Alex (Jennifer Miller), a troubled teenager with psychokinetic powers, is sent to Catholic reform school for wayward girls run by caring but conflicted priest Father Drake (Ron Perlman) and sadistic headmistress Miss Pearce (Amy Lalonde). After some initial friction, Alex befriends her fellow inmates: token badass Maya (Jordan Madley), perky blind girl Cecilia (Terra Vnesa), rich chick Leah (Barbara Mamabolo) and self-harming wiccan Connie (Tasha May), each of whom wield their own, unique supernatural talents. Soon afterwards the girls find themselves haunted by the spectral manifestation of Elizabeth (Krysta Carter), a pious pupil from several years ago who was supposedly abducted by the ancient demon, Legion. It becomes apparent someone at the school intends to offer these five girls as a sacrifice, redeeming Elizabeth’s soul and releasing Legion into the mortal world.
Lazy slasher clichés and repetitive zombie flicks are annoying enough, but what really frustrates a horror fan is when a film has a compelling premise and intriguing characters yet still somehow drops the ball. Despite an irksome, would-be trendy alpha-numerical hybrid title, 5ive Girls has a lot going for it: a smart set-up, snappy characterisation, oddball humour (e.g. a dialogue scene with the girls conversing behind toilet stalls whilst collecting urine samples!) and an attractive cast who deliver engaging performances. But under the leaden direction of Warren P. Sonoda the plot plods listlessly along whilst the muddled theology underlining his script leaves this an exasperating, hollow, spiritually deflating experience. The key line here is: “Be careful with hope. It’s a trick the devil will play on you.” It is essentially a film about the futility of hope and faith, be it religious or secular humanist.
Given how so many teen witch movies, even otherwise cautionary fables, are concerned with female empowerment, one might expect the plot would have our five heroines combine their powers to fight the demon. In fact, their powers prove ineffectual to the point of seeming wholly superfluous. These girls are plain doomed, the devil is all powerful and seemingly takes special relish in bashing sweet, gutsy blind girl Cecilia into a bloody mess. None of this would seem quite so galling were not our five heroines drawn as such feisty, spirited personalities. Why give them these skills only to underline how useless they are? The film’s defeatist metaphysical outlook is equally confused. If goodness is so weak and the evil entity so all-powerful why is it trapped in another dimension and in need of five souls to break free? If it already rules the mortal world, then why bother to invade it? Answers on a postcard marked 666, if you please.
As with other teen witch-cum-demonic possession flicks, 5ive Girls hits the usual buttons of heavy metal posturing, glossy misogyny and Catholic schoolgirl fantasies with the girls stripped to their underwear for humiliating inspections and Alex having her bottom spanked with a ruler by the tyrannical Miss Pearce, alongside more good-natured lesbian undertones. Legion itself is a particularly silly example of devilry, driving the girls to pig out on junk food or speak in a dopey electronic voice. Ron Perlman is wasted in what nowadays ranks as the typical ineffectual savant role, but still grounds his rather vague character. Kristen Bell lookalike Jennifer Miller makes an impression as the tragic but wryly humorous heroine, but the would-be shock climax makes a mockery of her character arc and ends things on an nonsensical, indifferent shrug.