A schlocky horror comedy with a few good laughs and lots of n’importe quoi (the French term for “nonsense”), Olivier Afonso’s Girls With Balls scores some points for its Z-movie conceits but could have benefited from stronger writing and direction.
Afonso, who is one of France’s top special effects makeup artists and has worked on everything from Raw to Taken 3 to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, is no stranger to gore and seems to relish in all the fake blood, severed heads and trashy gags he tosses at the viewer.
It’s almost enough to make this short and silly mashup — picture Dodgeball meets The Most Dangerous Game by way of Troma — enjoyable, but the characters are so underdeveloped that many of them appear better off dead than alive. After playing in competition at the Paris International Fantastic Film Festival, Girls looks destined for minor cult status in genre fests and on streaming sites.
Written by Afonso and Jean-Luc Cano, the story follows an all-girls Gallic volleyball team on a road trip that takes them deep into the mountains of southwest France. Just as you imagined, their RV winds up breaking down in the middle of nowhere, leaving them prey to a gang of shotgun-wielding inbreds led by none other than Denis Lavant. (OK so maybe you didn’t imagine that — at least the Denis Lavant part.)
The players include team rivals Jeanne (Tiphaine Daviot) and Morgane (Manon Azem), no-nonsense captain Hazuki (Anne-Solenne Hatte), lovers Dany (Dany Verissimo-Petit) and Tatiana (Margot Dufrene), nerd-turned-warrior M.A. (Louise Blachere), the half-innocent Lise (Camille Razat) and the squad’s useless coach (Victor Artus Solaro, who looks a bit like a French Kevin Smith).
Most of the movie consists of the girls, all of whom are decked out in their shorty-short uniforms, running and hiding from inarticulate mountain men who seem to be hunting them for sport — until we see one of the ladies being churned into a fresh batch of saucisson sec. Eventually we realize that Lavant’s character, who does little more than stick out his tongue and lick things, is in charge of some sort of evil sect that worships and eats its victims, leaving the girls to defend themselves by…spiking volleyballs!
In terms of gore, the film is more of the gonzo variety than the bloody disgusting type, with lots of exploding heads, sawed-off limbs and exuberant hemoglobin splatters capping off each sequence. (If you’re a dog lover, however, there is one over-the-top gag that may leave you a bit nauseated.)
Much of the humor is childish, possibly on the sexist side in spots, but at the very least Afonso and his cast seem to be enjoying their time in the country no matter how many mangled bodies they leave behind. Adding to the levity is a folk soundtrack performed onscreen by French rapper Orelsan, who narrates the action and warns us of the coming mayhem.
Production companies: C4 Productions, Noodles Production
Cast: Tiphanie Daviot, Manon Azem, Anne-Solenne Hatte, Louise Blachere, Camille Razat, Dany Verissimo-Petit, Victor Artus Solaro, Denis Lavant, Orelsan
Director: Olivier Afonso
Screenwriters: Olivier Afonso, Jean-Luc Cano
Producers: Jean-Marie Antonini, Jerome Vidal
Director of photography: Sascha Wernik
Editor: Sebastien de Sainte Croix
Composer: Sacha Chaban
Casting directors: David Baranes, Guillaume Moulin, Mathilde Snodgrass