Christopher Bickel’s first film, The Theta Girl, made a splash on the festival scene a few years ago with its hyperactive, blood soaked tale of sex, drugs, Gods and guns. And while the film’s writer has delivered several more features, Bickel himself kept a low profile, doing music videos and shorts. Until now. Because with Bad Girls he’s back, as they say, with a vengeance. And this time he’s brought not just one, but three ass kicking women with him.
Val (Morgan Shaley Renew, Housemonster), Mitzi (Senethia Dresch, Lection), and Carolyn (Shelby Lois Guinn, Unfamiliar) are strippers. But not for much longer. Unleashing a hail of bullets they rob their employer of a large amount of cash and drugs and take off for the border in a classic convertible.
And that’s just the first two minutes.
The girls race on with the law, Special Agents Cannon(Mike Amason, Shed, Die by the Sword) and McMurphy (Dove Dupree, The Theta Girl), on their trail. Not that the girls care, they’re too busy shooting up gun stores and amassing a harem of willing captives, Zerox Rhodesia (Micah Peroulis) from the band Poltergasm, Bard Gainsworth (Cleveland Langdale, The Theta Girl) of Christmas Tits and Rusty (Jonathan Benton, Songbird) a guy working the desk at a hotel they pass through.
I’d almost believe Russ Meyer time traveled to our present and rebooted Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! except the actresses aren’t quite that top heavy. But Bickel and co-writer Shane Silman (Vampyras Psychedelikas) are definitely channeling that vibe. They even name the leader of the trio Val, close enough to Tura Satana’s character Varla.
Which shouldn’t be surprising as Meyer is cited as one of Bad Girls influences. As is Jack Hill, the legendary writer/director who had a hand in such female driven action films as Coffy, The Big Doll House and Switchblade Sisters. And while these ladies are nastier than Claudia Jennings would have dreamed of being, there’s a bit of The Great Texas Dynamite Chase and other 70s road films from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures mixed in as well.
Shot for $16,000, Bad Girls looks like there should be at least one more digit on that amount. Some guerilla shooting at South Carolina tourist trap South of the Border to stand in for Mexico helped stretch the budget. And some excellent cinematography by Bickel and Stephen Nemeth (American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock, Black Friday) give it a look few films can achieve on that kind of budget.
Citing influences as diverse as Jack Hill, Russ Meyer, Greg Araki, R Kern, and Robert Downey (Sr.), Bickel has crafted a vision more than just the sum parts of those influences — it is something unique in current underground cinema.Bad Girls Press Release
I have very few complaints about Bad Girls. There’s my usual gripe about CGI blood in some of the shooting scenes. Most of the other effects, stabbings, beatings etc., look practical however.
And, while it’s not totally out of character for the genre, I wasn’t crazy about the darker turn Bad Girls takes in the final act as Val starts to let things go to her head. Insisting that Rusty isn’t good enough and that Carolyn needs a rock star whether she wants one or not she takes them back across the border to kidnap Danny Lucifer (Shane Silman) who greatly resembles a certain Mother obsessed singer turned filmmaker. Of course Cannon and McMurphy are waiting for them.
Despite these minor quibbles there’s no way I could not recommend Bad Girls. It’s a wonderful throwback to old school exploitation films. One with enough action on the streets and in the sheets to keep fans entertained. There’s also some pointed humour as assorted misogynists, toxically macho gun nuts and general assholes get skewered.
Bad Girls is being distributed by the filmmakers themselves. As I write this the elements for Blu Ray replication are at the plant. You can find out more about ordering one or a digital copy on the film’s Facebook page or website.