Maybe it’s my age. When I was in 7th and 8th grade, a slasher film like Girlhouse would have been at the top of my list of horror movies to see. I’m sure I would have read a feature article in Fangoria that offered titillating details about the beautiful women alone in a house, and there would have been descriptions of the gruesome makeup effects. That’s the kind of boy I was at 12 and 13. But at age 45, Girlhouse bored me.
Placing five gorgeous college aged women in a house equipped with cameras so their every move can be viewed by horny guys on the Internet, and a deranged patron breaks through the high security system to exact punishment on them is an original idea. But that’s about the only thing that feels original about Girlhouse. Everything else, from the sad origin of the killer, to the understanding boyfriend who rushes to save the day, to methodical way the unstoppable killer picks off each victim is lifted from some other movie. I understand that there are formulas to these types of movies; but I never felt that Girlhouse went far enough in pushing the boundaries of the genre. Even the special makeup effects fall short in this one, making Girlhouse a huge disappointment.
To be clear, Girlhouse is an elaborate set for a webcam porn empire. The women stars of the “Girlhouse” porn site are paid to live in a mansion with cameras recording them. They are expected to be as nude as possible and to perform regular private shows in their rooms. These private shows can include dancing, having sex with a male guest or each other, or using a toy or two. It’s sort of like Big Brother, but with less drama.
We’re introduced to the Girlhouse through the main character, Kylie (Ali Corbin). Supposedly she is so desperate and vulnerable that she’s had to resort to porn to make ends meet. But Kylie never feels vulnerable. That desperation her character requires is never really present in Corbin’s performance. And when she does her strip show for the masses, it’s all a tease, a PG-13 dance that’s more of a turn on than an exposure of her soul. If she’s feeling remorse that she’s performing stripping on a web cam, she doesn’t show it. There is never a true sense that she’s at the end of her straw and that moving into the Girlhouse really is a godsend.
That’s only part of the film’s problem. The first hour of the film is closer to a rom-com than a horror film. Kylie runs into Ben (Adam DeMarco), a boy she’s known since kindergarten, and they quickly fall for each other. While Kylie is shirking her responsibilities of earning cash for the website, an overweight computer genius calling himself “Loverboy” falls in love with Kylie based on her two appearances online. In his dank basement lair Loverboy dreams of settling down with her, the “nice” girl in the house.
Everything falls apart when one of the former Girlhouse girls, a junkie, returns to the house. Wouldn’t you know it; the dirty drug addict is the one who screws up everything by mocking Loverboy. Our lonely killer gets his feelings hurt and, like that day when he was a little boy and he killed a girl for humiliating him, Loverboy is going to have his revenge. From that point, Loverboy bypasses the high tech security system, outsmarts everyone and goes on a killing rampage. All of it takes place with the Girlhouse cameras rolling and the Internet broadcasting.
Girlhouse opens provocatively with this quote from serial killer Ted Bundy: “I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence just like me. And without exception, without question, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography.” If the film was trying to make a statement about porn and its effect on the human mind, it never does that. Loverboy’s reasons for becoming the Girlhouse killer have nothing to do with porn and everything to do with his ego. Maybe if the film really had given us the full side of his story, exploring his decent into darkness, Girlhouse would have been a more interesting film. Instead, we get just another madman attacking naked women.
Girlhouse is playing in theaters now. It is also available for rent on VOD.