Friday 21 February 2014

Strippers vs Werewolves

Director: We-e-ell, that’s kind of arguable
Writer: This also is a contentious topic
Producers: Hmmm, not clear, to be honest
Cast: Aha! Robert Englund, Adele Silva, Billy Murray
Country: UK
Year of release: 2012
Reviewed from: DVD 

At some point, I was going to have to watch and review this film. And as I seem to be on something of a werewolf kick at the moment, why not now? But this may prove a tricky piece to write because Strippers vs Werewolves was a troubled production. There was - shall we say? - tension between the film’s three prime movers: the writer, the director and the producer. Now, being well-connected in the world of dodgy low-budget British horror films, I know all three gentlemen personally and I don’t want to upset anyone by apportioning blame. I’m not trying to write some sort of exposé here, not trying to dish the dirt. This website isn’t the place for crusading journalism. If I wanted to write crusading journalism I’d write about things that actually matter, like political corruption, or the environment, or where to bury Richard III. But I write about films. And not even multi-million dollar epics but little efforts with words in the title like ‘strippers’ and ‘werewolves’ and, well, ‘vs’. Who cares?

All I ever try to do here is write entertaining and informative stuff about the fringes of the cinema industry, pointing my own tiny spotlight at the stuff that gets missed by all the fat mainstream journos on their junkets to promote that multi-million dollar crap.

So I’m not here to praise or bury SvW but to take a look at it, see what works, see what doesn’t. In a sense, that should be all that matters. If it ain’t on screen it ain’t in the scene and it ain’t been seen, as the saying goes. That said, I’m certainly interested - as you may also be - in why things are the way they are. Why this works and that doesn’t. What I’m not looking to do is appoint personal blame for ‘ruining’ or ‘destroying’ this film (that’s assuming it turns out to be a bit rubbish; we’ll get to that in a bit, but you may have got that impression from general internet scuttlebutt). Because even if one or more individuals are responsible, who cares? A silly little film that doesn’t matter turns out to be not as good as it could have been. And in other news, people are homeless, politicians are corrupt, the environment is going to shit and I’ve got a painful boil on my toe. Now here’s Andy with sports...

The plot, such as there is, can be summed up by the title. There are some strippers, there are some werewolves. They spend an hour antagonising each other and in the final act it all kicks off. The tin, what it says thereupon, that it surely does.

The ubiquitous Billy Murray (Airborne, Stalker, Dead Cert, Just for the Record, Doghouse) - who was dozily miscredited as ‘Bill Murray’ on the US poster! - is the leader of a small group of werewolf gangsters. There’s a comedy fat one. There’s a cocky Scottish prick-weasel who really, really should be punched in the mouth every time he appears on screen. There’s a half-heartedly psychotic one who wears a black and red jumper - presumably as homage to Freddy Krueger and/or Dennis the Menace - and has a silly haircut which implies that he wants to be a punk but daren’t. And there’s one or two others without even that shallow level of characterisation.

Ursa herself, Sarah Douglas is Jeanette, the owner of a gentlemen’s establishment called Vixens where she employs various young ladies. There’s a blonde one. There’s one with long, straight hair and a thick East European accent who delivers some of her lines so woodenly that I’d swear she is reading off idiot cards. There’s a brunette with angel wings on her back. There may be another blonde one, or another brunette, or something. The only one who seems to have any clear, identifiable character is ‘Justice’ (Adele Silva: Emmerdale, Doghouse) who dresses like a ‘naughty schoolgirl’ and is sensible enough that Jeanette wants to mentor her and eventually pass on the establishment. As with the werewolves, characterisation is on scant show in the strip club. And although each of the main characters is introduced with a name caption near the start, I couldn’t actually tell you what any of them are called except Justice and Jeanette. (Incidentally, Superman films aside, Douglas has a terrific genre CV which includes the Dan Curtis Dracula, The People That Time Forgot, Beastmaster 2, The Return of Swamp Thing, Puppet Master 3, Mirror Mirror 2, Frankenstein Sings, The Stepford Husbands, Attack of the Gryphon plus episodes of Babylon 5, V, Space: 1999, Stargate SG-1... the list goes on and on.)

