Apr 29, 2013


I suppose if it had been a bigger hit, or if someone had thought of it, Stripped would have been marketed as "Project X meets Hostel." Because that's pretty much what we have here: "found footage" of a group of horny frat-boy types hauling ass to Vegas for a weekend of debauchery, but finding themselves victimized and stalked by a group of black market organ traffickers.

It is Graham's 21st birthday, and so it's off to Sin City with his BFFs Luke, Cameron, and Tommy. They like to smoke weed and drink booze. They make an awful lot of jokes, some involving puke and some involving mothers. They call each other "fag" and make fun of Twilight. Because, you know, kids.

Along the way they pick up Capri, who crashes the party to hitch a ride so she can meet up with her boyfriend, Jake, who lives in Vegas. Once that happens, drama ensues when it's revealed she once had some kind of romantic tryst with Luke. But the kids quickly get back to their jokes and the social awkwardness is left behind for the time being. After stopping off at a gas station bathroom, they discover a business card promising "women willing to do anything to make you happy." (That means hookers.)  And we have a catalyst!

"Mind if I fornicate?"

The minute we meet out first character, you can immediately tell he, and all his cohorts, are going to be obnoxious and unlikable. That's a huge problem, especially in this genre. For Stripped, it's genuinely hard to tell if this was a conscious choice to make the eventual bloodletting all the more satisfying, or if the desire to make our kids "realistic" and "fun" didn't really work out that way. They fart, talk about fucking constantly, and make references to having sex with babies. (Seriously.) Either way, I don't care about any of these kids, at all.

Stripped, as a "story," takes entirely too long to get going. Except for the rather cheap and brief cuts of debauchery and torture soon to come (foreshadowing, only far less subtle!), the first 40 minutes is nothing but watching handsome and/or pretty young people hang out, high five, test your patience, and hold beer bottles. It is around the 40-minute mark when the kids finally get to the shady, out-of-the-way place where the strippers/hookers hang out.

Oddly, it is around the 45-minute mark where director J.M.R. Luna abandons the found footage aesthetic altogether and begins to shoot the film traditionally, which is jarring, to say the least. There is an attempt to maintain the style using surveillance cameras (which make no sense existing in an incredibly illegal and murderous operation), but all this does is make the brief, traditionally-shot sequences stick out all the more. Adding to this confusion is they seem to have used the same camera for every shot - the "found footage" amateur stuff as well as the real-movie, traditional stuff. So, take your established inconsistency, add this newer confusion, and you have Stripped: the feature film that dares you to figure out what's happening.

And finally, it is around the 50-minute mark when anything the least bit resembling a horror film finally begins to occur. This in a 75-minute film.

There is absolutely no attempt at coherence in Stripped. Although it's plainly established there is only ever one camera in use for most of the trip, suddenly, when it's essential to the plot, Capri randomly has her own camera. And speaking of, there's absolutely no reason, once Capri attempts to find her friends in a seedy whore house and becomes understandably scared, that she would hold her camera out at arm's length and film her own face as she walks around - especially when it's been established the filmmakers are willing to switch perspective to  traditional shooting, which easily could have been employed here. The most damning aspect to this is that Capri clearly has a camera - speaks directly into it at one point, like a diary - but then when she walks by in a "surveillance camera" shot, is obviously not holding a camera. This doesn't happen just once, but repeatedly.

I mean, what the fuck?

Honestly, there isn't much I can say about Stripped that's positive. The acting is decent, but only because it's not hard to get a bunch of kids to act obnoxious and silly. The girls were pretty and the boys were handsome. Everything shot was in frame and in focus. The strippers showed off their cleavage and sometimes their goods (if you're into that sort of thing). When the kids are killed and harvested (spoiler?), smile in relief, because it means the end is coming. 

I mean...that's it.

Look, if you always wanted to see the guys from "Jackass" get sliced up to rock/rap, all mixed with a lot of nudity, AND a scene where a naked boy fist-fights a crazy surgeon, now's your chance. Normally I'd feel guilty trashing a film this bad, but I don't this time. Maybe because this isn't even really a film. To call it such is an insult to filmmakers actually trying.

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