Part of the fun of watching proto-slashers is to see where they defect from what was to become cliché, and see where they pre-empt what was to become cliché. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about THE SINGLE GIRLS is that it seems to be spoofing the subgenre a good four years before John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978) supposedly invented it! Admittedly, it is mostly rather dull titillation (at least in its first half), but picks up significantly later for some proto-slasher delirium and endlessly quotable dialogue (where else could you hear such gems as, “Just wait till my agent sees what they did to my boob!”?).
Shallow Sands is a fantasy island resort built in the mind of a heterosexual, white, middle-aged 70's male. Namely, it's a 'new' fangled touchy-feely commune where people get in touch with their sensual feelings through a series of erotic workshops. Naturally, almost all the men are heterosexual, white, middle-aged 70's men; right down to their tight polyester trousers and comb-overs that aren't fooling anyone. And it hardly comes as a surprise that nearly all the women are smouldering sexpots, although they do seem to favour the polyester too (despite the tropical heat). Quickly identified as the top candidate to be final girl is the nurse afraid of commitment, Alison (Claudia Jennings); partly because she is the most famous player here. Alison's ex-fiancée, Bud (Edward Blessington), turns up on the island and is none-too-pleased by the groping sessions (or perhaps it's the particularly horrible Laura Ashley ensemble she's wearing that resembles a toilet roll cozy). They have a big fight at a party, but Alison soon forgives 70s he-man Bud, swooning during a sun-drenched boat trip, “It's too beautiful to stay angry with you!” she coos.
Three of the other women of note are the smouldering nymphoid, Shannon (Cheri Howell), who seems determined to sleep with every man on the island. Phyllis is the sexy Jewish princess , who says “I wouldn't strip for Jesus on a first date”, but has a penchant for ugly bald men (like all sexy young women do, I'm sure). And then there's the sweet, virginal Lola (Joan Prather), whose wants to loose her virginity by being 'raped' by the right man in the backwoods (who just happens to have what looks like a one inch forehead). Could this be a feminist classic waiting to be rediscovered?
The island's enlightenment and nookie lovers are unaware that one of the luscious lovelies was harpooned in the stomach almost as soon as she stepped off the boat (those bell-bottoms are a bitch when you need to outrun a psychotic killer). The first clue that something is wrong is when the lights go out during a session called 'milling', where uninhibited fondling is encouraged. A scream rings out, but rather than a knife in the back, when the lights go on it emerges that someone has left teeth marks in the right breast of the blonde air head (hence the earlier quote). She gets over it with that well known cocktail: milk on the rocks. However, Alison begins to suspect there's a sex pest among the male guests, telling Shannon “One of those lonely, love-starved devils happens to be a maniac!”. Her suspicions are confirmed when all their clothes are slashed to bits – and soon it's clear the girls might be next!
Once the bodies start hitting the floor THE SINGLE GIRLS really takes off. The first half is pretty much scare or suspense free. Whilst the second half is hardly going to give HALLOWEEN a run for its money it works in a cheap-jack way.
We have wobbly POV shots, as we'll as shots of sneakers creeping up to the window of a cabin in the woods. POV murders with garden implements – with the scene in the greenhouse, where one victim is chased, particularly well done. Then there's the killer hiding in the girl's closet holding onto a butcher's knife. There's the creepy caves by the beach (complete with unconvincing rubber bats bouncing around on bits of elastic!). Plus there's a few twists and red herrings (although I did figure out who the killer was). And then there's the teeth-gnashing and eyeball-rolling face-off and showdown with the killer and the final girl (which comes to such an abrupt halt that I half suspected there was a missing reel in true grindhouse style).
Ultimately, this proto-slasher is not that memorable, but I must admit I'm a sucker for those 70's horrors where everyone has big hair and lounges on the beach as the sea sparkles in the sun, and lounge musak plays in the background. That's my idea of a holiday, well, apart from the murder, milk cocktail and 'milling'.
THE SINGLE GIRLS was brought to you by the same family team who ten years later inflicted the endearingly cheesy heavy metal slasher ROCKTOBER BLOOD (1984) on unsuspecting audiences. Again, it's probably of most note because of the ill-fated Claudia Jennings, who was tragically killed in a car crash in 1979, but before that also starred in another proto-slasher SISTERS OF DEATH (1978) with her co-star here, Cheri Howell.
All-in-all, THE SINGLE GIRLS has something for fans of the subgenre with an interest in how it evolved, and those who love 70's grindhouse cinema - and, let's face it, who doesn't?
female:3 / male:2
1) Female harpooned in the stomach
2) Male killed (method unseen)
3) Female hacked to death with garden rake
4) Male hit on the head with garden hoe
5) Female killed with hoe