Girls With Balls. This winking title promises gutsy heroines and a bawdy brand of humor. What it doesn't hint at is the deliciously deranged premise, which pits an infighting women's volleyball team against a redneck cannibal cult. It's Bring It On meets Deliverance, and SYFY FANGRRLS was there for this wild horror-comedy's world premiere at Fantastic Fest.
As a special effects make-up artist, Olivier Afonso has brought a demented dose of gore to sensational French horror films like the cannibal-centered Raw and the zombie-plagued The Night That Eats The World. Now, he makes his directorial debut with a twisted and playful spin on terror.
Written by Afonso and Jean-Luc Cano, Girls With Balls follows the Falcons from a big win on the volleyball court through a fateful detour that leads them deep into the woods to the treacherous territory of leering, sausage-chomping weirdos. The team is just looking for a place to get a bite and park their tour van for the night. But when the menacing proprietor of this middle-of-nowhere diner leaps over the counter to run his slimy tongue along one of the girls' cheeks, all hell breaks loose! While rivalries, jealousy, and fear threaten to rip their bond to ribbons, the Falcons must team up to take down these merciless (wo)man-eaters, who are armed to the teeth and ready to play.
There's plenty of personality in this girl gang. Hazuki (Anne-Solenne Hatte) is the stern but compassionate leader, Dany (Dany Verissimo-Petit) the plucky tomboy, Tatiana (Margot Dufrene) her take-no-guff girlfriend. Bespectacled M.A. (Louise Blachère) is the team's klutzy screw-up, while sweet Jeanne (Tiphaine Daviot) is its star player, Morgane (Manon Azem) the fiery showboat, and Lise (Camille Razat) their excitable mascot. Together they bring fiery spikes to the court and defiant strikes to would-be killers. Their plump coach (Victor Artus Solaro) is loud in his rebukes but will do whatever it takes—including fearlessly pummel a rampaging Chihuahua!—to be their athletic supporter. And then there's the singing cowboy who surreally pops in at intervals to belt out jaunty and wacky tunes about the Falcons chances of survival. ("Go Falcooooooooons!")
Just as twisted and silly as its premise are Girls With Balls' fight scenes and gore. A decapitated attacker's severed neck spews blood as he continues to bumble about (like a chicken with its head cut off) in the background for several scenes while the girls bicker over a game plan. Later, the severed head of one of their teammates will sit and spin atop a record player. An encroaching band of gun-toting baddies will be fended off by a barrage of expertly spiked volleyballs.
While there's a decided lasciviousness to the lead cannibal's face-licking and hunger for these female athletes, Girls With Balls dives away from the rape threat that hung heavy and horrible in Deliverance. However, Afonso can't seem to resist a bit of ogling at his curvy heroines in their short shorts and tight tops, even as they crawl to safety or beg for their lives. This kind of blatant objectification is a tired trope of midnight movies, and one this quirky comedy could have gamely lampooned. Despite this misstep, Girls With Balls is a fantastically bonkers spin on low-budget B-movies, relishing in gore, goofiness, and girl power.