, because it’s also nice to see the cast as themselves. I would have liked a bit more anecdotes about the filming, but again, they were enjoyable and had no trouble sitting through all of them.

This is hardly what one would necessarily call a date movie, depending of course on whom you are relating, but for the genre fan, it was an entertaining film (even with the uncomfortable ants-in-the-pants early scene described above). Considering it was the first feature directorial by Wildman, that is even more amazing. If you decide to do another film, my suggestion is keep the same lighting, cinematography and editing people, as they helped relate your vision so spot on. They did an amazing job.


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