Girls Against Boys (2012)

Girls Against Boys is a film that think it’s much smarter than it really is, and while the premise is intriguing it actually treads pretty familiar ground and becomes a derivative mess in its second half. It’s stylish, reasonably well acted and utilises its soundtrack to wonderful effect but it still falls pretty wide of the mark.

Shae is a college student who suffers from an appalling love life. She’s seeing a middle aged man with a wife and daughter, who quickly ditches her. Just when she thinks she’s at her lowest ebb, Shae then goes on a bender with co-worker Lu in an effort to forget the ex, only to meet a seemingly charming man who violently rapes her when she declines his advances. After another unprovoked attack (yes, really) Shae, with the help of new friend Lu, decides to take matters into her own hands in a rather deadly manner.

Girls Against Boys has an overly simplistic view of the sexes, and it’s with small surprise that I learned the film was written and directed by a man; newcomer Austin Chick. It’s man-hating to its confused core, and although I suspect there might have been some sort of intended feminist perspective, it makes the female characters appear, at best, weak and bland, and at worst, psychotic and unhinged. No-one comes out of this film looking very good and it’s unclear what the directors intention was and if there was supposed to be some kind of message here.

Danielle Panabaker, as Shae, continues along her chosen path of B-movie scream queen, after roles in Friday The 13th (2009), The Crazies (2010), The Ward and Piranha 3DD. She’s adequately doe eyed but her transition from the abused, haunted girl to the crazed, revenge-seeking woman is quite jarring and happens far too quickly to be plausible. There’s no gradual decline and as such it appears unnatural, I’d be interested to know if there should have been more transitional scenes that hit the cutting room floor as it just doesn’t ring true.

Nicole LaLiberte as Lu is phenomenal. She’s unconventionally beautiful and demands the viewers attention whenever she appears. That might go some way to explaining why Panabakers performance fell a little flatter, as she was certainly overpowered by the very dominant LaLiberte. Shifting from sex kitten to vengeful bitch with enviable ease, she’s got a long way to go before she’s a truly incredible actress but she’s well on her way if she keeps this up.

My main issue with Girls Against Boys is the uncertainty at its heart. I can’t quite put my finger on what it’s lacking but there’s definitely something missing. From a feminist viewpoint, the whole thing is a mess, painting all women as one sexual assault away from being a murderous nutjob and all men as domineering chauvinists with the potential to rape. If the message was intended to be a feminist one, showing women as strong, independent and equal to men then Chick has failed quite drastically, with the movie falling into dangerously misandristic territory. If there’s not supposed to be a message at all then I think Chick has failed equally, as, from a personal point of view, I’m not sure a film containing these kinds of rape and revenge tropes should ever be quite so vapid, or viewed as sheer entertainment, as the themes explored are a far cry from entertaining. Maybe it’s because the female leads are so ridiculously sexualised throughout that it’s difficult to argue the feminist perspective on this one? Whatever the case, it sends a very mixed message.

Meeting somewhere in the middle between American Mary and Fight Club, Girls Against Boys isn’t nearly as good as the films it is obviously influenced by. It’s a real shame as there are some neat directorial choices and great edits, as well an offbeat soundtrack that suits the material really well. I’d be interested to see what Chick can come up with, with a better idea that’s fleshed out more satisfactorially, as he’s created a film that looks great and has gotten some decent performances out of his cast.

I wanted to like Girls Against Boys, I really did, but it’s a very average experience. Despite some of the more interesting directorial choices, the film is bogged down in slow-mo scenes that look fantastic but drag proceedings out without adding any sort of depth. With a lead that’s just not relatable enough and a character-180 that doesn’t add up, Girls Against Boys could have been so much better given the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, while it’s worth a watch, it won’t be making many peoples top tens and it does nothing to further ‘women in horror’. A missed opportunity.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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