Thursday, February 12, 2015

Girl House: Not Why Al Gore Invented the Internet

It is like a digital update on the J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold,” but with a psycho killer. A nebbish college student’s high school crush is now an “angel” in a twenty-four hour live-cam website. Appearing in a secret hedonistic McMansion, she will naturally attract the wrong sort of attention in Trevor Matthews’ Girl House (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in select markets and launches on VOD, where it logically belongs.

Strictly speaking, the Big Brother-style pad Kylie Atkins is about to move into is not one hundred percent porn. There is also a heavy girlfriend-experience component. That is why her boss is so sure the naïve country girl will be such a hit. Of course, he is right, but one of her biggest fans is a mentally disturbed IT guy known by his screen name, “loverboy.” Actually, his first choice was psychostalker666, but that handle was already taken.

Meanwhile, thanks to a horndog roommate who thinks he’s Jamie Kennedy, mild mannered Ben Stanley learns his former infatuation is now naked on the internet. Since they both go to college in the North Carolina hills (that well known hub of porn production), he contrives to run into her and ask her out. Despite some uncomfortable conversations about her afterschool job, romance starts to blossom, but it is only a matter of time before loverboy traces the secure location of Girl House and heads off on a murderous rampage.

Girl House is the sort of film that pretends to give us a stern talking-to regarding our porn-obsessed voyeurism, but really offers a transparent promise of naughty gawkery it never fully delivers on. At least as slasher films go, it is consistently professional, with no distractingly awkward line readings or woefully cheesy effect stinking up the joint.

Ali Cobrin is reasonably competent and likable as the white bread Atkins, while Adam DiMarco’s Stanley is predictably but annoyingly clueless and ineffectual. Likewise, as the maniac, white Boston rapper Slaine really just serves as a poor man’s Pruitt Taylor Vince or Vincent D’Onofrio. Frankly, Chasty Ballesteros is criminally under-employed as Atkins’ new housemate Janet. With her martial arts background established, she would have been a more credible and empowering opponent for loverboy—and there are also her obvious strengths in front of the camera.

So here it is: Girl House. It is not as lurid as you either fear or hope it is, but it shares the sins of most slasher films when it gets down to business. The characters have the intuition of burnt toast and the mostly off-screen authorities are woefully incompetent. It is what it is, but you’re probably going to dial it up anyway, in spite of yourself, when it hits iTunes tomorrow (2/13).