Film review by: Witney Seibold
The true spirit of exploitation film lies, I think, in its inherent joy. Sure, it may be catering to our basest desires to see blood, guts, monsters and tits, but the makers of the best exploitation movies have a genuine love for the aesthetics of trash. Not so for the makers of the recent straight-to-video horror comedy “Stipperland,” who seem to be getting their motivation from a much uglier place. While it’s fun to think of a world overrun with zombie strippers, and you may think that the idea of hot chicks in sexy outfits, covered with bloody goo, writhing and moaning with equal aplomb, to be b-movie gold, all the pleasure and joy will be sucked away when you see our hero take a chainsaw to a woman’s vagina.
Yes, there is a strong, strong streak of misogyny through Sean Skelding‘s “Stripperland.” All of the women in the world are now flesh-eating monsters who would tempt you and take away your money and eat your penis (which happens several times throughout the film). There are a few uninfected women, and they display a modicum of strength and give a few clumsy speeches about the reality of the stripping business, but their strength all vanishes and their feminist speeches mutate into mere lip service when they have to, late in the film, strip off their own clothes and shake their monekymakers for the camera as a survival tactic. Bitches be crazy, a’ight?
I didn’t think that Ruben Fleischer‘s 2009 film “Zombieland” was such a ubiquitous hit that it warranted a parody of this scope, but here we are. Indeed, “Stripperland” borrows just about every last element from the 2009 film, right down to its manufactured celebrity cameo, the use of hometowns as first names, the scene where someone finds out about the zombie threat via text message, and the incessant repeating of survival rules. It’s the future, and the zombie apocalypse is upon us. Only women become zombies, and they also dress in stripper outfits. A nerdy wuss nicknamed Idaho (Ben Sheppard doing his best Jesse Eisenberg impersonation) teams up with a grizzled mountain man type named Frisco (Jamison Challeen), who is obsessed with finding proper baked goods. Frisco is gay, and while that’s supposed to be a big reveal (and I realize I’m breaking critical rules by blurting out that information), I must say that his sexuality is never a major plot point, and the film never lets him fall into mincing, gay-panic Paul Lynde territory. Thank goodness for small favors.
The two men team up with a shy Karen Allen type (Maren McGuire), and a short-haired militant type (Ileana Herrin, whom I liked), and they have a string of messy and episodic adventures across the countryside. The zombie strippers are slow-moving (they all wear big heels), and can be placated through the power of hip hop. They learn this in a truly bizarre scene in which Daniel Baldwin raps – poorly – for a group of zombies assembled outside his tour bus. This scene has no lead-in and little pay-off. The Hell? At least the Lloyd Kaufman cameo was amusing. And the guy who played the poncy, mall-bound pimp (Boyd Banks) overacted to the best of his abilities. Also, ’80s scream queen Linnea Quigley (from “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers,” “Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bow-o-Rama,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4” and hundreds of others) appears as a kick- ass, gun-toting grandmother who is not as funny as you’d think.
Oh yeah. A man misogynistmad scientist is in the film. He wants to train the zombie women to be domestic slaves. I think this scene is where the heart of “Stipperland” lies.
B-movies used to look better than this. Not so long ago, they needed to build rubber corpses to stab, real cars to explode, and real fake blood to spill. These days, even the B-movies are stuck using CGI blood and wounds and explosions, and they look awful. Not to ambitious would-be horror directors: red Karo syrup, stabbable watermelons wrapped in shirts, and cheap old Volkswagon beaters are cheaper and better-looking than all your cheap, fake-looking CGI combined.