Tuesday, April 28, 2015

VOD and iTunes Debut: John Stuart Wildman's horror/gorer, THE LADIES OF THE HOUSE

If I may make a suggestion to genre fans who like a good, gory horror/thriller: stick with THE LADIES OF THE HOUSE, at least past the first fifteen minutes -- which leave a lot to be desired. After the rather heavy-handed opening, complete with a dumb character reversal and some foreshadowing that even your grandmother might have understood, if not appreciated, the movie begins to gain interest, suspense and pitch black humor, while getting better and better, right up until its fine and fanciful finale.

The product of first-time/full-length filmmaker John Stuart Wildman, shown at left, who directed and co-wrote (with Justina Walford, below), the movie is being marketed as a kind of "feminist grindhouse thriller" -- a description that works pretty well, I think. While it is fun for a change to see the guys stalked and decimated by the gals, instead of the usual other-way-around, I think perhaps real feminists might blanch at some of what goes on here. But that, I suspect, is part of the irony at work. When two brothers and their friend go out to a strip joint to celebrate a birthday, and then decide to follow one of the strippers home, all hell breaks loose.

Part of that hell is completely expected, but other events do indeed surprise, and Mr. Wildman -- whom some of us reviewers/critics know and love from his work as senior publicist at The Film Society of Lincoln Center -- has managed to cast his movie with real talent, particularly regarding those titular "ladies." The male characters -- two out of the three of them, anyway -- are as expendable as are many of the females we see in most grindhouse horror films.

The guys include Rj Hanson, as Kai, the fat and mentally-challenged brother with the birthday (who also is given that nonsensical character change), while Samrat Chakrabarti (above) plays Derek, the typical sleazeball of the lot. Neither actor can rise above his by-the-numbers dialog and characterization. Only Gabriel Horn -- as Kai's semi-decent brother, Jacob -- gets a role eventually worth sinking his teeth into. (A word must be said, too, for an actor named Frank Mosley, who does a very nice job as Piglet,  one of those aforementioned surprises.)

But, ah, the women! The actresses here do themselves proud in creating individual characters of very odd note. All these gals seem to work at the stripclub, which enables them to afford the nice little three-story house (yes, there's a basement) in which most of the tale takes place. There is more than enough gore and blood to sate most slasher-film aficionados, and even a genuine surprise or two (in which, if I am not mistaken, Mr Wildman pays homage to one of the classics of this genre, The Woman from Lucky McKee.

The quartet of ladies include Michelle "Belladona" Sinclair (two photos above), who gets the ball rolling and knows her way around a line reading as well as a lap dance; Farah White (above, right) as the "mother" of the group, who knows her way around a knife;

most specially Melodie Sisk (above, right) as what you might call the "dad" of the group, an actress who can take charge of any scene in a multitude of ways; and the youngest and most love-lorn of the bunch, Brina Palencia (below, and at left, two photos above). All these ladies are quite good, each in her own manner, and they work together, too, creating an ensemble of... well, tease and terror.

The Ladies of the House might seem like heavy-going at first, but as I say, stick with it, and if you a genre fan, rewards will accrue. The movie -- from Gravitas Ventures and running 93 minutes -- hits VOD and iTunes this Friday, May 1.

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