One curious aspect of the whole set-up is that, the film title notwithstanding, none of the actual ‘strippers’ seem to be strippers. They wear skimpy outfits and occasionally do a bit of half-hearted pole-dancing, but there is not one shot anywhere in the film of any of them removing an item of clothing. What little nudity exists is limited to one or two background extras with their norks out in establishing shots. Also of note is that the scene which introduces Jeanette and co starts with a caption reading ‘The Strippers’ but the first two characters we meet are Jeanette herself and the barman, played by Alan Ford (who made this the same year he was in Cockneys vs Zombies). So that’s confusing.

There are two other people working at the club. A bouncer named Franklyn (Nick Nevern: Outpost II, Demons Never Die, The Tapes) and, for some reason, a female table magician played by Charlie Bond. Franklyn is actually a significant character - he provides the link which enables the werewolves to track down the strippers - but the magician has no narrative function whatsoever that I can determine and seems to be entirely extraneous.

The flashpoint for the story is Justice doing some bump and grind behind a curtain for an oleaginous businessman played by Martin Kemp (still the only actor, apart from Udo Kier and John Carradine, to have portrayed both Baron Frankenstein and Count Dracula on screen, as far as I know). He gets excited and sprouts fur and fangs so she stabs him in the eye with a silver pen. Jeanette assigns Franklyn to get rid of the body. Kemp was part of Murray’s gang so they are out to avenge whoever offed him. Slightly complicating the matter is that Justice and the Scottish twat are an item. She tells him she works nights at the local PDSA clinic; he tells her he is a nocturnal estate agent. Trouble surely lies ahead.

Everything builds, in a manner that is neither interesting nor entertaining, until the werewolves head for the club, wherein they have determined are the strippers responsible for killing their pal from Albert Square. But Jeanette has experience of dealing with werewolves, having blown up her previous club in 1984 to rid herself of an ‘infestation’ of the things. The various strippers set about preparing for the approaching danger although the only actual notable thing they do is to make some silver stiletto heels. Because obviously this is one of those clubs that has silver smelting equipment and a well-fitted heel-bar on site.

The final battle is just awful. Utterly devoid of tension or excitement, more of the third act is taken up with people standing around talking than with actual fighting. There are four strippers at the start, two get killed and there seem to still be four at the end. The final twist makes no sense whatsoever, apparently setting the story up for a sequel from which we will be, I have no doubt, mercifully spared. (A poster for Strippers vs Vampires 'from the makers of SvW' can be found by judicious googling but it got no further than that.)

A movie with a title like Strippers vs Werewolves ought to be at least one of the following, preferably two and ideally all three: funny, scary, sexy. The actual movie entitled Strippers vs Werewolves is none of these. It is utterly devoid of any actual horror, not one of the ‘jokes’ is even slightly funny, and despite the actresses pouting and posing for publicity shots, there’s nothing sexy on show here. Not classy sexy, not sleazy sexy. SvW will not raise the hair on the back of your neck, the corners of your mouth, or indeed any other part of your body.

One of the film’s biggest problems is the absolutely awful werewolf design. The big challenge with werewolves as a monster, as I have observed elsewhere, is the complexity of the make-up. Couple of pointy teeth - that’s a vampire. Pale complexion and blood-spattered clothes - you’ve got yourself a zombie. Double exposure - hey presto, one ghost. Chainsaw - maniac, sorted. But a werewolf? That takes time and effort. Now imagine that you have to do make-up for half a dozen werewolves, who are in about half of the movie’s running time, and your entire budget is not quite enough to buy a decent Chinese meal for two. What are you gonna do?

Well, apparently you’re going to come up with a risible design which wouldn’t even be identifiable as a werewolf if that wasn’t a word on the poster. The lycanthropic transformation involves three things: (1) big hairy sideburns, (2) joke-shop vampire fangs, (3) big floppy elf-ears. Actually I say ‘transformation’ but of course we never see anyone actually change from human to werewolf or back, as that would cost more money. Despite this, there seems to be a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing between states, without any indication of cause or method.

