Hello there fellow denizens of the dark, it’s Thakgore and today I bring you a look at what I honestly believe is the best original slasher that I’ve seen in the last 20 years. I know that sounds like high praise, and it is, but I really feel it’s deserved. So for this edition of Spotlight we are going to spend some time inside the….
First things first let’s get something out of the way. I’ve noticed that horror fans, even me, tend to indulge a little too much in nostalgia when considering many of the “classic” slasher films. While many deserve all the praise they get some of them are just downright bad. Movies like “Madman”, “Curtains” and even the seminal giallo classic “Twitch of the Death Nerve” are not great films when looked at objectively. Compared to even the most mediocre of today’s horror offerings they can’t hope to compete. The reason I bring that up is to bring some clarity to the situation when I say that I think “Girl House” is on par with many of those “classics” and is perhaps in the upper echelon of slasher films usually reserved for icons like Jason, Michael, and Freddy. It’s that good.
Released in 2014 with little fanfare, “Girl House” was directed by Jack Brooks himself, Trevor Matthews and stars Ali Cobrin as Kylie and rapper Slaine as the killer “LoverBoy”. The film begins by ticking off the most important box of the slasher movie formula. Something bad happening in the past that gives the killer his motivation. Usually in slashers this would be the sole scene exploring the killer’s psyche. Not in “Girl House”. There are several other scenes that focus on the killer’s sad and lonely life. LoverBoy is a complex and tragic character who is artfully portrayed by Slaine. He has compelling reasons for doing the awful things he does and because you understand him it makes for a more involved narrative than what many slasher films attempt.
The other pillar of this film is the lead actress Ali Cobrin. Her turn as Kylie represents, possibly, the best final girl since Sidney Prescott. Kylie has taken a job at a “cam girl” house to make ends meet while trying to pay her way through college. While this is a familiar story Cobrin brings just the right amount of reservedness to the character so that it doesn’t feel too cliche. Kylie is smart, strong, capable and determined and all of these things are portrayed admirably by Cobrin. She soon becomes the obsession of LoverBoy who annoys the other women in the house by asking for Kylie constantly, even when she’s not there. When one of them gets insulted by this she tells LoverBoy off and bans his IP from the Girl House servers. This enrages him and he proceeds to don a creepy mask, grab a toolbox and sets out for the Girl House intent on making them pay for his humiliation.
What follows is about as smart a slasher film as you can ask for. The killings are brutal and the way tension is achieved is particularly original. You see, the house is outfitted with fifty cameras so that the women’s every move can be observed online. This leads to several times when the killer can be seen by someone watching the stream while remaining unnoticed by girl on camera. One particular scene actually had me on the edge of my seat which doesn’t happen often. Each of the women in the house is given just enough character development so that you genuinely feel bad watching them be picked off by LoverBoy. This is something most slashers completely fail at but “Girl House” pulls it off almost effortlessly. It also has a climax that left me breathless and then made me actually stand and applaud.
I think my favorite thing about this film is the fact that it breaks as many slasher conventions as it pays homage to. By allowing the characters to make smart decisions and giving depth to the killer, director Trevor Matthews infuses the movie with the kind of stakes usually reserved for the best examples of the sub-genre. From its traditional start to its non-traditional end “Girl House” is one of my favorite slasher films of all time. I can’t heap enough praise on it and I hope I’ve convinced you to give it a try. You won’t regret it.
“Girl House” is available for streaming on Amazon Video.