“The Ladies of the House” and “It Follows” have indie horror in a great place in 2015

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It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of It Follows, the independent horror success story from earlier on in the year. At the same time though, I’m always on the lookout for other small films of that nature that I can champion, much like many others in the industry. Usually, I’m on board with the fright flick du jour of the moment, be it The Cabin in the Woods or You’re Next, only rarely breaking with the crowd, like in the case of last year’s The Babadook. Every so often though, I get the chance to talk about something small that might not get seen otherwise. This week, there’s a perfect example of that in John Stuart Wildman’s The Ladies of the House. Very few people know about it, but it’s the next really strong horror outing of 2015.

As a quick plot summation, The Ladies of the House surrounds a group of guys who follow a dancer home and come into contact with her roommates. Sounds like it could be the plot of any number of films, right? Well, the thing here is that the ladies of this house, as it were, are cannibals. As such, a fight for survival, as well as a nice comment on gender roles, ensues. It’s genre fare for sure, but it really works. Wildman co-writes here with Justina Walford and directs with aplomb, making them, much like with David Robert Mitchell and It Follows, filmmakers that I’m eager to see more from going forward.

Even though I do prefer It Follows to The Ladies of the House (mostly due to the lead performance of Maika Monroe in the former as well as some of its absolutely gorgeous cinematography), they’re both success stories and hopefully a sign of things to come in horror, not just this year, but going forward. While the studio scary movies are more and more turning out to be utter disappointments, the indie scene is blossoming. Mainstream horror is just looking for the next franchise or theme to run into the ground, while the small scale ones like the two I mentioned are giving us unique takes and strong female roles. Even if The Ladies of the House is a loving nod to exploitation and grindhouse, it’s still trafficking in originality. Ditto for It Follows, regardless of it technically being a cautionary tale about sex.

My hope is that the genre as a whole manages to take a cue from these two works. Horror doesn’t have to be simple and ugly, it can be visually stunning, emotionally complex, and make you think while also being a ton of fun. There’s nothing wrong with gore, but using it to further a message or at least a theme makes it clever and not just a cheap parlor trick. These are things that Mitchell, Walford, and Wildman understand. Plenty of other filmmakers do too, so whether they traffic in horror movies or not, I sincerely would hope that we get more like this in the coming months and years. The film industry would be better overall because of it, mark my words.

As It Follows continues to do solid box office business (approaching $15 million), The Ladies of the House is opening tomorrow and will be available to watch on VOD, offering another strong option for those of you who like their indie movies but also their blood and guts as well. Mitchell, Walford, and Wildman are talented individuals who are doing their part to revive a genre that never seems to get any respect. The Ladies of the House might not be something to think about come awards season, but in this early part of 2015, it’s one of the more purely enjoyable things to come my way so far. My fingers are crossed that we get more of this sort of thing over the next eight months…

Be sure to check out It Follows if you haven’t gotten to already and The Ladies of the House this weekend as well!

(Full Disclosure: I know Walford and Wildman through the latter’s work with the New York Film Festival. In no way does that factor into my enjoyment of the film, but I’m mentioning it all the same)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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