WOMEN’S STUDIES (2009) Review

Directed by Lonnie Martin
Written by Lonnie Martin
Starring Cindy Marie Martin, James A. Radack, Laura Bloechl, Melisa Breiner-Sanders, Judith O’Dea, & Tara Garwood

WOMENS’ STUDIES can be seen as the Bizzaro-World version of THE STEPFORD WIVES (one of the characters even says so in the film), though it tries to communicate a lot of the same messages. Instead of a bunch of male chauvinists trying to deprogram strong willed women, it’s militant feminists trying to fight back against male oppression. In the end, it’s got one of the sexes trying to dominate the other, so pairing them up in this column was a no brainer. Though WOMEN’S STUDIES is a low budget horror film, it definitely has enough good things to make it worth your while if you’re into horror with a bit more of an intellectual slant.

I found the longer I sat with WOMENS’ STUDIES the more I liked it. At times, the budgetary limitations are obvious with the lack of extras, some choppy sound here and there, and some fundamentally basic cinematography, but the ideas behind the film made the whole thing entertaining. A quartet of friends find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. The group consists of three women and one of their boyfriends. Stranded at a diner, the quartet meet a pair of Lilith Fair attendees whose conversations about the domination of the fairer sex grows more agitated as their night goes on. Contemplating breaking up with her boyfriend, Mary (Cindy Marie Martin) finds the conversation fascinating. Her boyfriend Zack (James A. Radack) obviously doesn’t and neither does her best friend, Beth (Melisa Breiner-Sanders), while the innocent misfit Iris (Laura Bloechl) stares wide-eyed absorbing it all in. Soon the crew is invited back to a secluded women’s college where there are no boys allowed and the student body tend to meet in the nearby woods for fun college stuff like rituals worshiping the Earth Goddess involving human sacrifice and the like. You know, girl stuff.

Of course, not all is pillow fights and painting toenails at this all girls’ school. Those who are interested in joining the order of feminists are welcomed with open arms, but if you don’t or if you’ve got some junk betwixt your legs, you may just end up with the wrong end of a dagger sliding across your throat. WOMENS’ STUDIES is most effective in the scenes where the women go wild and enact vengeance on men. There’s a really effective scene where one of the feminists is giving birth to a boy, while a group of other feminists attack Iris’ home where she was raped as a child. The cross cutting between these two locales was intense and well played. Although shot cheaply, the editing here is sharp, maximizing the tension.

Though some of the rhetoric these feminists are spouting may not be altogether original, it does adhere to the ultra-feminist philosophy. In the final reels, it gets really creepy as the mastermind behind the entire group is revealed. The dialog here is pretty strong as are the visuals of zombified man-servants serving hors d’oeuvres and licking up spilled wine. I found myself wishing they would have gotten to this point sooner, though, because these horrific scenes were definitely the horror highlight of the film. Seeing knife-toting she-warriors slice and dice men into ribbons is cool, but the blank stares of the man-servants are what really stuck with me when this one was over.

Though not superbly acted, the actors do a decent job in WOMENS’ STUDIES and the ladies are definitely not your typical feminists I’ve seen. Most were very attractive which makes for some easy viewing. WOMENS’ STUDIES true power is in the ingenuity of its ideas and its gentle tweaking of the feminist ideal. Writer/director Lonnie Martin did a good job of twisting the feminist idea ever so slightly to make the believers into true movie monsters.

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