Six female athletic actresses who get cast for being superhero's on a wrestling show. After hard training and ups and down's in the gym, the fresh wrestlers board the bus to their first fight in Las VegasS. The bus gets stuck in the middle of nowhere, and the girls end up in a Ghost town together. They must survive and discover the truth behind the Ghost town.
Carolin Von Petzholdt
Carolin Von Petzholdt
Melissa Biethan as Gloria Page
William F. Bryant as Ryan
Michael Gantz as Frank Barns
Andrew Hamrick as Richard Black
Somewhere between narrative and performance art lives The Boom Boom Girls of Wrestling. So what’s the plot? Um, a woman’s wrestling team gets stranded in a ghost town outside Las Vegas, and then horrific murders ensue at the hands of a psychopath in a chicken mask. Add into that mix voodoo dolls, softcore porn, invective dialogue, and clunky acting. It’s certainly a hodgepodge of positive and negative elements, but at least it isn’t boring.
Written, directed, edited, produced, and starring Carolin Von Petzholdt, The Boom Boom Girls of Wrestling definitely feels like a singular vision. Not only is it an independent film, it is also an “anti-Hollywood” film. Female empowerment, lesbianism, sisterhood, and toxic patriarchy are dominant themes. That subversive, maverick gusto made John Waters and Russ Meyer famous in their day. Unfortunately, the brash intentions are undercut by poor production quality.
In the film, television producer Richard Black, (Andrew Hamrick, whose oiliness could be bottled as a hair gel), employs “casting couch” tactics on a group of actresses, as they audition for a wrestling show. This enrages Lisa and Darlene, the trainers working on the production, (Crystal Santos and Melissa R. Stubbs, who have over two hundred IMDb stunt credits between them).
Lisa and Darlene are also in a romantic relationship. Their scenes are a highlight, but frustratingly brief. Intimate showers, midnight frolics on playgrounds. These can’t substitute for backstory. Why do these women love each other, beyond surface level sexual orientation? In general, the film is oddly juvenile in its depiction of sex. Von Petzholdt wants us to view sexuality as a negotiation, a feminist act. “What we did was sex. Nothing more, nothing less.” Alright, fair enough. But the trysts feel anemic, distracting. They don’t reveal anything about the characters.
Carla, (Von Petzholdt herself, giving a heartfelt, if uneven performance), is the clear standout in the wrestling audition. She is smart and determined, but Richard sees this as a threat. The middle of the film consists of various power plays between the two. Lisa and Darlene think Carla could be a great wrestler, but Richard wants to punish her for a perceived slight. Physically and psychologically torturing women clearly excites him. It’s a character flaw that will have deadly consequences in the second half, when the movie becomes a more traditional slasher film.
The centerpiece of the movie is the ghost town outside Las Vegas. It’s a great location, shot predominantly in low light. Up until that point, the cinematography by Max Margolin struggles. Focus problems, inconsistent exposure. A colorist could have helped the latter of the two, but that’s often a casualty in a low-budget production. By the second half, Margolin is at least able to maintain a unified look. Still a lot of unintentionally fuzzy shots though.
The editing throughout creates very little forward momentum. At eighty-five minutes, this movie feels interminable. Cuts often start before characters enter the frame and continue after they exit, reducing key moments to nothing but static shots of empty rooms. On the other hand, when The Boom Boom Girls of Wrestling embraces it’s experimental side, scene transitions suddenly take on cubistic dimensions, similar to Easy Rider. These flourishes create a neo-hippie, acid trip, freeform feeling. It’s a Red Bull jolt of energy, which immediately deflates. The movie has a serious case of attention deficit disorder. There’s nothing worse in a horror film than bad pacing.
But the most egregious flaw is the sound. My God, the sound quality damn near kills this film. Nothing is equalized right, so there are pops and clicks throughout. Background white noise varies wildly from scene to scene, sometimes shot to shot. At other points, stock sound effects are used, such as punches. The filter on the effect is canned, so they don’t gel with the rest of the soundtrack. Honestly, a movie can look like practically anything. But if you can’t hear it, you will want to throw your popcorn.
The ending is confusing. The killer favors a bizarre chicken mask, which certainly fits into the avant-garde style. But why? When you realize who is underneath, your eyes will cross. You will question the logic. There is no correlation to what we’ve previously seen. The best slasher films have simple monsters. Michael Myers favors the white mask because he wore a Halloween costume during his first kill. Even in classic surrealist films, there is basic logic. A man presses a doorbell in Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou. A pair of arms protruding from the wall shake a martini mixer. They don’t wave a plunger. That wouldn’t make any sense.
The Boom Boom Girls of Wrestling is currently making the festival rounds. No word yet on its distribution plans. It won Best Picture at the Woman Up Indie Film Festival. That’s actually a much deserved feather in its cap. Despite the many technical flaws and story shakiness, Von Petzholdt represents the very best in indie filmmaking. With a budget of only $5,000, she demonstrates true boldness, in an industry increasingly predisposed to blandness. With a few improvements in technique, Von Petzholdt has the wherewithal to carve out a distinctive niche.
There is a disclaimer at the beginning, which reads “based on true events”. In that case, pray you don’t look out your window and see a giant chicken head staring back at you. It could happen, apparently.