The New Girlfriend (1999)

Rating: C

Dir: Julie Money
Star: Linda Cropper, Wade Osborne, Anna Lise Phillips, Jeff Truman
a.k.a. Envy

Socially awkward teenager Matt (Osborne) is befriended by the pretty Rachel (Phillips). Unfortunately, this is only a pretext for a home invasion that leaves Matt tied up, sexually abused and very conflicted in his feelings about Rachel. His mother, Kate (Cropper), is less than impressed, but when she recognizes part of the loot taken from the house at a local swimming pool, this sets in motion a series of tit-for-tat exchanges, which escalates until… Well, let’s just say someone is chained to a wall. It plays mostly as a more cerebral version of Last House on the Left, though isn’t as good as that sounds, simply because it only brushes against the depth of depravity necessary for that.

For this to work, there needs to be a yawning chasm in morality between attackers and defenders, which inexorably closes. That’s not the case here, with the villains not being particularly villainous, and the victims not particularly virtuous. Or, to be honest, all that interesting. The main exceptions are Kate and Rachel. Perhaps it’s partly due to the female director, but both are, in their own way, labouring under the yoke of male oppression, but have steely determination in their own way, with regard to their goals.

It’s this dynamic that actually makes the film interesting, and there’s almost the sense that Kate sees a bit of herself in Rachel, and might have been a bit of a wild child in her youth too. Kate also has the “mother lion defending her cub” thing going, which makes her more or less an unstoppable force, and it’s a very solid performance from Cropper, which hits all the right notes. However, just when you think the film is going to crank into over-drive… It doesn’t, and instead trundles downhill to an ending which doesn’t really bring resolution to any of the characters. This is just too polite to work, and that’s not a term you would associate with many Aussie movies.