Author Topic: WS Reviews  (Read 30535 times)

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Offline RottingCorpse

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WS Reviews
« on: June 17, 2008, 09:49:06 AM »
First up, Pretty-Scary.net:

http://www.pretty-scary.net/article1832.html

Quote from: Pretty-Scary.net
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
2008, www.womensstudiesmovie.com

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.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2008, 11:34:09 AM by RottingCorpse »

Offline nacho

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2008, 10:53:51 AM »
So in the book world, we call that a good review!

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2008, 11:10:29 AM »
In the movie world, we call that a "meh" one.

Offline nacho

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2008, 11:17:47 AM »
All those meh parts?  I just see ellipses. 

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2008, 11:19:08 AM »
Denial will get you everything.

Offline nacho

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2008, 11:21:00 AM »
Thank god nobody reads in the book business!

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2008, 11:22:07 AM »
The ultimate irony is that everybody reads in the movie business . . . at least review length pieces.

Offline nacho

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2008, 11:37:01 AM »
Strange that Pretty-Scary defected, really.  They've been pretty loyal to you.

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2008, 11:40:31 AM »
Well, I wouldn't call it a defection. It's an honest, fair review from her point-of-view. The more I read it, the more I key in to the good things she has to say about rather than the "meh."

And it's just one review. When I have nothing but "meh" ones, then I'll start drinking heavily.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2008, 12:41:25 PM by RottingCorpse »

Offline nacho

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2008, 12:04:33 PM »
What's the review schedule look like?  Who's up next?

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2008, 12:10:09 PM »
I have eight more that are out there in this batch of review submissions. No idea who's next or when, but they could pop up anytime.

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2008, 02:03:30 PM »
So far, the ladies universally hate us . . .

http://www.fatally-yours.com/horror-reviews/womens-studies-2008/

Quote from: Fatally Yours
Women’s Studies (2008)

Review by Fatally Yours

Women’s Studies has long titillated with promises of a “feminist” horror film. I remember hearing about the indie production a year or so ago and eagerly anticipated its release. As a female horror fan who also wrote my college thesis examining The Texas Chain Saw Massacre through the feminist lens, sometimes I find it hard to find decent horror flicks that don’t malign their female characters. I want strong female characters that can take care of themselves in my horror films, but that is usually a rarity.

So, you can understand my excitement when I heard about the film Women’s Studies. When I finally received a screener, I was very hopeful that the film would present a witty and intelligent story told from a feminist perspective. What I wanted and what I received, though, are two very different things.

Instead of an insightful, woman-centric horror film I got a stereotypical, cliché-driven and dull horror movie with some pretty awful production values.

After months of interning for Senator Gayle Hamlin (Judith O’Dea in a pleasing cameo), Mary (Cindy Marie Martin) is driving back to college with her doctor-in-training boyfriend, Zack (James A. Radack), awkward friend Iris (Laura Bloechl) and best friend Beth (Melisa Breiner-Sanders). On the trip, Mary’s car is stolen from a roadside café. Luckily, a young woman named Judith (Tara Garwood) offers to put them up at her all-girls college, Ross-Prentiss Academy. Mary gladly accepts, but Beth is a little creeped out by Judith and her strange classmates. There’s Diane (Kelly Slagle), who’s tall, gaunt and only speaks French, the bitter and pregnant Sharon (Mundy Spears) and the bohemian Melissa (Tiffany James), who takes an extra-special liking to Iris.

As they wait for word from the police about their car, the foursome kick back at Ross-Prentiss. Mary starts hanging out with Judith, Zack finds one of the students to be overly friendly and Iris quickly falls in with the academy girls. Beth goes poking around where she shouldn’t and mouths off to Judith, a big no-no on this particular campus. She conveniently “disappears,” but Mary still insists on waiting around for word on her car. Things take a decidedly darker turn as Judith and the rest of the academy girls try to recruit Mary to make a stand against the patriarchal society…at whatever cost necessary.

You know, to call yourself a “feminist” film you first have to actually celebrate women. Instead, Women’s Studies decides to skewer women and represent all feminists as murderous, man-hating, goddess-worshiping lesbians. The heroine, Mary, wasn’t much better and came off a bit bland and thick-headed, though she did manage to kick some major ass towards the end. I will applaud the filmmakers for actually having a female-driven cast and not copiously featuring gratuitous female nudity, but the characters were as clichéd and stereotypical (perhaps even more so, because this film actually passes itself off as “feminist”) than any other horror movie.

Just as clichéd as the characters was the story, written by Lonnie Martin (who also directed), which was basically the same ho-hum plot of a group of people trapped in an isolated location with no cell phone service and no way out who are trying to survive some killer. I was hoping for more background on the school, like a visit into a classroom to see just what the women were being taught. Except, the entire campus was empty…what’s the school’s enrollment anyway…five students?? And the opening scene in the strip club really had no bearing on the rest of the story, either. There were lots of little niggling details like this that just drove me mad, on top of the fact that it wasn’t a feminist movie at all. The motivations of Judith and her followers were never explored as in-depth as I would have liked, especially their purpose for killing people, especially other women. Couldn’t they just let them go on their merry way? The story also dragged and had terrible pacing…there were scenes that should have been edited much more.

Along with the editing, there was some horrible direction and cinematography. In some of the shots, the framing was all off, so the camera was pointed at a wall for a few minutes while characters talked on the periphery of the shot. This was absolutely atrocious and amateur-looking. I will say that the outdoor cinematography was much better than any interior shots, which suffered from poor lighting as well as poor framing. The one scene that was shot with talent was the fight between Judith and Mary in the middle of the woods. It was pretty much the only exciting thing in the entire film!

What should have been more exciting were the kill scenes…but these too were pretty disappointing and unmemorable. The women used huge knives, which were pretty cool to look at but didn’t get much action.

As for the acting…well, it is a low-budget picture, so it wasn’t all bad. I think the main problem was that all the dialogue was dubbed in post-production, creating stale and fake-sounding emotions/reactions. The problem was probably the dialogue in the first place, but the actors tried to work around that. I thought Cindy Marie Martin as Mary and Tara Garwood as Judith were both excellent, but the other actors didn’t really get to do much. We never really got to know much about the Academy Girl’s characters, which is maybe because the writer doesn’t really understand women enough to write them as anything more than shallow, clichéd characters.

The last time I was so pissed off at a so-called “feminist” film was the misogynistic Teeth. I wouldn’t call Women’s Studies misogynistic, but it does misrepresent women and feminists. Even forgetting the whole “feminism” aspect of the film doesn’t change the fact that Women’s Studies is a chore to sit through. Its plodding story, ho-hum acting and bad production values make Women’s Studies one to skip!

Check out the Women’s Studies’ Official Site; it’s actually very cool.

Offline Tatertots

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2008, 02:54:16 PM »
Feminists are fickle creatures. You really can't please them all short of driving a butterknife through Rush Limbaugh's skull on Lifetime.

Offline nacho

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2008, 04:12:04 PM »
Ouch. 

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: WS Reviews
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2008, 04:15:58 PM »
What can you do really?