As far as titles go, 'Strippers vs. Werewolves' is certainly a winner; it's utterly absurd, but decidedly straightforward. There's no burying the lede here; you can, without a doubt, expect to find women who take their clothes off for a living embroiled in some kind of fracas with a bunch of lycanthropic troublemakers. It's all very sordid and lewd sounding, and yet, despite prominently featuring the word "stripper" in the title, it still feels like the perfect flick to share some shelf space with a copy of 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.'
And, as with honest Abe chopping down undead bloodsuckers like so many mighty oaks, 'Strippers vs. Werewolves' suggests, by title alone, that it is a film that can be enjoyed, so long as no one takes it seriously. Yes, you can enjoy it based on that fact alone…until you actually watch the film, that is.
As most moviegoers know, there is a specific kind of perverse entertainment in watching films that are inherently bad. There exists a shared bond between film and audience, a sly little wink telling everyone to just sit back and enjoy the ride, because even though it's going to be bumpy, each and every jolt, rattle, and shake will leave you entertained by the utter shoddiness of it all. That, however, is the trouble with 'Strippers vs. Werewolves,' a film that bears all the hallmarks of fantastically bad cinema, but even at its worst, it's rarely the good kind of bad.
After killing a werewolf named Mickey with a silver fountain pen to the eye, Justice (Adele Silva) and the rest of the dancers at Vixens find themselves embroiled in a blood feud with the other members of Mickey's pack. But for pack leader, Jack (Billy Murray doing his best Ian McShane impersonation), the feud runs deeper, as he has a decades old score to settle with current Vixens owner, Jeanette (Sarah Douglas of 'Superman II' fame). Complicating matters is the fact that Jack's No. 2, Scott (Martin Compston), is in a relationship with Justice. And although the two are engaged, Scott has no idea Justice turns into a naked girl while at work, and Justice is left unaware Scott turns into a dog when the moon is full.
What unfolds is a plodding attempt at mixing comedy and horror that rarely hits the mark on either account. To make matters worse, 'Strippers vs. Werewolves' seldom manages to come up with its requisite share of unintentional laughs either. This leaves the audience waiting for the inevitable showdown between the oddly goat-like lycans and the silver-bullet-packing exotic dancers, in the hopes that something of interest might finally happen – accidentally or otherwise.
So, what's missing? Well, a certain amount of joy de vivre, for one. Normally, with films of this nature, there's a sense of reckless abandon, a feeling that everyone involved simply said, "screw it," and just let it rip. (Please allow me to direct your attention to John Barrowman's amazing adlib near the end of the epically dreadful, yet endearing staple of bad cinema, 'Shark Attack 3: Megalodon.' As Barrowman proves, sometimes giving up means finding your way.) And while some of that exists in this film, there's just not enough sense of abandon going around to get much of a rise out of the audience.
Thankfully, one guy definitely gets it. Although 'Strippers vs. Werewolves' boasts some recognizable talent beyond the aforementioned Sarah Douglas, like Alan Ford (Brick Top from 'Snatch'), Steven Berkoff ('The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo') and Robert Englund (Freddy Kruger), it is Simon Phillips, playing the slightly overweight occultist, vampire slayer and encyclopedia of the macabre, Sinclair, who is the most appealing thing about the film – and in a movie with strippers as its leads, that's saying something. When Sinclair recognizes his relationship with the stunning Raven (Barbara Nedeljakova, 'Hostel') is more than a little unbalanced, and dumps her on account of the fact she's impossibly out of his league, the modern day Van Helsing is practically acting as the audience's spirit guide, bringing them safely through to the film's end.
Phillips' scenes (of which there are far too few) are a welcome distraction from the insipid plot, laughably bad prosthetic effects (which, admittedly, may have been poorly done on purpose) and the bizarre fact that nearly all of the adult oriented action takes place off screen – which normally wouldn't be much of an issue, but in a flick called 'Strippers vs. Werewolves,' one would expect to see more of each party's area of expertise, no?
