Girly is one of those rare cinema gems that denies you a gut reaction and leaves you in a state of perpetual confusion…until days later when you realize you’ve actually seen something new and groundbreaking.

Not so much traditional horror as it is psychological horror, an unnerving experience in which you’re held hostage by a family that is sociopathic, if not as traditionally violent as the Sawyer / Leatherface family.

The movie was initially looked over because of sheer “indifference” – it wasn’t a slasher movie or a thriller. It was very low budget.

I wasn’t sure what to think of it when I first saw it, except to label it as a satire…one that critically analyzed UK politics and culture of the 1969 era.

But even today, it’s relevant in the sense that it is still a great study in psychosis. It was a pioneer of the psychological horror genre, as well as a political satire.

You might think splicing together fantasy, literature, comedy and psychological horror is a difficult and artificial feat, but it comes perfectly natural to an odd fellow like me who has always thought outside the box, even when there was no need of it.

I think humor, even dark humor, is what keeps us going in a cruel world. Laughing is our way of processing pain, finding reasons to keep going, a forced sense of optimism.

Depicting the cruel world, the good and evil side of humanity, is what literature aspires to be.  In the words of my writing partner Karla Fetrow, “literature doesn’t have to be complex…it’s about being human.”

Psychological horror has always come easy to me, even before I started watching horror films. I was always fascinated by ghost stories, unsolved mysteries and true crime reporting.  It occurred to me much later, however, that Psychological Horror is a difficult technique to learn. 

Horror films were too simple, too visual and not much in the way of scary ideas.  Horror books on the other hand were so limited by strict formula, they rarely allowed the writer the freedom to explore new territory.

Psychological Horror is about trapping your reader inside a fictional world, creating scary monsters, and holding the audience captive as some great symbolic truth is revealed and dissected in the human psyche.  It’s quite the opposite of suspense / horror, which is mostly about catch & release, building and easing tension.  Some of the best films and books I can remember didn’t follow a suspense formula, but were all about the horror of the mental experience we had to endure.

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover was a similar film, except that it felt like an absurd and artsy narrative, compared to “Girly”, which actually resembled a more traditional horror format. Which is why, I suppose, it’s still considered a horror flick. (Just barely)


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