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First up,

--- Quote from: ---Women's Studies (2008)

Written and Directed by Lonnie Martin
Co-Produced by Cindy Marie Martin
Featuring: Cindy Marie Martin, Judith O’Dea, Laura Bloechl, James Radack, Tara Garwood, Kelley Slagle, Tiffany James, Mundy Spears

The long-anticipated “feminist” horror film Women’s Studies is finally finished. And we got to see it. The film about an all-female college (no, not Sarah Lawrence) that practices an extreme form of fanatical feminism from Ningen Manga Productions does break some new ground with concepts of female motivation and sexuality; but it also has some troubling logic, cliché sequences, and inconsistent production value that takes away from the originality of the plot.

The opening sequence, which consists of strippers who seduce and then murder their male victims, is seemingly unrelated to the rest of the plot and unconvincing. Not only do the strippers never take their clothes off, but they also do not have a pole in their strip club. Two strikes. The “killer strippers” concept is also a little old – I can’t count how many films in which I have seen women killing me who first use their evil seductiveness to entrap and snare men into lascivious sexual deeds.

Switch to Mary, who works as an intern for Senator Gayle Hamlin (played by Judith O’Dea). Dissatisfied with the uncaring female youth of today who ignore her flyers and don’t care about the various pro-women bills being passed/ignored in Congress, Mary expresses her distaste to the Senator. Since the semester is at an end, Mary and Gayle part ways over some wise words of womanly wisdom from Gayle.  Mary, her best friend Beth, their awkward shy friend Iris, and Mary’s boyfriend Zack are taking a road trip to Chicago because college is out for the summer and they’re heading home. Unfortunately, their car is stolen at a diner along the way and some helpful young women, if a bit bohemian, are eager to help them by offering them a place to stay at their local women’s college Ross-Prentice Academy while the police search for their car. Though Beth is wary, Mary, Zack, and Iris agree that this is the best idea, and take the girls up on their hospitality.

Judith, the leader of the girls, and her cohorts Diane, Melissa, and the pregnant Sharon, all espouse an ultra-feminist point of view that is encouraged by their academy. Though they find it odd, Mary, Zack and Iris aren’t bothered by it. Beth, on the other hand, smells something fishy, and when she mysteriously “disappears”, you know something is very wrong. Things escalate, Sharon decides to have a nervous breakdown and ask Mary and Zack to help her save her unborn baby, Iris joins up with the feminists and is brainwashed beyond recognition, and multiple murders with awkward-looking machetes take place before a final, and ultimate, showdown between Judith and Mary over women’s place in the world.

Cue strange Wicker Man-esque pagan ceremonies (the remake, not the original) and a badly executed and blocked scene of confrontation between Iris and her estranged and unloving father. Cue a few plot holes – for instance, why does Mary not care when Beth has disappeared? Why do the women who live at Ross-Prentice keep a graveyard of the dead men (and women) they have gotten rid of over the years, but have never been investigated by the local police in any missing persons cases? Why are the girls eager to kill Beth, and the rest of Mary’s crew if need be, even though they were seen with them in public at the diner? Why was there no stripping pole in the strip club? So few girls attending the school? I have a lot of questions like these, and more.

On the other hand, I didn’t get any answers, so there is no use asking. While some of the cinematography is bad, and some of the choreography is awful, there is an intensely awesome fight sequence between Mary and Judith that is not only shot well, its acted well and blocked out amazingly. This was a great climaxpoint of the movie, despite an evilly cheesy one-liner from Mary that belonged in a bad Batman sequel from the 90’s. There are also some really beautifully shot scenes that are edited immaculately. It’s hard to tell if it was the same editor or DP throughout the film because of how uneven the shifts in production quality are. It seems like everything shot outdoors is ultra professional and gorgeously lit, while the indoor scenes are somewhat awkward and stumbling. It’s a good thing there are a lot of outdoor scenes.

Judith O’Dea is strikingly good in her part as the Senator with a secret. She’s obviously having a lot of fun yukking it up in another horror film, and she shines. Cindy Marie Martin is also very good. Her Mary is complex, interesting, and emotionally believable mostly due to Cindy Marie’s talent and sophisticated performance. Judith (Tara Garwood) and Iris (Laura Bloechl) add loads of subtle black humor and eeriness, while the French-speaking Diane (Kelly Slage) is a character not only out of place, but irritating. Is she supposed to be irritating? If so, she was great. What’s best about all the women in the film (and the only main character who is male is Zack (James Radack)) is that they all have a back story, and they are all distinctly different from one another and played by mostly talented actresses with a lot of energy. This is incredibly different from most slasher films, where you get girls with personalities so similar it’s often hard to tell one from the other.

The fact that the film is about feminists doesn’t actually make it a feminist film. The killers have a fanatically psychotic anti-male philosophy that can hardly be called “feminism”, but the film does take the time to address why some of these women feel the way they do, and their reasons relate to social woes women experience at the hands of men, like rape. Lesbianism does play apart (of course). These women seek a perfect society, in which they can live without men completely (Sharon makes a good point in saying that they’re going to have to find a way to reproduce on their own if they really want to live that way) but since they can’t, they’ll settle for killing men and using their sperm for reproduction.

The Ross-Prentice philosophy and way of life is convoluted and shaky at best. It isn’t a well thought out system (kill men, get women to join us, leave a trail of bodies) and can hardly be supposed to have existed in secret for a long time. In truth, it’s a different spin on the “strangers from out of town meet murderous locals who have strange ideas” that’s used as s staple in horror films from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Motel Hell, American Gothic, 2000 Maniacs, The Wicker Man, to dozens more. But it's a really fun setting for this genre not specifically used with this twist ever before.
--- End quote ---

So in the book world, we call that a good review!

In the movie world, we call that a "meh" one.

All those meh parts?  I just see ellipses. 

Denial will get you everything.


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