The Ladies of the House
Justina Walford, John Stuart Wildman
John Stuart Wildman
Farah White as Lin
Melodie Sisk as Getty
Brina Palencia as Crystal
Gabriel Horn as Jacob
You never know what might pop up in your screener queue. Sometimes you have to wonder if a pink slip from your editor may be just around the corner, as the stuff they send can occasionally be atrocious – so bad that you start to believe they just want you to quit, but are just too darned nice to fire you.
Then there are the flicks you receive which rock your world, making you believe in your heart of hearts that these bosses of yours appreciate you, want to keep you on the payroll forever and ever and that yes, they quite possibly love you.
The Ladies of the House falls under the latter category. I’m sitting here, post viewing – thinking of the iconic Sally Field Oscar acceptance speech where she babbled, “You like me. You really, really like me.” To my bosses, I say “Thanks!” I ADORED this film!
It’s a fun birthday evening out with two brothers and their buddy when they hit a strip club. Jacob (Gabriel Horn) and his beloved brother Kai (Rj Hanson) are out celebrating Kai’s birthday with their douche-y friend Derek (Samrat Chakrabarti). Thing is, Kai’s a bit “touched” (the term used in the film), i.e. somewhat mentally handicapped. As the evening winds down, they decide to follow a stripper named Ginger (Belladonna) to her house, hoping for some more partying and perhaps a chance to get Kai laid. In his drunken, stoned and less-than-cohesive mental state, Kai thinks it’s all a game, and attempts to rape Ginger. Lots of bad things happen, and suddenly, Ginger has been shot. Just as the guys fall into panic mode, Ginger’s three female roommates arrive home. Lesbian couple Lin (Farah White) and Getty (Melodie Sisk) and their young protégé Crystal (Brina Palencia) quickly assess the situation (including finding Ginger dead) as the men hide in various corners in the house. The ladies lock down the place (all of this, including a visit from the cops, is reminiscent of Craven’s The People Under the Stairs) and begin to hunt for the guys – and the film slowly reveals what terrible s*** these guys have found themselves in… these ladies are cannibals.
Melodie Sisk as Getty, the leader of this tribe of women, is a marvel. I immediately recognized her name and had to research why. Turns out, I’ve reviewed her work before. My first review for Best-Horror-Movies.com was Summer of Blood, in which Ms. Sisk has a smaller supporting role – but clearly one I had to call out and shower with praise. Well, Sisk’s obviously no fluke. Her Getty is strong, no-nonsense and fiercely loyal. And with her Rosie the Riveter look (all of the girls look like Bettie Page-style pin-ups – and with the home décor to match), she commands the screen. Out of her many wonderful line deliveries and the jokes her character tells – nothing is so poignant and entertaining as her dinner table conversation toward the end of the film – regarding her high school days when she was sleeping with boys, and the events surrounding her visit to an abortion clinic.
On that note, the script is particularly wonderful in this film. At first, the ladies of the house seem to blend, but as time goes on, the script paints them in vivid, beautiful colors (like the lavish color-blends of the film’s picture itself) and they become more and more unique, well-drawn and yes – sympathetic.
The other two lead actresses (Farah White and Brina Palencia) are equally as magnificent at Sisk, but Sisk steals the show.
In the middle of all of this weirdness, gore and John Waters-inspired wackiness, there is a very touching love story. The fact that a film about cannibal women is able to capture the loyalty and deep love between these two women (one particular dialogue-free scene between Getty and Lin is practically breathtaking) is no small feat.
The film definitely has some unsavory torture porn scenes, and strangely enough, they didn’t bother me. First of all, the gore effects were very effective and believable. But the big reason these moments didn’t offend? They were justified. Perhaps that is the missing link in this (thankfully) dying sub-genre. Gore and torture to get a gag reaction from your audience is one thing. But if your characters engage in such nasty on-screen acts and they make sense to the situation and the characters – then you can get away with it. That is certainly the case here. These women are cannibals and they are also skilled butchers – so what they do in their well-equipped basement is reasonable.
There are also minute echoes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – particularly in the aforementioned dinner table scene. But even in all of these grotesque displays, there is still humor, sympathy and some truly amazing characters. Of course, from a production company called Femmeworks Productions, you’d expect a more female-driven story – which indeed it is. The men in the film are assholes, rapists and basically useless. They exist solely to serve (or be served to) these powerful and very interesting women.
But don’t let the gruesome aspects of the story bother you. These ladies are real people. Sure, they harvest, prepare and devour human flesh, but other than that, they’re a normal (if colorful) family. The exceptional monologues of Getty further this concept.
Also, the soundtrack was perfectly suited to the film. Every chosen song beautifully mirrored the fashion sensibility and the pin-up era these ladies choose to emulate as well as the situations in which they find themselves.
If you do take a gander at this film (which I implore you to do), I will warn you – the first 15 minutes of the piece are difficult. At the outset, it looks cheap, amateurish, flat and very un-promising. But I am telling you — muddle through the exposition and into the “meat” of the story and you will not be disappointed. Once the boys make it to the house, things move quickly and the quality (including performances, visuals and weirdness) abruptly changes for the better – sucking you in for the remainder of the picture.
And finally – keep an eye out for the “cookie” scene – somewhere at the mid-point. Heartbreaking. Scary. Hysterically funny. Writing doesn’t get better than this.
Why is this film an absolute gem? Aside from all of its technical and acting triumphs, it has a bloody, butchered heart at its core which will easily entertain and enchant you.