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Girl Gone Bad (2022) Review

Shot and released to festivals under the title Guiltless, Girl Gone Bad is the debut feature from writer/director Kevin Schultz (Henchmen, Killing Keith). And he comes out of the gate swinging, delivering a prologue with a wonderful sting to it before introducing us to the film’s lead.

Sixteen year old Samantha (Alison Thornton, Run & Gun, The Mental State) is getting a last minute reminder of the rules from her mother (Micah Kelpin, Desolation: A Comedy, An Evening of Cocktails & Calamity) before she leaves for the weekend. 

She doesn’t have to worry about her having a boy over, she plans to spend the weekend with her girlfriend Amanda (Mya Lowe, Freaky Friday, The J Team). The only problem is, Amanda isn’t responding to her texts. There’s a reason for that, as Samantha is unfortunately about to find out 

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Schultz gets Girl Gone Bad off to a start that gives off some excellent slasher/home invasion vibes. Unfortunately, by twenty minutes into the film he’s taken it in another direction as, with improbable ease, Samatha subdues and ties up the axe-wielding figure who, as we’ve seen, had no problem beating down and killing a couple of people already.

From here it turns into a mix of torture porn and thriller as she keeps her prisoner Les (Nemo Cartwright, iZombie, Persona Non Grata) who claims to be a cop, in the basement and tries to beat, stab and gouge answers out of him while dealing with her memories of Amanda and the occasional visitor.

Girl Gone Bad also draws from Hard Candy, as Les’ motives seem to lie in some less than upstanding interactions between him and Amanda. The twist is, he claims she lied about her age and then threatened to blackmail him. If he is telling the truth, and some of Samantha’s memories indicate he might be, does Amanda bear any responsibility for setting these events into motion?

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Unfortunately, rather than deal with tough questions, Schultz drops that angle almost as soon as it’s raised in favour of a routine of Samatha torturing Les, going upstairs, thinking of Amanda, going back down and inflicting more pain on him. Now, if you’re a fan of torture films, you should be fine with this. I don’t find torture as such interesting and was hoping the script would deliver some mind games and psychological warfare to give Girl Gone Bad some depth.

But the dialogue never gets deeper than him saying she’ll never get away with killing a cop and her screaming at him and torturing him some more. It’s like Hostel, but without the gore, and Hostel 3 proved what a bad idea that was already. And when Les finally does get loose, it’s way too late in the film for it to salvage things even if it was handled properly, which it isn’t.

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Girl Gone Bad is a well-made film, and giving credit where it’s due, cinematographer and editor James Clark (Freedom, Subject 17) gets a lot of mileage out of the basement where much of the film takes place, making it seem extremely claustrophobic and dungeon-like. Sound mixer Peter Kepkay (Grave Encounters, The Final Cut) and sound designer Dino Gervasoni (Fulci for Fake, Wild Horses) provide some appropriately gross sounds to help compensate for the lack of visual gore.

For a film that started off on such a strong note, Girl Gone Bad falls apart fast and hard. Les never seems like a threat, as Samantha easily disarms and beats him down repeatedly throughout the film. And without a threat, there’s no suspense. Even the final twist and the “One Week Later” coda fail to have much impact. It’s too bad because there was obviously a considerable bit of talent involved in its making. It just never lives up to its early potential.

4Digital Media will release Girl Gone Bad to VOD Platforms in the United States on July 11th and in the United Kingdom on the 17th. If that’s not quite what you were looking for, FilmTagger can suggest a few titles that might be.

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