Frankly, the whole idea of ‘werewolves’ seems to have been tossed out of the window. These transformations are not triggered by the full Moon; they happen at any time when the plot deems it convenient, to one or more of the werewolves. More problematically, there is no sense of suffering. A werewolf suffers - that’s the essence of this particular monster. Even when the werewolf is an external threat, as in Dog Soldiers or director Jonathan Glendening’s own vastly superior 13hrs, the individual in question is a victim of a curse, forced to become this vicious beast against their will. But these so-called werewolves, who look nothing like werewolves and don’t behave like werewolves (they just rip into people’s necks like vampires) also have none of the psychological/emotional baggage that comes with being a werewolf. They’re not bothered by it. So they are in effect just run-of-the-mill geezer gangsters who occasionally sprout hair and fangs for no obvious reason and to no particular effect before killing people they would probably have killed anyway.

Also not helping matters is the way the werewolves move, which largely consists of holding out their hands, crouching slightly and pulling a scary face like they’re chasing children at a family picnic. They never seem to growl and apart from one off-screen sound effect right at the start, I don’t think there’s a proper howl anywhere in the movie.

These ‘Lycans’ (a term used once, presumably to claim some unofficial connection with the Underworld series) can only be despatched by silver bullets or other silver weaponry, which means that all other injuries have no effect whatsoever and heal almost instantaneously. Combined with the sideburns, that almost makes these guys a sort of Happy Shopper Wolverine, although the effects shots which would have established this ability in the first act never made the final edit, meaning it just pops up from nowhere towards the end. There is also a sequence with three of the strippers in werewolf make-up (I won’t spoil things by saying when/where/how/why this occurs, although a publicity still was circulated) and if anything it looks even worse on the ladies. Their fangs are clearly too big for their mouths, making three reasonably attractive women look like buck-toothed, inbred crack whores. It’s a photo which these particular actresses will hope doesn’t resurface too often during their careers.

In summary, these werewolves are - and I say this within a fortnight of having watched Wolfpeople - strong contenders for the crappiest werewolves ever shown on screen. But I suppose that, since we only know that the women are strippers because we’re told so, it makes sense that the same should be true of the werewolves.

In amongst all this crap, which just gets worse and worse the more I think about it, is one glimmer of characterisation and indeed entertainment. Simon Phillips, a man even more ubiquitous than Billy Murray (his other cinematic face-off was Jesus vs the Messiah), turns in a terrific performance as Sinclair, a jobbing vampire hunter who is dating the wooden, East European woman. At a phone call’s remove, he is her source for authoritative information on the occult which he does his best to provide, even while fending off ravenous female bloodsuckers. Phillips shows a real flare for comedy in his scenes despite - actually probably because of - not actually sharing the screen with any of the other characters until the very final shot. One can’t help feeling that the film would have been far more enjoyable - scarier, funnier, sexier - if it had concentrated on his end of the phone conversations and left the not-really-strippers and not-at-all-werewolves off-screen.

Also among the large cast are Martin Compston (Freakdog, Wild Country, When the Lights Went Out, The Disappearance of Alice Creed) as the annoying fake estate agent; The Bill’s Ali Bastian as the blonde stripper; Barbara Scrabbleboard from Hostel as the East European (she was also in The Hike, Isle of Dogs and the recent Children of the Corn prequel that no-one was waiting for); Simon Phillips’ missus Rita Ramnani (Airborne, The Last Seven, Umbrage: The First Vampire) as the stripper wearing angel wings; Joe Egan (Killer Bitch, Just for the Record, Ra.One, Deadtime) as, I think, the fat werewolf; Nick Onsloe (Dead Cert, Cut) as a prison guard; Coralie Rose (Dead Cert, The Prisoner remake, Sea of Souls) as a stripper (probably); UFO/Cut/Airborne director Dominic Burns as (I think) a fake record executive, Les Allen (The Reverend, Ten Dead Men) as a gangster; and Jazz Lintott (UFO, Devil’s Tower) as a gangster’s victim.

Plus, in various roles, Marc Baylis (Corrie, When Evil Calls), stuntmen Dean Williams (Soul Searcher, Lycanthropy, The Silencer, Stag Night of the Dead, Whatever Happened to Pete Blaggit?) and Jude Poyer (lots of Hong Kong stuff), Alex Esmail (Attack the Block), Jeremy Oliver (who was a clown zombie in a short called Fright of the Dead), Lee Asquith-Coe (Kill Keith, The Eschatrilogy, World War Z), Mo Idriss (A Fantastic Fear of Everything, Devil’s Playground, Witch) and Shaun Lucas (The Dead Inside, Evil Never Dies, The Seasoning House). So quite a treat for spotters of players from other BHR movies then.

