Lots of Straight-to-Video flicks exist because of bigger, A-Movie productions. Without Snakes on a Plane we would have never had Snakes on a Train. Without The Cave we would have never had The Cavern. And it’s safe to say that without Zombieland we would have never had Stripperland, because it’s one of the most shameless take-offs of a horror movie I’ve ever seen, lifting characters and plot points wholesale and offering only flimsy parody and padding disguised as celebrity cameos to differentiate from its superior source material.
But Bibbs, I hear you crying… Can you really expect anything more, or more accurately less, from a movie called Stripperland? Sure I can. I can expect a fun, goofy time. I didn’t get that with Stripperland, which despite the good-natured Z-Movie romp promised by the title is an ugly little film with an unpleasant undercurrent of misogyny. The film literally demonizes almost every woman in the world as they fall prey to a virus that turns them all into man-eating strippers, whose behavior is entirely based on cliché. Some of the film’s conceits are actually mildly amusing, like the fact that strippers are as slow as zombies because they all wear tall high heels. But by the time chainsaws are flying into ladies’ private parts the whimsy is gone and unpleasantness unfortunately reigns supreme.
Ben Sheppard stars as Idaho, aka Jesse Eisenberg, a socially awkward loser who teams up with Frisco, aka Woody Harrelson, played by Jamison Challeen. Frisco’s in pursuit of baked goods and Idaho’s just looking for companionship. That companionship arrives in the form of Virginia and West, seemingly the last two uninfected women in the world (Virginians, naturally.) They’re played by Maren McGuire and Ileana Herrin, and they’re likable characters played by likable actors who almost get through the entire film unscathed by sexism until they’re forced to strip themselves in order to navigate a swarm of Stripper-Zombies. (Strombies?) But they’re thin characters to a one, barely scratching the surface of their counterparts in Zombieland, who weren’t that terribly deep in the first place.
Stripperland seems to try to diffuse comparisons to Zombieland with pointed asides to the original’s flaws, like the bizarre scarcity of Twinkies, but there’s no comparison beyond unflattering imitation. Stripperland is a meandering film that wanders slowly from one vignette to the next, many of them little more than a pause for a celebrity cameo. Daniel Baldwin shows up for no particular reason as the least plausible rap star in cinematic history, in a scene that goes nowhere and takes its sweet time doing it. Stripperland also tries to distract from its uncomfortable sexual undertones and judgments by commenting on the objectification of women and strippers in particular, but the actual content of the film does little to support its case. The violence towards all of womankind is pervasive and ugly and, what’s more, cheap. CGI gore effects may make production easier, but a few pints of Karo syrup and a pump from Home Depot are more realistic than the post-production bullet impacts and splatters we get here.
Stripperland was shot on video and it looks like it. That’s not much of a critique, just an observation. The DVD of the film is less than impressive as a result, but it comes with a bevy of special features that I don’t imagine many will take the time to watch. They include behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes, music video and the director’s commentary, if that’s a deciding factor for you.
I like Straight-to-Video movies. I like cheap horror films. I like sexploitation, when it’s in the spirit of good fun or, heaven forefend, has a point to it. I don’t like Stripperland, and I don’t think it’s liable to entertain too many other people either unless their standards are drastically lowered by intoxicants. And even then they can do a lot better. Save your money and go to a real strip club instead.
Crave Online Rating: 2/10