Jul 13, 2019


 [As Girlhouse has spoiled my night, I have now spoiled Girlhouse. Read on with caution.]

Kylie Atkins' father has recently died, so it's porn for her.

After giving it some very little thought, she accepts the offer of a well-dressed stranger to appear on the porn-centric website "Girlhouse," a Big-Brother sort of set-up where a group of people live away from civilization in an isolated house with cameras in every room that broadcast their every move, only instead of "people" it's "girls," and instead of "every move" it's "every orgasm, fuck show, and methodical soaping of breasts." Once she's dropped off at the super-secret "Girlhouse" location, she meets all her costars, all of whom eventually take off their clothes, and none of whom are particularly memorable or developed.

As Kylie begins her show, she "meets" an online user by the name of Loverboy, whom all the girls know and call a sweetheart. Loverboy soon fixates on Kylie after he sends her a photo of himself and she doesn't throw herself out the window in response, but later on, after another "Girlhouse" performer finds Loverboy's picture and shows it to everyone and they all laugh and mock his not-so-ideal appearance, Loverboy loses his mind and decides there's only one fair way to handle this: murder. (He's also really good at computers, BTW.)

A film that manages to ape its concept from Halloween: Resurrection while somehow resulting in something worse, Girlhouse was written by Fred Olen Wray, directed by Jim Wynorski, and produced by Roger Cor-ohman, none of that is true. It wasn't a wrong assumption to make, however; add some corny self-awareness and even more exploitative nudity, and Girlhouse would have felt exactly like product from the 1980s -- more specifically, from the team who brought us Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and Sorority House Massacre 2, only with a hip and modern shot of adrenaline (which means now it has internet, cell phones, and terms like "IP address" and "firewall"). An important distinction, though, is that when Corman et al. made those deliciously stupid B-movies, they weren't trying to impart any kind of wisdom or moral stature on their audience: they were more concerned with finding girls with ample breastage who could fit into all that old wardrobe recycled from their last several hundred movies that had "slime" or "massacre" in their titles. They weren't trying to be socially relevant or needlessly (and, inexplicably) preachy and indifferent all at once. They were just trying to make their films fun. And that's where Girlhouse really misses the boat. For actually managing to bring to fruition such an absurd concept as "house of slutty website performers become locked inside by one of its users who gets all pissed off because they called him ugly," only to try and turn it into some kind of disturbing or visceral experience -- well, that was the first misstep of many.

The reason it's neither disturbing nor visceral is because we just don't care.

At no point is there an attempt to devote background or development to any characters. Kylie's sole decision to become a pornographic actress is because "the money is good" and she wants to send some home to her mother. Because her motivation for her decision is to be considered selfless and done out of love and worry, we're supposed to forgive her for getting into porn, but it would have behooved our filmmakers to, perhaps, include a scene where Kylie and her mother actually share a conversation -- in person would have been nice, but over the phone would have been acceptable -- to enforce the significance of this relationship. At least once. As it is, their entire relationship is confined to them leaving voicemails for each other, and the word "MOM" appearing on Kylie's cell phone when it rings...which Kylie doesn't answer.

As for Kylie's pornsemble: two of the girls are (quite quickly) established as lesbians involved with each other, one of the girls as threatened by Kylie's appearance in the house, and another girl, who it would seem was once an actress in the house before her heroin addiction resulted in her getting the ax, makes a surprise return. Pity that NONE of these characters' subplots offer anything to the film rather than cheap thrills of girl-kissing and an additional body to hammer.

Kylie is an irritating character, a girl who willfully gets into pornography, but for whom we're expected to sympathize -- not because of any attempt at her inner conflict with the job, but because she tells anyone who will listen that her father is dead and that's really sad and then equal sign pornography. Not terribly likable, Ali Cobrin still manages to give an okay performance, but as you watch you'll suddenly realize her remarkably similar appearance to actress Rose Byrne, who tends to make good movies, and then you'll become irritated all over again because instead of watching a good movie that stars Rose Byrne, you're watching Girlhouse.

I feel intensely bad for rapper-turned-actor Slain, thanks to his appearance in this mess as Loverboy, and not just because he's the only one attempting to bring actual depth to his performance (which vanishes following the start of the third act, unless we're being asked to believe that it was the actor himself and not an underpaid body-padded stuntman who wore the jumpsuit and girl mask to stalk his house of whores), but rather because he got a pretty good head-start on a career 2.0 when Ben Affleck cast him as the revered Bubba Ragowski in Gone Baby Gone. Affleck subsequently cast him again in his box-office and bank-smashing crime thriller The Town before director Andrew Dominik chose him to play a minor role in his Brad Pitt-starring Killing Them Softly. And here, in... sigh... Girlhouse... Slaine is slumming it, with the kind of bravery needed to play a role of someone who dwells in a basement, subscribes to and depends on pornography, and who feels ostracized because of his physical appearance. The only problem is he's going through all that effort for the film Girlhouse. The actor deserves better.

Ironically, the makers of the film are selling Girlhouse as a "Halloween-type slasher," and by god are they testing the durability of the word "type," for the only thing these two films have in common is that someone wears a mask and kills some girls. Kylie is supposed to be Girlhouse's version of Laurie Strode, only instead of her character being virginal and pure by abstaining from acts and behavior that would force her to retire those traits, she instead embarks on her pornographic webshows where she willfully shows off her naked body to her viewers, but with the camera never showing her breasts: according to these filmmakers, that makes her virginal and pure. Added to Halloween are the nauseating references to Rear Window and its director, Hitchcock, who as you know reveled in cinema in which girls played strip-poker or strip-billiards and performed dildo shows on websites for users named "Tugboat" and "Cream_Slinger." Hitchcock would be sincerely proud. No, that's not sarcasm - not at all. I mean that, you idiots, he would love your dumb fucking movie.

Girlhouse is violent and filled with nudity, if you're into that sort of thing. I am, normally, but only when the actual movie surrounding the violence and nudity is worth a damn. Girlhouse isn't. Girlhouse is about as subtle as a truck carrying fireworks driving through a fireworks factory. It makes no bones about clearly endeavoring to satirize the "art" of pornography, but then doing absolutely nothing to either support or condemn it. Girlhouse offs a character by beating her in the head with a dildo before shoving it into her mouth and sealing her head with packaging tape so she suffocates. Girlhouse offs another character by having her commit suicide after her confrontation with the killer has left her mutilated because OMG, without pornography, she is, like, of no use to anyone. Girlhouse fucking ends with Kylie beating her killer to death with a camera. If that's not a failed idea at clever subtlety, ladies and gentleman, I don't know what is.

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