Ticking the box marked ‘stunt casting’ are Lysette Anthony (Talos the Mummy, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Krull) in the epilogue; Steven Berkoff giving one of his best BHR performances in a cameo as a gangster; men’s mag bimbo Lucy Pinder as the vampire who confronts Simon Phillips (credited as ‘Carmilla’!); and horror icon Robert Englund. Making what is technically his second British frightfilm (if you count the Anglo-Spanish Killer Tongue), Freddy the K has a completely irrelevant and gratuitous role as the leader of the werewolf gang who attacked Jeanette’s previous club, now languishing in a prison cell which appears to have changed little since the late 19th century. Billy Murray goes to see him - and nothing comes of that whatsoever.

Pinder and Charlie Bond get “and introducing” in the title sequence and credit block. Anthony, Berkoff, Kemp and Englund get “Guest appearances by”. Silva, Bastian, Scrabbleboard, Pinder, Berkoff and Englund have their names on the top of the poster/DVD sleeve - which features a publicity shot of Silva, Scrabbleboard and Bastian that bears no relation whatsoever to any scene in the film (they never wear those outfits and there are neither axes nor automatic rifles anywhere).

Stylistically, SvW is a mess. Every so often it tries to turn into a comic-book on screen, with a handful of ‘Meanwhile...’ captions and some static images polarised to look like comic-book frames. There is a constant jumping around between scenes, sometimes cutting after every other line. For example Billy Murray’s meeting with Freddy Krueger, despite having no real narrative purpose, was at least originally an oppressively nasty meeting of two amoral monsters, playing on Englund’s talent for oozing evil. As it stands, the scene just cuts every ten seconds to a presumably simultaneous sequence in the club of Jeanette rallying her troops. This completely diffuses every iota of menace from the prison scene.

It’s like there’s just so much in this film that it’s falling over itself to cram everything into its 90-minute running time, to the extent of frequent split-screen shots giving us two, three or even four different images. And yet, this is not some massively complex Tarantino-esque story. It’s just a bunch of ‘werewolves’ tracking down the person who killed their pal and then attacking a night-club. Admittedly it has more of a narrative - Blondie fancies Franklyn, the Montagu/Capulet thing with Justice and the estate agent, Simon Phillips’ subplot - than the thematically similar Dead Cert. But only just. All the over-the-top cutting and jumping, often done via cut-outs of werewolf clawmarks or a silhouette of a stripper, just gets in the way of what little story and even littler characterisation is on show. It’s a distraction, albeit one could argue a welcome one.

Having considered what the film is about, what it’s like and who’s in it, that raises the question of who made it, a thorny problem not helped by contradictions among the various credit lists. For example, there are six producers: Simon Phillips, Billy Murray, brothers Gareth and Ciaran Mullaney of post-production house The Mews (also credited on Elfie Hopkins and Stalker), Patricia Rybarczyk (Jack Said, Jack Falls, Airborne, UFO) and of course stylish man about town Jonathan Sothcott, a man equally at home in the pages of Screen International and Axolotl Breeder’s Gazette. These six names are in the credit block and the opening titles, but the closing credits begin with a stand-alone card reading ‘produced by Billy Murray, Simon Phillips and Jonathan Sothcott’ before proceeding to the cast list and those six credited producers. (Rybarczyk is interesting. Despite her producer credits, her real dream is apparently to act. However to date her only credit outside of movies she herself produced was in Stuart Brennan’s 2006 micro-budget war story The Lost, which was also her only role with a name. In SvW she plays ‘greasy chav’.)

The executive producers are equally confused about who they are. The credit block lists Spencer Pollard, Adam Sutherland, Wayne Marc Godfrey and Robert Jones. The titles replace Sutherland with Martin Kemp while the end credits list all five gentlemen (along with nine associate producers - and we all know the definition of an associate producer). Even the production companies aren’t clear. “Kaleidoscope Film Distribution presents,” say the titles, “in association with The Fyzz Facility, a Black and Blue Films production.” This follows the logos for Kaleidoscope, Black and Blue, The Mews and The Fyzz Facility. But the credit block reads “Kaleidoscope Film Distribution presents a Phillips/Sothcott Production in association with The Fyzz and The Mews,” I know none of this really matters but it provides context for the really contentious credits. Who wrote this thing? And who directed it?

