Little is known of Tanya Rosenberg who directed the 1989 exploitation treasure Blood Games. An early precursor to Olivier Afonso’s (very) similarly themed Girls With Balls, both films follow all-women sports teams whose transport breaks down in the middle of nowhere and they are forced to face off with the omnipresent threat of male bastardry that surrounds far too many women, far too often. Yet while Afonso takes a more comedic approach to the plight of his volleyballers, Rosenberg’s film takes a more serious turn, albeit starting out with the upbeat, boobalicious pop-postfeminism as her all-girl baseball squad beat the living shit out of the local male team who all but assumed beating a bunch of women would be a piece of piss.
Not so, as it turns out, and the lads don’t take it well. After some increasingly nasty bar room posturing on the lads’ part and an attempted rape, the women realise they are in trouble, and wisely hot-foot it out of there. But when they find themselves stranded, the revenge the men so desperately crave in a testosterone crazed, dudebro frenzy finds the women in real danger. Attempted rape thus leads to actual rape, and the hunt is on as the women are forced to face their own interpersonal relationships - some more positive than others - if they are to survive the dangerous men that are coming for them with a near unrelenting fury.
Blood Games is firmly and proudly an exploitation film and, along with criminally neglected women-directed trash diamonds like Laura Keats's Crystal Force and Suzanne DeLaurentiis' Mutant Man, acts as a strong reminder that not all women make the same kinds of films; not every woman is interested in making films about motherhood or a coming-of-age story, and some even like to show tits. While not an orthodox rape-revenge film, Blood Games certainly finds itself in similar, overlapping terrain, and - despite its overtly trashy intent - does some interesting stuff on the gender politics front (particularly the inclusion of a same-sex couple amongst the women baseballers, whose relationship is presented very differently from the voyeuristic “girl on girl” manner that lesbians so often are not just in exploitation cinema, but screen culture more broadly). Blood Games is a wild ride, and while not for everyone, its delights are aplenty for those tuned in to its perverse charms.
Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is a film critic and author who has published nine books on cult, horror and exploitation and a two-time Bram Stoker Award finalist. She writes a regular column on forgotten women-directed horror for Fangoria, and is on the advisory board of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies.