PEELERS Review: This Zombie/Stripper Film Isn't APEEL-ing, it's Appalling.
by Arnie C, July 14, 2017
I like zombies. I like strippers. So it seems zombie-strippers would be (pardon the pun) a no-brainer. But 2008's Jenna Jameson/Robert Englund film Zombie Strippers fell in its high heels. 2012's Zombies Vs Strippers failed to get a rise out of me. And defying my expectations, SevĂ© Schelenz's new film Peelers is even worse than those two previous efforts.
Peelers' concept is simple enough. When four coal miners accidentally strike oil they head to the Titty Balls Strip Club to celebrate. And it's the club's last night as owner "Blue" Jean Douglas, played by Wren Walker, has sold the club to a land developer who plans to shut it down. Soon their night of revelry turns into revulsion as the black ooze infected the miners turning them into bloodthirsty, mindless killers. No one in the club is safe, and the infection is spreading.
This set-up seems like a perfect throwback to '80s slasher films. I had low expectations for Peelers, but if it could give me base genre thrills along the lines of Prom Night 3 (yeah, part 3, not even part 1) or Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan I would have given this film a solid recommend.
Sure enough, the film's set-up seems to indicate that's what I'll get as we're introduced to owner "Blue Jean", her bad-boy brother Logan (Madison J. Loos), and the various strippers, bouncers, bartenders, and cooks that populate the Titty Balls. Instantly we see a large cast we know will lead to a decent body count. And it doesn't take long before the miners arrive, and one begins regurgitating and transforming into a zombie.
And I was jazzed by some comic book cred. One character is named Logan, and another is Remy. I could chalk that up to a coincidence, but when the bartender drops a line about adamantium it's obvious writer Lisa DeVita is an X-Men fan.
From there all the film had to do was coast on "cruise control" and give me some inventive kills along the way. Unfortunately first-time screenwriter DeVita can't even accomplish that.
The set-ups in this film are so obvious I thought DeVita was trying to be funny. In the first fifteen minutes of the film we are introduced to what I can only call Chekhov’s arsenal: the strip club has a baseball bat, several handguns, and even, improbably enough, a chainsaw. Clearly every awkwardly-shown item will (and does) lead to later zombie defense.
But soon I realize the script wasn't being ironic, it's just poor. The plotting is confusing in several ways. For example, the miners believe they found oil, but it smells awful and converts them to zombies. Yet later we're told it is still actual oil that can fuel your vehicle…and turn you into the living dead?
Beyond ridiculous, the script is downright ignorant. (Minor spoiler) The kryptonite for these oil monsters isn't a gunshot to the head, it's....water? The rationale is "Water and oil don't mix" so, obviously, water will kill these bloodthirsty beasts?
Unlikely as it seems, the stupidity only escalates from there! The survivors in the club could just run away, but "Blue Jean" marshals them to stay and fight, lest these monsters go to the general population. Yet no one realizes that if they just wait out one good rainstorm then the problem will take care of itself.
Additionally, this group has every weapon known to god and man, but not one person has a cell phone?
If I gave the film the benefit of the doubt I'd say this was all intentional humor, but the leaden dialogue delivered by a cast of complete unknowns makes it all seem deadly serious. And deathly boring.
Yet I found myself slightly impressed with the production. Post-viewing research told me Peelers was a Kickstarter-funded film made for about $20,000. For that small sum Peelers achieved quality sound work, and decent camerawork. I looked up cinematographer Lindsay George and he has over a decade's work on shorts and television. The result is a professional looking production that seems to make spectacular work of existing lights, and good effect of digital video cameras that work well in low-light conditions.
Some of the gore effects are also passable for cheapie-horror.
But if I'm complimenting a movie for saying it's well lit, I'm stretching to find compliments. George is a good cameraman but he had nothing good in front of the camera to film. And several times he's let down by poor staging and editing that makes action scenes downright confusing.
If you’re only requirement for this film is gratuitous nudity, yes, you’ll find it here, but every single bit of it is undercut by the most repugnant of "humor." One stripper does her dance, only to end by giving guys in the front row a golden shower. Another stripper is late into her third trimester. I've been to a couple dive clubs in my life, but this is simply grotesque.
And yes, one zombie is indeed killed when the pregnant stripper's water breaks on his head. If you think that sounds cool, you’ll still be bored as hell by Peelers.
It takes a lot to revolt me. The strippers here pulled it off. So…congratulations? But it wasn't even in the fun Human Centipede way. More in the vein of "no one should have to watch this."
Finally, the title Peelers was misleading. From the poster, showing an amputated stripper, and the title I thought I'd be watching a film about creatures that peel the skin off their victims. It would be the ultimate strip-club irony–a monster that continues to "undress" their nude victims. But these beasts just bite and gouge. The title, I suppose, references the strippers, but I've never heard a dancer called a "peeler" before. I suppose it's a shame the title Striptese, Zombies vs Strippers, Zombie Strippers, Showgirls, and Zombeavers were taken. (FYI, every single movie listed there is more enjoyable than Peelers).
The end result is a film that seems to think it's a cheapie From Dusk 'Til Dawn rip-off, and ends up being so much worse than either of Dawn's direct-to-video sequels. It's not even fun in a so-bad-it's-good way. It's a mind-numbing 90 minutes that I will never get back.
Congratulations to the film crew for accomplishing what they did on so little budget, but next time perhaps give that script a second draft before you start shooting.