(A caveat should be made here. The following is to some extent conjecture based on the available evidence. None of the principal interested parties is prepared to discuss the creation of this film in any detail, at least not on the record. And once you’ve seen it you’ll understand why.)

Our story starts with a person who isn’t credited anywhere on SvW, not even among the thank-yous, and that’s Eleanor James. Back in 2010, Ella had a small role in Dead Cert, during the shooting of which she mentioned to Jonathan Sothcott that her pal Pat Higgins (with whom she had made HellBride and The Devil’s Music) had a script knocking around called Strippers vs Werewolves. This was an idea that Pat had been cobbling together since at least 2008, and it piqued Jonathan’s interest.

Pat is a writer-director and might have been expected to helm SvW himself, but Pat and Jonathan work at slightly different levels. Though Sothcott’s films have pretty tiny budgets, they are still a good extra zero or two above what Higgins works with. Sothcott is a producer who pulls in funding from industry mates and casts name soap actors alongside his regular stock company of B-listers. Higgins funds his own work from whatever he made on the last one and has his own stock company of actors who mean something to me and thee but not to readers of the Daily Star. There have been some indirect connections between these two men - for example, Jonathan frequently works, as here, with Simon Phillips, who starred in Jesus vs the Messiah for Al Ronald, who DPs Pat’s movies - but in general JS and PH move in different worlds.

It seems that the various backers weren’t keen on letting Pat direct - but no problem because Sothcott hired Jonathan Glendening, fresh off the back of 13hrs. However, what got shot wasn’t Pat’s script, it was a rewrite by Phillip Barron. Now, I’m no fan of Barron’s work and I really don’t understand how he has built a career as some sort of go-to guy for horror films. Actually, his credits are pretty sparse. He got ‘screen story’ on Stalker (which was okay) for suggesting a way of reworking the original Exposé tale; he was ‘script editor’ on Night Junkies (which was not bad) but by his own admission he didn’t really have anything to do with writing those two films. And many years ago he was one of the guys behind the chaotic but surprisingly not-the-worst-thing-ever Troma pick-up The Evolved Part 1. Which means that before SvW the only real film he’d actually written was Just for the Record, far and away the worst British film of the 21st century not actually directed by Richard Driscoll.

Barron also wrote staggeringly unfunny ‘comedy sketches’ for some staggeringly unfunny BBC3 ‘comedy shows’. Pat Higgins on the other hand wrote The Devil’s Music. And KillerKiller. And one third of Bordello Death Tales. I’m not saying that a Pat Higgins script could never be improved. All scripts have potential for improvement. But the idea that Phillip Barron could improve it is not something I can get my head around. I haven’t seen Pat’s original script, but even if he was having an off-day I can’t imagine it’s worse than what got made.

The frankly bizarre citation in the SvW credit block is "Written by Pat Higgins; Screenplay by Pat Higgins and Phill Barron”. How does that work? How was part of the screenplay written by somebody who didn’t write the film (but who also didn’t write the original, first draft screenplay)? How did somebody write the whole film but only part of the screenplay? The titles make things even more confusing: “Based on Strippers Versus Werewolves; Written by Pat Higgins; Screenplay by Phillip Baron” (sic). So now Pat didn’t contribute to the screenplay at all. And how on Earth is the film based on itself? I’m thinking maybe there is something in that use of ‘versus’ - absolutely everywhere else uses ‘vs’ - to distinguish Pat’s original screenplay from the actual film. In Hollywood of course the WGA would step in and arbitrate on such matters, but here it’s just a question of what it says in people’s contracts and sometimes not even that. (One of my few paying scriptwriting gigs was with an extremely famous producer, who flat out refused to honour a signed contract until I threatened to take the arrogant, bald twat to court.) The end credits of SvW seem to agree with the credit block: “Writer Pat Higgins; Screenplay Phillip Barron and Pat Higgins.” Which does at least mean that one of the three gets Phillip Barron’s name right.

