A women’s volleyball team gets hunted by a band of evil, woods-dwelling degenerates in Girls With Balls, a super-schlocky French ode to ‘80s horror that’s wildly uneven and a little offensive, but still has some scattered moments of awesome.
Directed by Olivier Afonso, the film starts with a heap of excitement and potential—a fourth-wall-breaking narrator hilariously lays out the plot of the movie in song. That’s immediately followed by a wild, upbeat, combo credits sequence and volleyball game introducing all the main characters. The team then leaves the game in their RV, gets lost, and starts shit with a mysterious group of psychos. Basically, in its first act, there’s zero fat on the film. It knows where it wants to get to and it gets there with style. When the film does get there, though, that’s when things take a turn for the worse.
Once the girls piss off the creepy dudes and run off into the woods screaming, Girls With Balls loses its momentum. From early on in the film, Afonso characterises the volleyball team as witty and smart. We know they’re resourceful, we know they are champions, and you’d expect them to mop the floor with these dipshits. But they don’t. Instead, the girls mostly act like typical helpless horror movie victims as the film morphs into an elaborate, repetitive wild goose chase, and the characters begin turning on each other instead of on the bad guys.
With that comes plenty of gross kills, gushing blood, and scantily clad women, all of which feels very much like an ‘80s horror movie—the kind of movie where a girl can spike a volleyball and basically kill a guy. Certainly, Afonso wasn’t aiming for anything serious here and when he hits that mark, there’s fun to be had. However, for the most part, the film does not do its characters or first act justice. The team gets separated, everyone panics, and the pleasantly cheesy tone melts away. At no point should we be worried that these girls could actually lose. They should be kicking arse and exploding heads. Which, of course, they do on occasion. But that slight shift in tone and perspective almost makes the film feel serious, which it obviously isn’t, and that really drags it all down.
Girls With Balls is so all over the place that by the third act, your mind will probably just turn off and embrace that there’s something inherently entertaining about watching a girl’s volleyball team fight a bunch of guys who look like low-budget Tusken Raider cosplayers. It helps too that the actresses are really charismatic and exciting to watch, and that the one recognisable face, Denis Lavant (Holy Motors), is menacing as the evil leader who never utters a single word.
Girls With Balls had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest 2018, but it does not yet have a U.S. release date. If or when that happens, keep in mind that it’s a fine movie to put on TV and half-watch for its fun parts. But overall...it’s not great.