J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Ladies of the House: They’d Love to Have You Over for Dinner

These strippers really enjoy serving their customers—preferably with some melted butter and a side of potatoes. Yes, Damon Knight’s pun is still zingy sixty-five years later. However, these exotic dancers are not aliens. They are as earthy as it gets. Usually, they have to lure men (who really ought to be more suspicious) back to their (charnel) house, but this time dinner will unexpectedly delivery itself in John Stuart Wildman’s Ladies of the House, which releases today on VOD.

A relatively nice guy like Jacob never should have taken his slightly addled brother Kai to a strip club for his birthday, but their obnoxious friend Derek always has to get his way. When the club scene turns sour for them, Derek decides to follow home (i.e. stalk) one of the dancers. That would be Ginger, Lin’s newest housemate. There are rules to living in her house. Dinner rituals are a big deal, but Ginger has not fully acclimated. When the three lads try to invite themselves in she unwisely agrees. After a lot of boozing, the three amigos find themselves in a sticky Very Bad Things situation.

At this point, Ginger’s housemates arrive, locking in the intruders rather than calling five-o. They are pretty much done for, especially if Getty, Lin’s lover with anger management issues, gets a hold of them. Things are going to get ugly for the intruding trio, but at least their experiences will help kids learn proper strip club etiquette.

Known for his Utilitarian concept of filmmaking, John Stuart Wildman also happens to be a film publicist for some of New York’s more prestigious screening events, whom we all know and like quite a bit, so you can now consider yourself fully informed. However, House delivers the kind of grindhouse love any cult film fan can appreciate. Yet, this feels like an intensely personal film, almost like Blue is the Warmest Color, but with more cannibalism.

Shrewdly, Wildman and co-writer Justina Walford follow the EC Comics playbook, meting out gory payback for the appalling displays of loutish behavior. By the time we get to the third act, absolutely no one will want to see Derek the pond scum walk out of the house under his own steam. Indeed, Samrat Chakrabarti clearly enjoys playing that kind of a jerkweed character, which helps make House so subversive.

Still, Gabriel Horn’s Jacob is convincingly contrite enough to keep our loyalties divided between cannibals and the meat for their grinder. Farah White and Melodie Sisk convey a strangely legit sense of long-term couplehood, leaving us intrigued for more back story. Michelle Sinclair also comes across appropriately down-to-earth and slightly naïve as Ginger. Evidently, she has a lot of fans who know her for her work under the name “Belladonna,” but surely nobody here knows what that might be.

Frankly, it has been a while since we’ve had a good lesbian cannibal movie, so House arrives just in the nick of time. Wildman has a knack staging the blood-and-guts business of Lin’s food preparation without making the audience feel gross on a personal level (unlike a nasty piece of gristle like Butcher Boys, for instance). Not afraid of its exploitation elements, Ladies of the House is easily recommended for retro genre fans, now that it is available via iTunes and VOD platforms.

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