Jonathan Glendening also gets shoddily treated by the accuracy elves: his name is correct in the titles but the end credits and credit block both spell it ‘Glendenning’. There’s got to be something wrong somewhere when a film can’t spell the name of its own director. And indeed there clearly was something wrong somewhere, as summed up by young Mr Sothcott in an interview with SciFi Pulse: “The whole bloody film was a living nightmare. Everyone fell out, the money was late, the creative core was pulling in completely different directions, one of the actors was incredibly badly behaved. I fired more people on that film than on all my others put together. We needed another dressing room just to contain all the egos.”

Glendening’s original cut of the film was evidently very different to what is on my DVD. It was darker, more of a horror film, with genuine menace and threats and shocks. But it seems that the producers wanted SvW to be more of an action-comedy. Or, to be specific, a comic-book movie, almost a cinematic comic-book. Sothcott mentioned Kick-Ass in interviews; Scott Pilgrim vs the World was also released in 2010. So all these on-screen captions, the polarised faux comic-book panels, the split-screen, the fast editing, the stripper-silhouette iris wipes - in other words, all of the stuff that renders Strippers vs Werewolves shallow and disposable (or more shallow and disposable than it was to start with) - none of that is Glendening’s doing.

Jonathan Sothcott and Martin Kemp are both credited as ‘2nd unit directors’ (the former also gets ‘ADR director’). But there was no second unit so far as I can tell. If there was, there would be a 2nd unit DP and other 2nd unit crew. To my mind this suggests that Jonathan and Martin are responsible for the film as it stands, the ‘2nd unit’ credit referring to work carried out subsequent to principal photography rather than simultaneously with it. This would make sense as Sothcott and Kemp are, well, some percentage of the producers, depending on what credit list you look at. Kemp previously directed Stalker (for Sothcott), and not a bad job he made of it, although Sothcott himself has never directed anything, even second unit, outside of the odd DVD extra.

So, unless I receive evidence otherwise, this is what I surmise to be the bare bones of the creation of Strippers vs Werewolves. The film was written by Pat Higgins, re-written by Phillip Barron, directed by Jonathan Glendening, then ‘re-directed’ by Jonathan Sothcott (with a bit of a hand from Martin Kemp). This is the film as released. (Jonathan Glendening on his website refers to it as ‘The Producers Cut’.)

And that, I submit, is why it’s the messy failure that it is. Not because of any individual’s direct contribution - Pat can write, Martin and Jonathan G can both direct, Jonathan S is easily the most successful British indie producer of recent years (admittedly I have yet to see any evidence that Phillip Barron knows what a joke is) - but because of too many people pulling in too many directions. At some point, all involved (I’m including here that small army of executive producers and associate producers) must have thought this was a viable, ‘go’ project. No-one ever expected it to be a masterpiece; or if they did, they were an idiot. I mean, it’s called Strippers vs Werewolves for Christ’s sake. But it could have been better than it is.

Would it have worked if the whole thing was A Pat Higgins Joint? Probably. Pat’s hit-rate isn’t 100% but even when he doesn’t score a bulls-eye he creates something original and entertaining. Ironically, a tinier budget might well have benefited this project because the actual depictions of the werewolves would perforce have been more creative. Plus, call me iconoclastic but I’d rather watch Pat’s address book of his stand-up comedy mates than Jonathan’s filofax of soap stars and page 3 girls. (Tonto fans of British horror may spot that Simon Phillips' Sinclair is the same character that Cy Henty played in HellBride, and presumably would have been played by Henty here if Pat had directed.) And it must be said that Eleanor James (now sadly retired from acting) is considerably sexier than any of the actresses on show here.

What if we had Jonathan Glendening’s version of a Higgins script? I’d pay to see that. The evidence I have seen suggests that it would have been a dark, twisted and fascinating movie.

On the other hand, what if Jonathan Sothcott had been able to pursue his vision of the film from the start? What if Pat had simply sold Mr S the title and concept, taken the money and run off to make Squid-Slayer? And if Jonathan had asked one of his mates to direct it - Mr Kemp or Mr Phillips, perhaps? Well, yes that could have worked (as long as he got somebody decent to write the script). There’s nothing intrinsically flawed in trying to make a sub-Kick-Ass comic-book-style movie - so long as that’s what you set out to make from the start. But imposing that style on a movie which has already been written and directed as something else: that’s never, ever going to work. But, if you’re the producer, and you’ve got the film (or most of it) in the can, and you don’t think it’s workable, you have to do something with it. Which will most likely mean getting one of your mates in to re-shoot and/or re-cut it into a form which will at least minimise your losses.

