Alpha Girls is one of those films I have been dying to get my teeth into since I first heard about it some time ago, mainly because I saw Ron Jeremy in the trailer as a Priest so it already had a big plus point in the check box from that moment on. I was very fortunate to be treated to an advance screening a few weeks ago and have since had time to mull it over and have come to the conclusion it is going to be one of those films that grows on me. That is not to say I did not like it, because I did very much so, but I also think there are elements which will build on subsequent viewings. The movie is a debut effort for co-directors Tony Trov and Johnny Zito, filmed and set in Philadelphia.
The film harks back to the days of those great 80’s Sorority Slashers for example House on Sorority Row or Slumber Party Massacre, and also had a distinct air of the Frat Boy shocker Pledge Night. It has been a long while since we have seen anything like this in the horror world with the sheer amount of found footage, paranormal activity 501, and zombie flicks that seem to dominate our screens in this current climate, so it came as a much welcome relief to see a modern spin being put on an old theme. Being a Brit this strange American custom of Sorority/Fraternity pledging has always been a bit of a fascination to me I cannot think of anything we have over here that compares, apart from Freemasonry, but then who knows what goes on in their little secret meetings. Although the likeness to the aforementioned films is more of an element, or flavour so to speak, as Alpha Girls is not just your everyday common garden slasher, bringing elements of Satanism and Witchery to the mix too. I have to admit I have a massive soft spot for witchcraft/ satanic rituals in horror, so another win for Alpha Girls. The last comparisons I want to make are that firstly it did remind me in essence of Andrew Fleming’s cult teen flick The Craft, albeit in a more grown up and violent way, but the same messages were there. It also had the black comedic aspect of Heathers, and the vain and self-absorbed personas of the lead sorority girls were very reminiscent of the characters in Michael Lehmann’s 1988 classic.
I had expected to see, from watching the trailer, a sort of goofball, splatstick, wacky horror comedy, and found myself to be completely off the mark on watching. With hindsight I can only determine I came up with this conclusion because I saw Ron Jeremy was in it and just assumed it would be that type of film. Not that this is a bad thing mind you I do enjoy Ron’s work in horror but you sort of expect him to be playing some comic relief character. While Ron plays it straight (well as straight as it can be to see a Porn Legend adorned in Priest regalia taking confession) his addition to the cast provides a much-needed cheese element which gives it a retro edge.
The story focuses on the new pledgers for the Alpha Beta Sorority who are put through their paces by sadistic and fabulously big haired leader Veronica who has an obvious love for her position as she spews forth hideous bile at the girls while inflicting some humiliating and nasty acts on them. After a series of degrading episodes the pledgers, fed up with being treated like something you would scrape off your shoe, discover there is more to being a member of Alpha Beta. The house boasts an age-old secret of magical witchcraft powers and a direct hotline to the Unholy One himself, (this bringing with it some distinct perks). However all this is not without a price, as the girls are about to find out.
Once I had been blown away by the opening scene, ( I won’t spoil it) I found the plot to Alpha Girls nicely absorbing and flowed at a decent pace without losing momentum right up to the chilling climax. The characters were all played solidly for a low-budget film, and the story was interesting. It had a much darker edge than I expected with some tense moments. Although while retaining a shadowy tone the movie does have that extra cheese element thrown into the mix adding an additional fun factor to the proceedings. However the comedy comes in the form of melodramatic performances and more of a sardonic edge than obvious goofball antics, instead mocking adolescent politics with the girls selling their souls to follow their quest for popularity, wealth and academic achievement as if these are the be all and end all of importance in life. While there is some gore and a small amount of nudity the film did not have to rely on these to support it, however there are some who may lament the lack of gratuitous aspects to the film. Sorry but no extended and pointless nude shower scenes or any faint hint of lesbianism in this all female dorm I am afraid guys. I do think though this aspect will make Alpha Girls an instant hit with female audiences in very much the same way The Craft was back in the 90’s.
One thing worth mentioning is the cast for Alpha Girls was largely female, with only one notable male role which was strictly supporting in nature. This resulted in giving the flick a very feminine air with the respective leads all being strong characters. Former NFL Cheerleader Nikki Bell as Headgirl Veronica is decidedly bitchy and sadistic. Nikki seems to take to her role with relish and has a lot of fun inflicting misery on the new pledgers. Falon Joslyn as Morgan comes across as strong and streetwise, and Beverly Rivera as the nihilistic Cassidy, whose performance becomes increasingly manic throughout the film, gave a fairly convincing portrayal of a messed up kid on the edge.
Another noteworthy point was the cinematography was stunning, very stylised with the pink uniforms of the Alpha Beta girls clashing with death and gore which made a nice touch. The directors were in comic books before venturing into the horror movie world and you can see the influence in the way everything is slightly larger than life, vivid colours which have a great impact, and almost cartoonised characterisations of the lead roles. The effects when shown were grisly enough, despite the slight touch of obvious CGI my little eagle eye picked up on some of the blood splatters, but on the whole surprisingly well done. There were some really nice set pieces in the movie which I won’t mention for fear of ruining the story for those yet to see it, only to say the opening scene, and the climax were particularly stand out. The makers have put in a nice nod to Dario Argento’s Suspiria following the ‘fish eating’ scene, see if you can spot it.
All in all Alpha Girls was a fun little popcorn horror flick with a nice 80’s and 90’s retro flavour making it a worthwhile watch. The sass of Heathers, the moral storytelling of The Craft and some nice bloody scenes which hark back to the days of 80’s sorority slashers, makes for something a little different from the run of the mill ‘torture porn’ or ‘found footage’ fodder which seems to be spewing from the gates of the mainstream right now. For a low-budget piece it was notably better in terms of technical quality than many of its peers and it had the added bonus of spendid cinematography and decent acting for a film of this type. Now available on iTunes, Amazon and On Demand, so check it out now.