Starring Laura Albert, Ken Carpenter, Gregory Cummings, Shelley Abblett
Directed by Tanya Rosenberg
Distributed by Vinegar Syndrome
A posse of riled up rednecks takes on a squad of supermodel stunt women in director Tanya Rosenberg’s Blood Games (1990), a movie that both leans-into and fights against the concept of women being little more than eye candy for the sleazecore crowd. The novel plot is backed up by a surprisingly adept feature – not that this thing is going to bowl anyone over with unexpected high quality – but the story is fairly engaging, the performances (at least the guys) are ridiculous enough to work, and there are several sequences and shots that appear some artistic attempts were made. Throw in a fantastic keyboard-heavy, patently lo-fi soundtrack and the result is a picture that straddles the line between ‘80s survivalist films and ‘90s t&a thrillers.
It’s the Battle of the Sexes, as “Babe & The Ball Girls”, led by the lady herself, Babe (Laura Albert), takes on a ragtag group of hillbilly halfwits who spend more time ogling the ladies and their barely-there attire than trying to win the game. The guys spend the other half harassing the women in every way imaginable – including physical violence. These dudes can’t imagine losing to women and when they finally (expectedly) do everyone groans and whines (among them the legendary George “Buck” Flower!) but the crowd disseminates… except for unofficial team leader Roy’s (Gregory Cummings) father, Mino (Ken Carpenter), a military vet who takes this loss very seriously because he bet a whopping $1000 his son and the local wifebeater clan could best a group of organized women who play professionally.
Midnight (Ross Hagen), manager of the Babes and owner of the coolest name in the cast, goes to see Mino for collection of his own winnings but – shocker – the old rascal doesn’t want to pay. Things only escalate from there and when one of the town’s own is killed Mino puts out a bounty on the women for $1000 a head, preferably dead. Although in their bus, the women can’t escape the labyrinth of roads leading into the woods and eventually the time comes when they must band together and dig in for a long night of kicking the ass of every inbred incel on the block.
The plot of this film is continually propelled forward by every character making the worst choices possible. I want to believe the filmmakers wondered “what’s the dumbest way someone could approach this?” and then shot it like that, completely disregarding any semblance of actual logic. The events of the film could have been avoided a hundred different ways if thought was applied but, well… then we wouldn’t get all this insanity. While this isn’t a total exploitation feature it comes awfully close, with extreme depictions of sex (an I Spit on Your Grave (1978) style group rape gets awfully graphic) and violence (gunshots to the head, people beaten with bats, multiple crossbow deaths) – this isn’t a movie that shies away from graphic content and it’s all the better for it. When the guys gain the upper hand, it feels frightening for the women but once the ladies outsmart them (time and again) it feels triumphant because they’re seen as underdogs.
Tanya Rosenberg directed only one film and this is it. Her approach is unique in that she provides the requisite sexual objectification through long shots of the women’s bodies (which are incredible) and a classic all-team shower scene but these women are also given agency and some personality, and they’re also shown to be just as tough as most of the guys. She lends a slight feminine touch that likely would have been lost under a male director. The action does feel a bit repetitive at times – run, fight, repeat – but the use of slo-mo (which gets used once or twice too often) tries to inject a Peckinpah vibe that is mostly effective. Expect to see a handful of impressive stunt work, too. Also, there are a few humorous bits in here that work well and hit at the right moments.
This is the HD debut for Blood Games and Vinegar Syndrome has gone back to the interpositive for a 2K scan that continues their legacy of high quality home video releases. The 1.85:1 1080p image is proficient, presenting a clean picture swarming with natural film grain and crisp definition. The daylight scenes during the opening game offer up the best visuals thanks to the bright lighting but the picture doesn’t become a slouch under the cloak of night, with good black levels and stable delineation to maintain visibility in darker conditions. Film grain levels fluctuate a bit but given the film’s low-budget roots variances in picture quality should be expected. Considering the reported awful quality of previous home video versions this is a visual revelation.
An English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is provided and it’s more of a mixed bag. Much of the audio sounds like ADR done after filming completed, giving the sound a bit of a detached quality. Dialogue is always clear and mostly prioritized in the mix though at some points levels dip out a little. There is slight and severe hissing present in a couple scenes; thankfully it isn’t heard over the entire track. The real standout here is Greg Turner’s score, which is an electronic delight full of tracks that range from cold and menacing to energetic and punchy. It could also use an official vinyl release. Subtitles are available in English SDH.
- Region A Blu-ray
- Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm interpositive
- “Playing a Tough Babe” – an interview with actress Laura Albert
- “Playing Hardball” – an interview with actor Ken Carpenter
- Original theatrical trailer
- Promotional still gallery
- Reversible cover artwork
- SDH English subtitles
This is the definition of a three-star film with five-star entertainment and while the poster art and plotline make the film appear to be another ‘90s throwaway this is anything but, with a wild story that feels pulled from the heyday of ‘70s exploitation films.