Sunday, May 7, 2017

Blood Games (Tanya Rosenberg, 1990)

We can all agree that unchecked masculinity can be a lot of things. Harmful, pernicious, sexy, and even poisonous at times, masculinity is a sickness. But toxic? I wouldn't go that far. Or would I? After watching Blood Games, I'm going to have to give the subject some thought. As the masculinity seen throughout this Tanya Rosenberg directed film is definitely toxic. I know, you're thinking to yourself: Of course it's toxic, the film was directed by a woman. That's true. But watching how the men behave in this film seemed like a pretty accurate portrayal (it took five men to write this movie, by the way). Granted, group-think does play a part in it as well, as it clearly undermines the ability of some of the men to make sound/rash decisions. But make no mistake, the toxic masculinity depicted in this film is real. And we get a taste of it right from the get-go, as we witness the all-female Babe and the Ballgirls playing against a team made up entirely of loutish men (their shirts covered in beer stains, their hearts filled with rape) in the opening scene. Unfortunately, I was too distracted by the uniforms the ladies of the Ballgirls were wearing. What I mean is, on the film's VHS cover, it shows five women, four in jean shorts and one in bicycle shorts. First of all, none of these women are in the movie. And secondly, where are the jean shorts? Ugh. Anyway, their baseball uniforms consist of a pair of yellow shorts and a sleeveless white and yellow jersey that is usually tied in a knot above the player's stomach. Despite feeling like I was mislead by the VHS cover (serves me right for expecting a trashy slasher/rape revenge flick to be honest and forthright), I was completely satisfied with uniforms worn by Babe and the Ballgirls.

And it's a good thing I was. I mean, if I wasn't, what am I doing? I'll tell you what I'm doing, I'm watching baseball!

It took, oh, I don't know, maybe three or four minutes to realize that this is the most baseball I've watched in donkey's years. I know, the horror. I was like, what am I doing?!? Of course, the fact that Dr. Caligari's Laura Albert plays Babe, their star pitcher, did ease the pain somewhat. But seriously, I'm watching people play baseball! How fucked up is that? And get this, they're playing it in the middle of the day! Ahhh, it was awful.

Okay, where was I? Ah, yes, toxic masculinity. It's on full display during the game, as the loutish men, lead by Roy (Gregory Scott Cummins) and Holt (Don Dowe), would sexually assault the ballgirls whenever they could (either with unwanted groping or equally unwanted attempts to remove their shorts). This repugnant display not only angers the Ballgirls, it causes their coach, Midnight (Ross Hagen), to lose his shit on several occasions.

Managing to survive the game/ordeal and come up with a victory, the Ballgirls return their hotel(?) to shower and get changed.

At first I thought the entire crowd cheering on the uncouth antics of Roy, Holt and the rest of these assholes was made up of entirely men. But if you look closely, you'll notice a lot women are rooting for the men as well. Robbed of their femininity (they sport flannel work shirts and nondescript trousers), these women have obviously been infected by... yep, you guessed it, toxic masculinity.

Sure, some of their boorish behaviour is fueled by alcohol. But I'd like to think these people would be just as corrosive whilst not intoxicated.

Now that the film has established that everyone in town is gigantic piece of human garbage, we need the conflict to transfer off the baseball pitch. And that comes when Midnight goes to collect the money he earned betting that his Ballgirls would beat that unorganized collection of  beer-swigging knuckle-draggers.

Since he made the bet with Mino (Ken Carpenter), Roy's ex-military dad, Midnight confronts him in the men's toilet at a local bar.

As you might expect, the collection doesn't go as smoothly as planned. Feelings are hurt, people are murdered.

Did I mention that Roy and Holt try to rape two of the Ballgirls? Oh, that's right. I didn't need to. Their deplorable performance during the game spoke volumes. So, yeah, surprise, surprise, they're rapists.

Thankfully, Midnight, followed by Laura Albert show up to put a stop to the rape. Sadly, Midnight and the team's lone black player are killed during the post-rape attempt fracas. I know, they just killed off the cast's only person of colour and the only man on the planet who isn't rapist.

(There must be other men on planet earth who aren't rapists?) There might be. But we don't see them over the course of this film. So, in my mind, the world is populated by women and hillbilly rapists.

This causes a bit of a problem. You see, the women are trying to escape. Exactly, escape where? If the world is made up of nothing but hillbilly rapists, where do you run to? This wasn't the film's biggest flaw, but it did render the Ballgirls plight as rather hopeless. Unless they can find some kind of man-free island or some kind man-less oasis, these chicks are screwed.

Either way, the action soon shifts to the woods, where the men basically try to end of the lives of Laura Albert and the other actresses not named Laura Albert for the next hour or so. What's that? Who are the other actresses? I have no idea who these women are.

One of them had amazing eyebrows and the one with short hair has a cute bum.

Personally, I thought it was a wise move to make the team's catcher mute. Well, she wasn't always mute. Traumatized by the rape attempt, the catcher doesn't say a word for the rest of the movie. And it's a good she doesn't, as she's a terrible actress. I can't remember what she says, but her line reading on the bus was god awful. When the writers or whoever heard it, they must have freaked out and re-wrote her part as a mute. I guess they could have just killed her off. But the catcher is integral to the plot. Yeah, she gives the pitcher the signs.... and Laura Albert is the pitcher.

Nevertheless, all the women, accept for Laura Albert, who's amazing, are not very good when it comes to acting 'n' stuff.

As for the men. My favourite, believe or not, was Vern. Played by character actor extraordinaire, George 'Buck' Flower, Vern, while, sure, he's a scumbag, was the only one who had a bit of a goofy charm to him (no doubt a testament to Buck's talent as an actor). As far as the rest go, I couldn't wait for them to be slaughtered. Of course, the film is somewhat of a letdown in that regard, as their inevitable comeuppance isn't as satisfactory as it should be. That's right, I wanted more gore. I don't want to see these creeps merely shot to death, I want to see them eviscerated, their entrails dangling from tree branches, baking in the midday sun.

At any rate, it was fun to see Laura Albert as the star of a film a change. Too bad the vehicle for her brush with stardom had to be a movie that has way too much baseball in it and not enough scenes where rapists are butchered without pity.


  1. Yeah, when the rapists aren't butchered sufficiently brutally, it's a real let-down. The ratio should always be at least 3-1 vengeance vs. insult rather than vice versa. That's why LAST SEDUCTION and BOUND are so badass and ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE is not

    1. The people who made this should have took notes from I Spit on Your Grave or even Naked Vengeance.

      Kill rapists the proper way or fuck off.

  2. Talk about badass: I hadn't realized Laura Albert was such a prolific stunt performer/coordinator.

    1. I think Laura Albert plays the woman the flasher knocks over during that slo-mo mall chase in Observe and Report.