Review: Girls Night In

Directed by Alison Roberto and written by Landon LaRue, a satirical horror short that was created based on the Bechdel test. The test examines works of fiction to see whether there are interactions between female characters that don’t involve discussing a man. Which of course begs the question, where is the most ridiculous place these two women could be fighting over some dude?. Starring: Jess Adams, Skylar Benton and Brian Michael Henderson.

One of the most obvious issues when using film to make a point about how ridiculous something is, is that you have to put it on screen. It immediately creates a problem of expecting people to view it through the lens of debate, which is no guarantee. Especially when you’re talking about horror, it’s a fine line between exploring the ridiculous nature and actively using it. It begs the question of whether it’s worth making the point which requires women acting outlandishly with overt stereotyping or spending the time creating something to show the value of women in horror. It’s an unfortunate pitfall to be accidentally feeding the machine that you’re denouncing but an unavoidable one. Regardless, the comment that Alison Roberto and Landon LaRue are making is beyond valid and relevant, we’re only now finally entering an age where women are more accurately portrayed on screen as genuine individuals and not pawns obsessed with men.

Interestingly, horror has always been one of the worst perpetrators of these stereotypes and yet one of the few genres which so often places women in the position of survivors and fighters. It’s not a debate which can be covered in a few words, there’s an intense discussion to be had and Girls Night In does have something to say on the issue, even if it’s delivery is messy. Although the actual quality of the short is far from messy, it plays into the classic elements of horror, particularly using the stalker or predator style perspective in its opening. It uses typical techniques to build paranoia and fear, it gets nice and close to give you little room to escape. It also brings through a lot of the clumsiness that’s so often found in horror, which is strangely one of the strongest ways that its satire works, highlighting the idiotic choices women characters often make in film. However, the exploration of friendships between women, and particularly their priorities and self-worth, is less effective and ends up feeling like any other slasher flick. The problem is that it very accurately portrays the insulting nature to these typical characters, blurring the lines too much between making a statement and simply making a slasher short or parody.

Jess Adams and Skylar Benton tick every box that’s needed, you can feel them pushing the ridiculous nature of their characters. They build a quintessentially catty friendship, with all the usual buttons films like to press of how women can’t truly get along, because they’re always in competition for men. They’re also typically dislikeable, overly dismissive, selfish or through forced modesty, it’s hard to take anyone seriously wearing glasses that look like they came off of a 1980s librarian and they’re well chosen for their purpose.

Girls Night In is an admirable attempt to point out the ludicrous ways in which women are portrayed in horror flicks but its satire isn’t strong enough to make a sincere statement. In trying to denounce these stereotypes, it uses them and thereby unintentionally creates another example. One which those viewing without context of its intentions, may just view it as typical slasher fare. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, so while it visually does a great job of recreating classic elements of horror, it can’t truly separate itself from them.

Verdict: ✯✯½ | 5/10

Screened as part of Tribeca Film Festival 2022

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