Typical horror gene fair has the protagonist as a weak young woman who is constantly running up the stairs only to get stabbed during sex or in the shower. While I am not making a dig at Psycho, because we all know that is will always be some brilliant and sick stuff, I am bringing up the obvious that women in horror tend to be the victims. Refreshingly, in John Stuart Wildman‘s The Ladies of the House, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The premise seems relatively simple; brothers Kai and Jacob, and friend Derek, go to a strip club for Kai’s birthday. But, when they decide to follow one of the strippers as she departs, they are in for quite the surprise. This house is home to a group of lovely cannibals.Performances by our leading ladies are strong and quirky due to the smart writing from husband and wife team of Wildman and Justina Walford. The often funny moments come from vitriolic insults they sling at the men and one another. Each character is fully fleshed out, most likely making it a blast to perform. Michelle Sinclair plays Ginger. Perhaps best known as former adult actress Belladonna, Michelle does a great job on screen as newest housemate. Farah White plays Lin (our June Cleaver mommy monster, whose patience and civility are balanced on a razor thin edge) is fully settled into this role. The “Lady of the House,” Getty, is played stupendously by Melodie Sisk. This “take no shit” gal is pretty much my favorite performance of the entire film. Brina Palencia is our sex-crazed, emotionally-stunted lovely. Keeping men for play is her game. But can this family survive these feisty gentlemen? Speaking of which, Samrat Chakrabarti, as Derek, is real douchebag. No love lost for this total asshole, which in its own right, is a compliment. Gabriel Horn, as Jacob, plays the classic, submissive peacemaker. Doomed or not, the passive manner doesn’t help his character’s cause in this film. Finally, we have Kai. Clearly a little bit (or a lot) of a simpleton, RJ Hanson‘s portrayal is sickening… which is a good word here. This gentle giant has a sexually charged trigger that gets him into some hot water. Every beat is well thought out and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.The ladies each have their own specific color they sport throughout the film. Their pin-up style radiates from their wardrobe to the impeccable set design by Winona Yu. The majority of the house is like Pee-Wee Herman‘s Playhouse only scarier, and I do mean that as a compliment. Not a tchotchke out of place, it is filled with delicious details top to bottom. The super cool cinematography from Beau Ethridge is a funky combination of fly on wall, handheld closeups, and my favorite shots in the film, super high angles that are akin to surveillance footage. The biggest practical effect is vomit inducing, no doubt, something Eli Roth would be proud to call his own and a dinner table scene that is surely a fandom nod to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with dialogue Taratino would pen in a heartbeat. I was truly impressed with the gore factor as it was just enough to make a point. The music is incredible. A rockabilly tune here, to classic 50’s make out sounding mix tape there, I want it all for my very own. While, yes, we’re talking about a grindhouse indie film about lady cannibals, we cannot overlook the empowerment factor so often thrown to the wind in the horror genre. When women kick some serious ass, and are cleverly written, how can we not stand up and cheer? This film’s undertone is blatantly about love and protection… with a little bit of the kooky macabre thrown in for good measure. Not since Robert Rodríguez/Tarantino‘s 2007 GRINDHOUSE with Planet Terror and Death Proof, which flung the exploitation genre back into the spotlight, has there been a film where the ladies are the winner-winner, this time human dinner. Or perhaps more fitting a comparison in this case would be 2003 release High Tension, which if you haven’t yet seen, for shame. My only gripe is that I might trim the length 15-20 minutes to tighten up the story’s flow, but that’s being nit-picky. Anytime I can watch my favorite genre hold a candle to a bygone era of kitsch, I give Wildman and Walford major props for putting it all out there and for giving us something that can easily be shown as a drive-in cult classic in the future. Now I want to know, what’s next?
The Ladies of the House comes to VOD platforms on May 1.
You can preorder the film on iTunes.