When a film announces itself with such a deliberately and unapologetically brash title, it’s clear the filmmakers have probably tried their very best to entertain the intended audience of trash cinema connoisseurs. Thankfully, this knockabout horror/comedy – which is something akin to the characters of Bring It On taking a Wrong Turn – more or less delivers on that promise, but there’s also a fun take on female empowerment and resourcefulness amongst the lashings of gloopy splatter. And any film of this kind which begins with a country singer setting the scene through a ditty – who then periodically crops throughout to comment on the action – is undeniably worth a watch.
After a fun, whizzy Edgar Wright-like montage introducing us to the highly-competitive, merciless netball team The Falcons, we’re soon whipped away to the French countryside as the team make their way to another match. Rattling along in an RV, the players bicker between themselves and antagonise their tubby, no-nonsense male coach (Victor Artus Solaro, who’s deranged one-on-one with a crazed Chihuahua later on in the film truly needs to be seen to be believed). It isn’t long before their minivan is purposely directed off the beaten track, and any animosity within the team is temporarily set aside as they find themselves stalked and hunted by a masked, pagan-like gang of crazed cannibals, led by Holy Motors’ Denis Lavant.
This kind of survivalist backwater horror has been exploited previously in French cinema with the likes of Frontier(s) and Sheitan (Satan), the latter of which features a demented turn from another respected Gallic thesp, Vincent Cassel. But first-time director and veteran make-up effects artist Olivier Afonso is more than comfortable in subverting this familiar set-up for broad humorous effect. The cartoonish villains – whose hooded, monk-like clobber and distinctive twisty features, Lavent included – look like they’ve been ripped directly from the pages of Asterix illustrator Albert Uderzo’s work. It’s a fun visual contrast to The Falcon’s colourful netball kit, which become increasingly drenched in mud, blood and other bodily fluids as the film progresses.
While the girls squabble over cheating boyfriends and the power dynamic which has worked its way off the court, they are never portrayed as hapless victims, and are more than able to hold their own against the creepy aggressors. All the actresses are fully committed to the mayhem, with the standouts being Manon Azem as hot-headed Morgane – whose initial feisty behaviour later gives way to something more traitorous – and Tiphaine Daviot as the delicate Jeanne who manages to tap into previously unexploited combat skills. Admittedly, this is daft, throwaway fun and while it doesn’t have the character nuance or confidence in genre mashing as something like Shaun of the Dead, those hunting for a riotous, slavishly un-PC evening will undoubtedly still find much enjoyable in Girls with Balls.