First released in 1990, Blood Games opens with a birthday celebration gone terribly wrong.
Somewhere in the rural South (at least, I assume it’s meant to be the South if just because of the big Confederate flag that appears in one scene), Roy Collins (Gregory Cummings) is celebrating his birthday. Roy’s father, Mino (Ken Carpenter), has invited Babe and the Ball Girls, a women’s softball team, to come to town to play an exhibition game against Roy and the local boys. When Babe (Laura Albert) and her team not only beat but also thoroughly humiliate the hometown team, Mino doesn’t take it well. He yells at Roy and Roy and his idiot friend, Holt (Don Dowe), decide to get revenge. After Roy is killed while trying to assault one of the girls, Mino gathers all of the rednecks together and declares, “I WANT JUSTICE!” Everyone in town grabs a shotgun, jumps in a pickup truck, and heads off in pursuit of the Babe and the Ball Girls tour bus.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the bus itself breaks down in the middle of the woods and the team is forced to hike to safety while being pursued by Mino, Holt, and all of the rest of the shotgun toting locals. It turns out that Mino is a deadly shot with a crossbow and Holt, at times, seems to be close to indestructible. However, it also turns out that Babe and the Ball Girls are far tougher than any of the men expected. The film reaches its bloody conclusion at a deserted farm, complete with a dramatically-scored flashback montage that reminds us of everyone whose life was lost during Roy’s birthday weekend.
Just to state the obvious, Blood Games is just as exploitive as it sounds. This is the type of film where, early on, the action stops so the camera can linger on Babe and the Ball Girls in the locker room after they win their game. (George “Buck” Flower shows up as the redneck who inevitably ends up peeking in at them.) The team’s uniforms were probably popular with the film’s target audience but short shorts and crop tops don’t really seem practical for a game that would involve sliding through the dirt and the weeds on the way to home plate and, as a Southern girl who spent many a summer in the country while growing up, I cringed a bit when I thought about all the bugs that were probably in the grass and the dirt, waiting for a chance to hop onto a bare leg. (It didn’t help that the game was apparently just being played in some random field.)
And yet, as exploitive as many viewers will undoubtedly find Blood Games to be, the film definitely works. The rednecks are so loathsome and they overreact so severely to losing one game to a team of girls that it’s impossible not to cheer when Babe and the Ball Girls turn the tables on their pursuers. “Batter up!” the film’s trailer announces and it is true that the Ball Girls use the same teamwork that won them the game to survive in the wilderness. At the same time, they also use baseball bats, ropes, guns, and anything else they can get their hands on.
The acting is a bit inconsistent, though Don Dowe and Ken Carpenter are both well-cast as the main villains. Dowe plays Holt as being someone who knows that he’s in over his head but who is too weak-willed to go against the mob. The fact that he’s weak makes him all the more dangerous because a weak man will do anything to try to convince others that he’s strong. Carpenter, meanwhile, is chillingly evil as Mino, who quickly goes from mourning his son to taking a sadistic pleasure out of hunting down human beings. The film’s real strength is to be found in Tanya Rosenberg’s direction. Along with keeping hte movie moving at a fairly steady pace, Rosenberg also captures the atmosphere of being lost in the country in the summer. Watching the film, you can literally feel the heat rising from the ground and hear the cicadas in the distance.
Incidentally, I convinced my sister to watch this film with me because I assumed it was a baseball movie. However, as Erin quickly pointed out to me, it instead turned out to be a softball movie. I have no idea what exactly the difference is between baseball and softball but Erin assures me that there is one. Well, no matter! Whether it was softball or baseball, Babe and the Ball Girls did a good job striking out the hometown boys.