Cult Corner: The Theta Girl (2017) - Reviewed

There has been a revival of exploitation films in recent years, particularly since Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez released their double feature Grindhouse in cinemas in 2007. Since then, we have been treated to a number of exploitation films of varying styles and budgets. One thing is for certain, virtually all of them had a higher budget than The Theta Girl. Shot for just under $14,000, you can be assured that there is nothing quite like this in the world of microbudgeted films. Typically, a microbudget flick involves a slasher and a group of teens getting hacked up; the normal boobs, blood, and gore being plentifully supplied of course. 

Instead, first time director Christopher Bickel went a radically different route, bringing viewers a wild exploitation story that wants to straight f@*k with your head. Being described as an “existenploitation film,” The Theta Girl combines so many different subgenres and ideas into one crazy piece of cinema. It’s an exploitation film, but it’s also has elements of the drug counterculture films, a revenge tale, horror, punk rock, religious fanaticism, and existentialism. It’s a drug addled vengeance riff that accurately embodies exploitation cinema, while channeling equal parts Timothy Leary, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, Hobo With a Shotgun, Russ Meyer, John Waters, and a college philosophy class.

Gayce Delko is known as a “Theta Girl,” because she is a drug dealer that sells the hallucinogenic drug called “Theta.” The drug opens people’s minds, to a door that she believes is Heaven. When her friends are all murdered, she realizes that the drug may also be a gateway to hell and heads on a vengeance tour to shut the gateway down. The Theta Girl is actually far more complex than what you would normally expect from an exploitation flick, tackling complex themes of religion and ones belief in their own existence. Yes, there is still an immense amount of graphic nudity and extreme violence, but the story has much more depth than similar movies. 

The picture does look slightly amateurish, but that’s part of its charm in achieving the look of a ‘70s exploitation film. There are moments where the colors gradually shift from being either too red, blue, or green, and then adjust back to normal. The band sequence is reminiscent of the various blaxploitation films that would have scenes with musicians performing in a nightclub. They also did a terrific job with the costumes and makeup to further add to the look and feel of that era. It isn’t strictly ‘70s though, as the score is a mixture of ‘80s synth and local bands from South Carolina. 

The acting is better than expected. Victoria Elizabeth Donofrio plays Gayce and is some combination of Christina Lindbergh in Thriller: A Cruel Picture and Misty Mundae, minus the nudity. They obviously were channeling the imagery from Thriller, because there were some similar looking scenes and clothing. Donofrio’s performance starts off kinda weak at first, but improves as the film progresses. Her character goes through a great deal of inner transformation, while also becoming a badass. Darrelle D. Dove gives a fine performance as Gayce’s cohort, Derek. While he looks like a stereotypical Black Panther, Derek serves as a friend and almost love interest to Gayce. Shane Silman is great as Brother Marcus, the bulky tatted up leader of a religious group who have very radical beliefs because of “Theta.” 

One thing that people expect from exploitation cinema is that there will be a copious amount of nudity and violence, and this picture more than delivers. There are major scenes containing both male and female nudity, including a glorious closeup shot devoted to one man’s brave penis. The gore and splattering blood is equal to any low budget horror production, even outdoing some. 

The Theta Girl is a movie that you have to experience at least once, whether you end up loving it or hating it. It’s an insane drug-induced trip into exploitation cinema that will definitely screw with your mind, especially if you’re on drugs while watching it. 

The Theta Girl will be making the festival rounds this Winter.

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