Film Festivals Gruesome Reviews

[Review] BAD GIRLS (Grindsploitation Film Fest 2021): This Tale of Criminal Gals on the Lam Is Modern-Day Exploitation Done Right

Director Christoper Bickel blew minds with his 2017 feature film debut The Theta Girl, but his new follow-up Bad Girls is even more wild, warped, and wacky. Imagine classic bad-girl movies such as Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! on steroids and amphetamines, and in lurid color, and you are on your way to getting a grasp of what Bickel’s sophomore effort has in store for viewers.

Bad Girls kicks off in high gear and rarely lets up. A trio of strippers — Val (Morgan Shaley Renew), Mitzi (Sanethia Dresch), and Carolyn (Shelby Lois Guinn) — rob their workplace during a drug deal, leaving a trail of blood and bodies behind them as they hop in their classic car and head to Mexico. During their journey, they rob and kill plenty more times, with hate-filled Special Agent Cannon (Mike Amason) and his milder-mannered, more level-headed partner Special Agent McMurphy (Dove Dupree) doing their best to catch up with and capture the titular trio. 

Plenty of sex, drugs, and rock and roll are on display in Bad Girls once Val’s id starts overriding her superego, with the girls kidnapping two rock stars (Cleveland Langdale and Micah Peroulis) and a geeky motel clerk (Jonathan Benton) for sensual pleasure, and having a pill-fueled wild night in their relatively safe motel room in Mexico. When Val insists on heading back over the border where the special agents have jurisdiction, you can bet that things will take a turn for the worst (depending on for whom viewers are rooting) and that a higher body count will amass.

Speaking of Freudian psychoanalytical terms, the three bad girls follow Freud’s classic categories. Val is the pleasure-seeking id of the bunch, throwing caution and common sense to the wind as she seeks one thrill after another without concern about death. Mitzi is the superego, the member with the most moral conscience — and often, not much of one. Carolyn is the ego, wavering between the two extremes. Renew, Dresch, and Guinn, respectively, nail each of their characters, turning in solid, engaging performances. The large supporting cast is a blast, too, including Amason chewing whatever scenery his character doesn’t shoot up, Benton acting like he was born to play his idol-worshipping role, and Dupree adding fine contrast to Amason’s character.

Bickel, working from an anything-goes screenplay that he cowrote with Shane Silman and doing incredible work on editing, as well, directs with high-octane energy and verve. Bad Girls is a true auteur vision, filled with as much talent behind and in front of the camera as there is excess on screen. The special effects look terrific, with the slight exception of a little CGI blood. Jaw-dropping practical effects gore more than makes up for that, though. The film fully belies its announced $16,000 budget.

Bickel has crafted a dizzying, brain-jolting, wild ride of a modern exploitation film that pays homage to the classic bad-girl cinema of yesteryear without resorting to pastiche or full-on camp. If you want to watch wisecracking women having their way and blowing away anyone and anything that keeps them from doing so, with plenty of the red stuff splattered for good measure, Bad Girls is required viewing.

Bad Girls screens as part of Grindsploitation Film Fest 2021, which runs at Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester, Virginia, from April 23–25, 2021. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/noogagrind/.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5. He is a contributing writer for "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" print magazine and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, Ghastly Grinning, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and the websites That's Not Current an HorrorNews.net. He occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.
Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5. He is a contributing writer for "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" print magazine and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, Ghastly Grinning, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and the websites That's Not Current an HorrorNews.net. He occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.