Starring Farah White, Melodie Sisk, Brina Palencia, Michelle “Belladonna” Sinclair, Samrat Chakrabarti, Gabriel Horn, RJ Hanson
Directed by John Stuart Wildman
Never having heard of this movie before (though the press notes say it’s a festival darling… I don’t get out much), knowing it’s a low budget indie, and from a first-time director to boot, I must confess: My expectations were lower than a snake’s belly in Hell’s basement. Nothing to do with the movie or its makers, mind you – it’s just that I’ve been in the horror flick review game a long time and I’ve been in some pretty deep, dank trenches.
I am thrilled, delighted, and tickled to report that The Ladies of the House is a confetti explosion of candy apple color, spinning vinyl records, rockabilly busty babes, blood spatter, and a whole lotta retro love. With touches of Russ Meyer (Mud Honey), Jess Franco (Vampyros Lesbos), Anna Biller (Viva), Takashi Miike (Audition), and Eli Roth (Hostel 2), director and co-writer (along with his wife, Justina Walford) John Wildman has made a highly enjoyable instant classic. It has a voice and a style, so lacking in most of today’s horror movies. (Can you tell I loved it?)
The story is akin to fly-meets-spider horror (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, House of 1000 Corpses), and it goes a little something like this: Three red-blooded young dudes — brothers Jacob (Gabriel Horn) and Kai (Rj Hanson) and their friend Derek (Samrat Chakrabarti) — go to a pole-dancing dive to celebrate Kai’s birthday. After they follow one of the dancers home, things take a tragic turn, and Kai accidentally kills the young stripper. But that’s only the beginning of the nightmare because her roommates Getty (Melodie Sisk), Lin (Farah White), and Crystal (Brina Palencia) aren’t just pretty faces; they are also cannibals with a fierce sense of home and family — and a taste for punishing bad men.
When it comes to low-budget indies, usually the first casualties are good cinematography, great locations, lush set design, and elaborate set-pieces. That’s not the case here! As an aficionado of beauty, style, and a cinematic look (which is why I tend to dislike most found footage films), I was in heaven enjoying all the interesting, well-composed camera angles, rooms in the house decorated with mannequins, original paintings, decorative floor rugs, etc. All those little things add up to a lot. The attention to detail is impressive – each actor is dressed in accordance to their character, and the girls’ pinup hair and makeup is hot, hot, hot. As far as post goes, the original score, color, and editing is also top-notch. The acting is above most of what you’d see in an indie, but it’s also often belovedly clunky in homage to the exploitation genre The Ladies of the House is so obviously trying to emulate (and succeeding – yep, these lethal ladies are lesbians, and we see girl-on-girl a-plenty).
Dread Central is a horror site of course, so I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the meat, grue, guts, viscera, and piles of puke. The murder and butchering scenes are indeed unflinching, and while they’re hardly tasteful, thankfully they don’t veer into the dreaded “torture porn” territory.
There are moments of suspense and some pretty gripping little scares, but The Ladies of the House is first and foremost a black comedy. There’s a lot of dialogue. The dialogue is witty, and each character is clearly defined, but be ready for some Tarantino talkiness and shaggy-dog stories. Too much, IMO: If I have a complaint, it’s that the movie could have been pared down to a leaner, meaner 15 minutes less.
Look for The Ladies of the House on VOD May 1, 2015.