The slasher sub-genre has existed since the beginning of the modern horror film. From the Giallo to Jason, a big hulking man hunting down nubile girls is something filmmakers, and the public, seem to continually return to. So what is it? What is the allure of this particular formula? Is it the simple allegory, warning women from being loose with their morals? Is it the visceral, gladiatorial element of human sacrifice? Or is it just because it’s a portrayal of violence that is animated, exaggerated. and therefore safe? Without an obvious answer to the basic allure of these films, the obvious fact remains that audiences love these things. Despite this love, though, there’s been a noticeable absence of hulking, mindless, and grunting girl killers as of late. In an attempt to rectify this, Geoff Klein and Melissa Mira bring us Pinup Dolls on Ice. And no, there aren’t any figure skaters.
In a follow up to “Bikini Girls on Ice” Klein and Mira seem intent on not only reinventing their franchise but actively answering the critics of the first one. While the first film was criticized as being too light and fluffy, not harsh enough to be a proper slasher, Pinup Dolls will likely be criticized for being far too dark. This, in a little horror nutshell, highlights how difficult it is to make a slasher that will please everyone. If you fail to walk that thin line of fun and horror you will topple off into a pit of vitriolic critics, screaming that you are destroying the genre.
With that said, the first act of Pinup Dolls does attempt to walk that line. With the obligatory prologue kill, the campy characters, and a fair share of jiggly parts on display, Pinup Dolls feels almost friendly. Like those old 80s slashers we know so well, it all feels safe and fun. But then Moe, our hulking killer, arrives in force. Gone is the safe fun and jokes, in their place are realistic, dark, and extended kill scenes that will make even the most jaded horror film squirm a bit. There is a difference between an over the top typical slasher kill and watching a large man punch a woman repeatedly. The former is the horror equivalent of Looney Toons, the other is some simulation of reality. And universally, reality is always more terrifying and revolting than fiction.
So with that shift from camp to contempt Pinup Girls topples off that narrative line of pleasing everyone and rushes into a very dark film that will be largely divisive among horror fans. And honestly, this is probably a good thing. By their own admission Klein and Mira state that Bikini Girls didn’t go far enough, made as a fun movie among friends. To rectify this, Pinup Girls arguably goes too far. But, in the end, a viewer can feel the presence of the filmmakers here. There is a vision, there is a point, and the audience will know it. Instead of a fluffy, friendly slasher Pinup Girls presents a slasher that could actually inhabit our world. A darkly violent slasher. It’s not safe, it’s not funny, but it is mostly effective.