Toying with, rather than investigating, the paranoid sci-fi genre of the 1950s, “The New Women” takes a wonderful premise and does all it can to undermine it. Mary Woronov, the Cal Ripken Jr. of indie stars, heads a notable cast of pros in this distinctly amateurish thriller about what happens when a freak thunderstorm puts the Earth’s male population to sleep, leaving women to fend for themselves. Placed in the hands of a helmer with the right instincts for this paradoxical non-apocalypse apocalypse, this could have been a midnight bill classic; helmer Todd Hughes, alas, ensures that pic will never escape the festival ghetto.
Lisa (Woronov) is the put-upon wife of cheating husband-cop Jay (Michael White), while sis Janet (Jaime Tolbert) has a successful grocery home delivery business in their desert community. Soon after Lisa catches Jay fooling around, a storm hits, mysteriously putting the guys into a slumber that eventually proves fatal and forcing the gals to organize. Though fable is meant to spoof notions of women banding together for peace, the survivors’ odyssey is a movie road map of missed black-comedy opportunities.