I don’t know how well Strippers vs Werewolves did commercially. The Sun ran a story about how it took only £38 at the box office but, just like a more recent hoopla about Storage 24 taking only $72, that was based on a complete (and quite possibly deliberate) misrepresentation of how low-budget film distribution works. Phillip Barron has discussed this at length on his blog if you want to take a look. Jonathan Sothcott released three horror films in 2012: this in May, Airborne (which is actually mentioned in this film’s dialogue) in July and Elfie Hopkins in August. And those were his last forays to date into the horror genre. Since then he has been concentrating on the evidently more profitable (and presumably less problematic) subgenres of geezer gangsters and football thugs, untroubled by vampires, werewolves or any other denizens of the dark side.

Since SvW, Jonathan Glendening has been developing new projects and working as an editor, mostly on TV gigs like Sports Personality of the Year. Pat Higgins directed one third of Battlefield Death Tales and now gives entertaining talks about his experiences in the world of low-budget horror (Strippers vs Werewolves notwithstanding). Martin Kemp directed gangster thriller Top Dog for Jonathan Sothcott. Phillip Barron made 78 episodes of something called Persona which is some sort of dramatised app, or something. This is all getting a bit National Lampoon’s Animal House, isn’t it?

Billy Murray starred in a sci-fi short called Drifter. Barbara Scrabbleboard had a bit part as a ‘Scream Queen’ in Anglo-American comedy-horror LA Slasher. Adele Silva chose Roald Dahl as her specialist subject on Celebrity Mastermind. Steven Berkoff was in The Borgias and a particularly poor episode of Doctor Who. Robert Englund appeared in Zombie Mutation, yet another Lake Placid sequel and a bunch of other stuff. Simon Phillips starred in and produced three White Collar Hooligan films and directed a sci-fi feature, The Last Scout. And I’m on the lookout for a proper transformer...

Now a quick run-down of some of the less confusing, less contentious credits, because everyone who works on a film does their best (with what they’re given) and deserves credit where credit is due. Dave Meadows (now shooting Top Gear) was the DP; Richard Colton (UFO, Kill Keith) was the editor; Sophie Wyatt (Devil’s Playground, Just for the Record, Cut) was the production designer (the IMDB reckons it was Felix Coles but he was actually one of three ‘art dept assistants’); Millie Sloan (Stalker, Devil’s Playground, Zombie Diaries 2) designed the costumes; Tower Block director James Nunn was 1st AD.

Kristyan Mallett was ‘special make-up and prosthetics designer’ which probably means, alas, that he must take credit for the awful werewolf make-up. Still, having also worked on various Harry Potters, Little Britain, Hogfather, The Cottage, Doomsday, Mutant Chronicles, Eden Lake, Sherlock, Misfits, Merlin and The Inbetweeners Movie, he’s probably not too bothered. Marcus Millichope was visual FX supervisor while Barry O’Brien was SFX supervisor. Neil ‘Lon’ Chaney wrote the original music; the version of ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ which plays over the titles is credited to ‘Wild Moon’. Bob Komar, who co-directed Jack Says with Simon Phillips, is listed as ‘standby DOP (dailies)’, whatever that means.

Strippers vs Werewolves is neither good enough to be worth watching nor bad enough to be worth watching. It’s just an unfortunate experience which left a number of the people who made it sadder and wiser (and now has a similar effect on its audience). And here’s one final twist. Despite the fact that Jonathan Sothcott is credited as producer on the sleeve, in the titles and twice in the end credits, this film isn’t on his IMDB page. Well, it is, but only for his work as ‘casting director’ (which I have no doubt he had a hand in, but for which there is ironically no actual on-screen credit). I can see why Jonathan would want to distance himself from the thing, but given how many interviews he did plugging the film when it was released, I fear he is not going to shake it off that easily.

MJS rating: D

(NB. Although I don't normally show reviews to people beforehand, I felt in this case it was only fair to let Jonathan G, Jonathan S and Pat see what I had written and give them right of reply/clarification. Only a handful of very minor factual points were changed. - MJS)

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