Clothes (and Heads) Come Off in Stripper Horror Film Peelers (2016)




Given low-budget horror films' long-standing relationship with exploitation filmmaking, it's no surprise that there's a subgenre horror movies that take place in strip clubs. From goremeister Herschell Gordon Lewis' The Gore Gore Girls (1972) to the more recent Strippers vs. Werewolves (2012), strippers have appeared frequently in smaller-budgeted horror flicks as a way to efficiently maximize their titillation appeal to potential audiences. After all, why go to the trouble of writing and shooting scenes to justify nudity when a film can just take place in a location where nudity is expected? (Curiously, there isn't a horror movie subgenre involving nudist communities. Go figure.)

One of the latest entries into the stripper horror movie subgenre is Peelers (2016), the second horror film directed by Sevé Schelenz. The film takes place on the closing night of a strip club, when four workers from a local mine show up to celebrate something they discovered a few hours earlier. Such a discovery turns deadly when the miners change into vomiting, zombie-like killers that ooze an oil-like substance that can infect others, leaving the other people at the club--including its baseball-loving owner Blue Jean (Wren Walker) and her loyal bouncer Remy (Caz Odin Darko)--to team up in order to survive until morning.




Before I get into my review of this film, here's a little extra background information about Peelers. It actually began as a Kickstarter campaign back in 2013 and as part of its pitch (no pun intended) to potential donors, Peelers promised to deliver a combination of strippers, baseball, chainsaws and psycho killers. In keeping with such a gonzo combination, donors of certain amounts would be added to the closing credits as either "Pole Sweat Cleaners" or "Fluffers". (True to their promise, the makers of Peelers did put the Pole Sweat Cleaners and Fluffers in the end credits. I checked.)

For as goofy as the Kickstarter campaign sounds, Peelers looks and feels like a routine grindhouse-style sexploitation flick. It has plenty of nudity, violence and gore, with a smattering of raunchy and vulgar humor. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but it also doesn't utilize the absurdity of the situation to full comedic effect. The monsters are reminiscent of the fast, rabid zombies in 28 Days Later, although the kill scenes and gore are fairly conventional for a film like this. (With a name like Peelers, I was hoping that at some point the zombies would shed their skins. That didn't happen.) A few scenes try to develop the characters and provide a clearer explanation about what is causing the zombie outbreak, but these stabs at more serious horror don't mesh well with the movie's overall tone.




Personally, I much prefer Schelenz's previous horror film Skew, which I thought was an ambitious and creative approach to "found footage" horror. (You can read that review here.) Nevertheless, if you're in the mood for some mindless modern grindhouse fun, Peelers is an entertaining enough way to spend the evening.




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