The dark side of internet pornography is explored in stylish new slasher, Girlhouse. Struggling student Kylie Atkins (Ali Cobrin) is looking to make some extra cash in order to help her widowed mother and support herself through university. She discovers the easiest way to do so is through live webcam porn and takes an opportunity presented to her by ‘professor’ Gary Preston (James Thomas) to work at Girlhouse, a highly secured, secretive location that provides 24hr sexual activity from its inhabitants.
With the promise of easy money and full control of what she chooses to do via webcam, the opportunity seems too good to resist for Kylie. Unbeknown to her the internet is a personal playground for an isolated, weirdo who goes by the username ‘Loverboy’ (Slaine).
In typical slasher movie style, ‘Loverboy’ doesn’t take too kindly to rejection and humiliation resulting in brutal concequences! A potential romance also presents itself for our heroine in the shape of her old classmate Ben Stanley (Adam DiMarco); which explores the conflict of internet porn stars balancing their personal love lives against their methods of earning a living.
Girlhouse markets itself with the retro aesthetic of The Guest and It Follows, currently a stylish and common trend in horror. Despite taking on a modern-age subject and using it to its full potential with the idea of living in a goldfish bowl and all eyes watching the girls of Girlhouse all day every day; it manages to echo back to more traditional horror from the 70’s/80’s slasher era to the giallo. Girlhouse therefore blends together two dimensions of genre cinema with worthwhile results.
The Jon Knautz and Trevor Matthews directorial collaboration is a polished effort, the cinematography is flawless ensuring that Girlhouse doesn’t incorporate the look of a low-budget exploitation film. Certain shots are framed to homage its slasher ancestors such as having the killer overlook the balcony reminiscent of Michael Myers in Carpenter’s Halloween and also the use of POV shots.
Nick Gordon offers a decent script that borders on the all too familiar genre cliches quite frequently but its fairly solid and entertaining on the whole. Characters play it straight as the audience remains aware they are comitting all kinds of slasher movie dont’s. When Kylie innocently says that nothing bad can happen, the audience is able to let out a knowing chuckle.
Ali Cobrin plays Kylie as the former popular high school girl out of her depth especially after meeting her sexually liberated new housemates; she projects a sense of nervousness as well as naivety. Soon Kylie begins to embrace her new line of work, deciding to play it safe working solo with strip routines and becoming an instant hit with site users. Kylie projects a girl-next-door image about her. This is what attracts the misunderstood ‘Loverboy’, a troubled, introverted outcast who reacts with violence when things don’t go his way especially when it comes to being exploited by the opposite sex.
Girlhouse provides backstory’s for its characters adding some weight to all the sex and brutality, we are given a strong insight into our heroine and villain. Using its slasher backdrop, the film updates the classic ‘cautionary tale’ helmed by the golden age of the 70s and early 80’s by taking on the recent subject of internet porn and the reprcussions of the loss of privacy when you put yourself online.
The film acts as a warning to be careful on the internet and the realization that no one is completely safe despite the safety precautions taken, in this case by the charasmatic site owner Gary. As told in Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus recent documentary ‘Hot Girls Wanted’ when it comes down to the porn industry, young women are set to be exploited to a certain level even with their consent. The concept as a whole makes Girlhouse incredibly interesting although in some ways it could have taken more risks rather than sticking to the well known slasher formula.
As the villain there’s nothing too special or different about ‘Loverboy’s’ appearence, he’s a cross between Jacob Goodnight from the See No Evil series, Vincent from the 2005 House of Wax and Mr. Slausen from Tourist Trap. That said, ‘Loverboy’ certainly doesn’t hold back and provides the film with some nasty yet creative kills. Its unclear whether we should empathize with him considering how mean-spirited he becomes with his victims.
Other noteworthy performances comes from Alyson Bath as porn Queen B Devon, who does what it takes to beat out the competition. She comes across as rather ruthless but surprisingly manages to make us feel sorry for her later on in the film. Wesley MacInnes gives a memorable performance as Ben Stanley’s horny roommate Alex, easily becoming one of the films most likeable characters and proves incredibly vital to the narrative. As an audience we identify with him the most as we’re placed in his position.
An 80s throwback with all to real modern themes, Girlhouse may not be the most original horror movie ever but it includes characters its audience is able to care about, making it a cut above the rest!