It may interest you to know that Phillips – like fellow cast member Billy Murray – not only acts in the film, but is credited with producing it as well. In fact, Phillips and fellow producer Jonathan Sothcott are rather prolific in that regard, having worked on more than 10 feature films since 2010 – all of which have been in a similar vein of horror, action or comedy, operating on a shoestring budget and likely bypassing theaters altogether.
So what's this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, given the sheer volume of films each man is overseeing at any given moment, and the fact that Sothcott and Phillips both appear on the Blu-ray in what is referred to as a "Producers' Commentary," it is evident that 'Strippers vs. Werewolves' wasn't some silly filmmaking endeavor hilariously gone awry; it was simply a cheap quickie that showed up on the assembly line, and director Jonathan Glendenning was little more than a proletariat worker doing his part to see a product off to market. While there's nothing wrong with that necessarily, it does explain why (Phillips' scenes aside) the movie feels like little more than a sloppy cash-grab of the most apathetic kind.
As films like 'The Room,' 'Troll 2' and the aforementioned 'Shark Attack 3' have proven, making bad cinema is, in and of itself, a specialized art form incapable of being duplicated by products churned out one after the other. In the end, 'Strippers vs. Werewolves' is mostly the wrong kind of bad, for all the wrong reasons.
'Strippers vs. Werewolves' comes with a surprisingly robust picture from its 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 codec. Fine detail on skin, clothing and make-up is clearly present in nearly every shot (which is both an attribute and detriment, as you'll soon find out). Colors on everything from the characters' costumes to the neon signs and the ever-present pools of blood are bright and vivid. Additionally, the film's opening credit sequence, which features red line-drawings of the titular strippers and werewolves against a black background, is particularly well done and practically leaps off the screen. The transfer also reproduces black levels quite well; dark shadows take over the screen when necessary, yet never rob the picture of its clarity or detail.
On the whole, the picture is quite strong, but as far as it being cinematic, the film's look struggles to overcome the limits set forth by the cinematography. Even with an abundance of detail, the images on screen never look as though they've undergone any arrangement beyond ensuring the actors appear well lit and in frame. And therein lies the biggest problem with the picture on this Blu-ray: everything is so defined and illuminated, it not only makes the image look as though it's being prepped for 3D, but the high-definition works against the producers by revealing every little textural flaw inadvertently captured by the camera.
Sure, that's a staple of bad cinema, but the lifelike sadness of it all is more reminiscent of another genre of filmmaking known for simply getting certain images on screen before rushing a product out to market.
So, inadvertently, 'Strippers vs. Werewolves' ends up with a picture that’s so good it becomes a detriment to the film – which, in turn, becomes an appealing aspect. After all, this is bad cinema.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track feels mostly subdued despite a few nice flourishes wherein gunshots, explosions and the occasional six-inch silver stiletto heel is kicked across a werewolf's face. Although clear, much of the dialogue and sound effects are funneled through the front channels, while the rear speakers only occasionally pick up anything beyond hints of the largest and most vigorous sounds. LFE is present when necessary, but even the film's opening explosion fails to register anything beyond mild recognition of a boom.
Tragically, the audio manages to highlight the worst soundtrack since, well, forever. Music comes through the front channels with the kind of clarity one expects from a lossless transfer of this kind. Instruments and vocals sound rich and resonate well, despite the songs themselves being simply awful. One highlight, however, is the cover to Duran Duran's 'Hungry Like The Wolf,' which, even though it's not the original, sounds fantastic.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the film's audio track, it presents the dialogue and sound effects with clarity, but like the rest of the film, it just feels a little flat and lifeless. The only conclusion one can make is that the transfer itself is fine, and it is the audio source that comes up short.
What's most discouraging about 'Strippers vs. Werewolves' is that somehow, all the fun of watching a ridiculously awful movie is mostly absent. The movie knows it's bad, but never manages to capture that enjoyably awful tone. There are some laughs, but in the end, it affirms the notion that some filmmakers aren't merely willing to make anything; they'll gladly make everything. With decent image quality that helps augment the irreverent cheesiness of it all, the Blu-ray manages to have a few positives for those willing to give this a go. Everyone else should just tune their televisions to Syfy and imagine a greater kind of bad.