“Peelers” (2016): More Satisfying the Second Time Around

I didn’t like Peelers.  At least, I didn’t like it the first time I saw it. I didn’t like the story or the characters, the effects looked cheap and the acting was, to be kind, uninspired.  But the ending shocked me; it thrilled and haunted me. It made me go back and watch Peelers a second time. The result was much, much more entertaining.

As you can imagine from the title, Peelers is set in a strip club where the talent, customers, owner, and employees are celebrating the last night of bare bottom business. For reasons never really explained, the owner, Blue Jean (Wren Walker) has sold the club to a sleazy businessman called (at least by the staff) Chromagnum (Al Dales) whose nefarious plans for the club have nothing to do with naked women twirling on a pole.

Just as the last night party is getting started, a group of miners from the coal site next store walk in. They’re covered in oil, despite their mining for coal, and it is soon discovered that the ‘oil’ is actually some sort of evil black gold that turns anyone who touches it into an aggressive, indestructible killing machine. Will Blue Jean her nearly naked employees live to see another day or will they end up like the crazed ghouls they’ve been dancing for?

The answer may seem obvious, but you should give credit to director Sevé Schelenz (Skew) and screenwriter Lisa DeVita (a first-time scribe who also makes her acting debut in the movie playing Officer Castanza) for throwing a boatload of distractions up on the screen to keep you from jumping to any conclusions too soon. There’s the maudlin unrequited love that the beefy bouncer Remy (Caz Odin Darko) wears on his sleeve for Blue Jean. There’s also the underachieving kid, Blue Jean’s son Logan (Madison J. Loos), who shows up from her past just I time for the miner’ apocalypse. And if these predictable subplots aren’t enough to keep you from hitting the off button on your DVD player, there’s the R-rated onstage antics of dancers Baby/Elaine (Nikki Wallin) and Frankie (Momona Komagata) to keep your eyes glued to the screen, even though what you are watching is not sensual or sexy but both stupid and revolting.

It’s all a bit clunky and, to be honest, not very scary. There just doesn’t seem to be anything about Peelers that separates it from the pack of other low budget zombie flicks flooding the market these days.

Until the ending, because of the end of the movie is a deservedly famous final scene that is more coldly terrifying that 99 percent of the ‘twist’ endings that get slapped onto horror movies to give the audience final jolt before the lights come on. The ending to Peelers is a shocking twist, but it’s not there to get your hopes up for a sequel or to make up for the lack of shocks in the preceding 90 minutes. It’s there to devastate you, and it works. It works well enough that, once the shock wears off, you’ll find yourself wanting to go back to the beginning and watch Peelers with a fresh set of eyes. Sure, you know how it ends, but the treat the second time around is intently watching everyone on the screen to see how they will go through it all to get to that ultimate ending. That’s what makes Peelers so much better the second time around.

Peelers  2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

John Black
John Black still remembers his first horror movie, sneaking in to a double-feature of Horror House with Frankie Avalon and a Boris Karloff film he can’t remember the name of but will always remember for giving him his first glimpse of cinematic nudity as one of the actresses moved from the bed to the door without putting on any underwear! (Fond family memory: That glimpse, when discovered by his parents, cased John’s mom to call the theater and yelling at the manager for letting her son see ‘such filth’.) Luckily, John was more impressed by the blood and horror than the bare haunches and quickly became a devotee of the genre.

John has been a professional movie reviewer since 1987, when his first review – of a Robert De Niro film called Angel Heart – appeared in the entertainment section of The Cape Codder newspaper. He’s been writing about film ever since, primarily now as the entertainment editor at Boston Event Guide. Hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t watch at least one movie, which is how he thinks life was meant to be.