I'm a fan of Freddie Francis. He directed a number of Amicus anthologies, the most notable being Tales From the Crypt (incidentally, Torture Garden and Dr. Terror's House of Horrors are also worth scoping out). He knew how to craft a toothsome genre treat, and I think that's why I was disappointed in Girly. I was slabbering for sweet horror candy, but Francis snuck an apple into my trick-or-treat bag when I wasn't looking, worm in tow. Allow me to explain my mincing, self-aggrandizing analogy. Girly isn't much of a horror flick. It's barely exploitative, which wouldn't have been a problem if I wasn't all psyched up for an abject bloodbath. I mean, look at the DVD cover!

I was hoping to get down and dirty with a grindhouse-style b-cheapie, but in short, Girly is a suggestive black comedy. The story deals with an affluent British family comprised of a dainty matriarch (Mumsy), her chambermaid (Nanny), her voyeuristic son (Sonny) and her amorous tart of a daughter (Girly). They like to think of themselves as a perfect family. The only thing missing is a father figure. The quick fix? Every once in awhile, Mumsy sends her dear children out to fetch vagrants and stewed gutterpups to fill in as the reluctant "man of the house." If the victim refuses to be a plaything or tries to escape, the family partakes in a rousing game that usually ends in a fatality.

We only see the (20-year-old) kids abduct two hapless men. The pace is stubborn. Almost nothing happens for prolonged stretches of time. I dig black comedies, but this one isn't particularly funny. We're supposed to laugh at how demented the characters are, but that's just a single gag. And it only goes so far. Despite vapid dialogue, Vanessa Howard is divine as the titular strumpet. She has "jailbait" written all over her. The rest of the cast is adroit, even if they aren't as yummy as Howard. Y'know, taken out of context, that sentence is troubling. I could be talking about anyone. Howard Stern, Howard Finkel, Howard the Duck...well, I concede that Howard the Duck is pretty fucking yummy.

Francis shoots the script with a firm hand. The scenery is comely, the cinematography is crisp and he manages to drum up suspense in the absence of hawkish violence (Girly is surprisingly intimidating when she is brandishing a pool cue). Still, this flick failed to dazzle me on a gut level. The plot holes didn't help matters. The main hostage (credited as New Friend) doesn't try too hard to flee his captors, and from where I'm sitting, he never seemed terribly disturbed by his surroundings. Does he realize that he was snatched up by sociopaths? Girly makes for an okay rental on a slow weekend, but if you want to get acquainted with the works of Freddie Francis, I would start somewhere else.

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