Aug 9, 2019
It’s Friday, so it’s time for another Fantastic Fest feature from our good friend Andrew Campbell. Today’s film is, well, a film. And Andrew’s going to tell you just what kind of film it is in a moment, but it’s about girls. Girls with balls. And if that joke didn’t land with you, I’m not sure today’s film with either. For a few other recent reviews from Andrew, check out “Lords of Chaos” (Episode #551), “Liza the Fox-Fairy” (Episode #544), and “The Standoff at Sparrow Creek” (Episode #537).
Before we get to Andrew’s review, we’ll have a promo from the 32 Fans Movies Podcast, the offshoot of their original sport-themed podcast, the 32 Fans Podcast. You can check them out at anchor.fm/32-fans-movies, where you can subscribe at your podcatcher of choice. Be sure to catch their recent episode kicking off the Sports Movies Brackets, in their attempt to find the top 64 sports movies of all time, then have them compete to find out which one’s the best. Personally, my money is on “Ping Pong Playa”. Because I love cereal.
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Here we go!
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Hello film fans!
Andrew here - back this week with a French/Belgian horror comedy as we continue our trip through Europe. I tend to divide horror comedies into two distinct buckets: those I love, and those that are objectively terrible.
Okay, I should elaborate. Great horror comedies have a real story to tell with a witty script that includes moments of genuine humanity mixed with humor. The horror elements provide a setting and situations that heighten the stakes. Films like recent Fantastic Fest favorite “Anna and the Apocalypse” (Episode #425), as well as “What We Do in the Shadows” and “Zombieland” are great examples. “Zombieland” premiered at Fantastic Fest a decade ago and rumor has it the sequel will launch at the festival next month.
Bad horror comedies are a dime a dozen and without naming names here, they typically rely on slapstick comedy and buckets of blood to shock the audience. Let’s see what this one has in store.
Today’s movie is “Girls With Balls”, written by Olivier Afonso and Jean-Luc Cano, and directed by Afonso. “Girls With Balls” made its world premiere at the 2018 Fantastic Fest before its inevitable Netflix acquisition. The film tells the story of a volleyball team that ends up stranded in the middle of nowhere when their old-school camper van breaks down. They stumble into a local backwoods bar filled with whatever is French for “hillbillies”. Soon, these men become their tormentors, and a schlocky gorefest ensues as the girls hash out their strained relationships while fighting for their lives.
What’s clever here is that title. See, these girls have both “volley” balls as well as the metaphorical “balls” to engage these monsters in combat. It’s really very clever when you think about it.
The film starts out great. A team of mostly foul-mouthed volleyball players wins the big match before strutting out of the gym with middle fingers held high. The girls take their big attitudes and in-fighting onto the road back home in what feels like a subversive take on the “wrong turn” horror genre. The film struggles to give the overcrowded van any unique characters, other than one girl is nerdy and one is the big mouth who doesn’t like how the new girl has stolen her thunder and earned an athletic scholarship. When the situation gets fraught, the acerbic male coach takes off and we flash between a few groups of girls on the run as the story dissolves into kitschy violence. Some light spoilers ahead but trust me: if you make it this far into this 80-minute film, you’re only here for the spectacle, not the plot.
The film makes you wait a good twenty minutes before it brings the gore, and it gets out of hand pretty quickly with the splashes of blood becoming buckets full. In one particularly off-putting scene, the coach of the team is attacked by a chihuahua before turning it into Stretch Armstrong until it bursts. In a film full of blood, it feels out of step with the rest of the picture. Later, when the film tries to turn the group of thrill-killers into some sort of cult (Pagan? Satanic? I couldn’t tell you.) it feels obtrusive and unnecessary. Had the film just focused on its characters and the comedy aspect, we may have had a less bumpy ride.
What makes “Girls With Balls” fantastic?It’s really just a French take on what feels like a 1980s horror tale. I would not say it’s all that unique, but it does put a new coat of paint on an old movie formula. Unfortunately, where it strives to be empowering to its female co-leads, it just comes off as exploitative and silly.
“Girls with Balls” (2018) is a mercifully brief horror shocker that’s not fun enough to enjoy with friends, but if Netflix knows you’re the last one awake and suggests this one, at least you won’t be up too late. Fans of off-beat wacky horror comedies like “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil” or “Piranha 3-D” may enjoy this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
One Movie Punch: 5.2/10
“Girls With Balls” (2018) is not rated and is currently streaming on Netflix.
Next week, we’ll wrap up our European road trip that took us from Hungary to Norway before this week’s stop in France, and end with a trip to the coast of Italy. We’ll talk about “Dogman” a Certified Fresh crime drama loosely based on real events that hits Hulu next week. The title is forgettable, but the story of a dog groomer with a criminal side hustle has my tail wagging.
(Oh god, edit that out.)
JOSEPH: “Sorry, Andrew. No time this week.”
I’ll see you then.