The James Clayton Column: strippers, werewolves and superhero sex confusion

The imminent release of Strippers Vs Werewolves prompts James to consider the hairy problems that life as a werewolf might cause...

This week marks the arrival of a major cinematic crossover event. Cinemagoers are drooling at the prospect of this epic pop culture clash, and I’m sure that thousands of pairs of underpants have been messed up in anticipation of the movie that’s now been unleashed on audiences.

I’m talking, of course, about Strippers Vs Werewolves, which I suppose is the kinky British bargain bin alternative to the Marvel costumed hero ensemble piece orchestrated by Joss Whedon. If you don’t like the look of The Avengers (a.k.a. Avengers Assemble) you can go for a flick that promises titillation and mild terror instead.

(For the record, if you have no desire to see The Avengers and aren’t interested in the all-out geek-gasm and cultural milestone it represents, I question your values and taste. I pity you and weep for you. Captain America is mightily confused and Nick Fury is furious. You’ve angered the Incredible Hulk and, trust me, you really won’t like him when he’s angry.)

Strippers Vs Werewolves offers viewers the opportunity to enjoy the battle between lapdancers and gangster lycanthropes. The human element and erotic tinge to the concept means that has the potential to be a more invigorating big-screen clash than Godzilla vs King Kong, Alien vs Predator and Cowboys vs Aliens combined. I’m not sure that Cowboys & Aliens successfully stimulated anyone’s erogenous zones.

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I can easily see how in the minds of some – horror fans and horny men – Strippers Vs Werewolves could sound like the most inspired and exciting movie ever pitched. I’m not of that opinion but I am intrigued to see if this low-budget Brit flick can deliver the goods and successfully provide the schlock horror spirit that I crave.

I was hoping for new wave grindhouse attitude and retrovision flourishes, but the trailer suggests a distinct lack of that sort of campy kitsch. In fact, the trailer makes it look like an extended Zoo magazine photo shoot with bonus fangs and bloodshed, or a dirt-cheap episode of Being Human set in East End London. It’s probably a case of marketers and moviemakers trying to target the lads’ mag demographic, and consequently, I’m alienated.

The trailer may put me off, but I am glad that Strippers Vs Werewolves has come around, purely for the reason that it gives lycanthropes the prospect of some semi-erotic action. Vampires tend to be the movie monsters that get all the sex, and are celebrated as supreme seductive supernatural terrors. Remember Salma Hayek’s undead stripper Santánico Pandemónium in From Dusk Till Dawn, and recall all the other ravishing bloodsuckers who’ve swept into the bedrooms of virgins in the night, and you’ll see what I mean.

Werewolves, on the other hand (or paw), don’t have that kind of sexy rep, or those strong amorous or erotic associations in the popular mindset. That’s not really just or reasonable when you acknowledge the truth that the wolfman curse is all about sex, and that the folklore figure of the werewolf howls out through history as a legend of passionate excitement and anxiety.

In werewolves we see reflections of the traumatic physical and psychological experience of male adolescence. All the body horror is there – the sprouting of hair, the uncontrollable growth and painful shifting musculature. What’s more, the accursed suffer violent mood swings, strange increases in libido and unfathomable urges for the pleasures of the flesh. On the feminine side of things, there’s also a ‘time of the month’ aspect, so wolf lore undoubtedly resonates with girls’ puberty as well.

Altogether, it’s horrible. The stability and safe childhood world you knew is ripped apart and you become this unrecognisable beast embattled by a baffling new reality of dark confusion. In addition to having to face your abominable self, you may then be confronted by religious fanatics, mad scientists or rioting mobs depending on the movie you’ve crash landed in. This werewolf-thing/puberty-thing – it’s brutal.

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Still, you get used to it, and once you embrace the beastliness, you may actually find pleasure in it, and horror movies can reassure you of this in an entertaining pop cultural format. They subliminally soothe your tormented soul, exorcise the psychological trauma and allow you the chance to revel in the transformation. It’s my belief, for instance, that if you look at it from a different perspective, David’s wolf metamorphosis in An American Werewolf In London is one of the greatest turn-on moments in the history of cinema.

I’m pretty sure that in some cultures, admitting that you find prosthetic monster freakouts stimulating is enough to get you tagged as a sexual deviant and punished as an antisocial criminal. Maybe there’s something wrong with me – is it normal to be more turned on by werewolf episodes than undressing women? Do I need to replay ‘The Talk’ with my dad?

As I contemplate these issues prompted by Strippers Vs Werewolves, I come to the following conclusions. I have been a teenage boy, and thanks to arrested development continue to be, so I have werewolf empathy. I have never, however, been a stripper. I don’t think I’ll ever be a stripper unless hard times get really desperate, and the upcoming Steven Soderbergh movie Magic Mike inspires me to pursue a new career path. Ultimately, I’m at the mercy of the financial climate and the persuasive influence of Channing Tatum’s toned pectorals.

I also have ideological hang-ups about female strippers. Are these women degrading themselves and damaging feminism? Is Strippers Vs Werewolves simply regressive sexploitation objectifying the feminine form as meat, giving sadistic spectators violent voyeuristic pleasure? Is this film simply a moving Zoo magazine shoot with extra blood and fur for novelty value?

I’ll only know when I’ve seen the film, but unfortunately, the presence of strippers isn’t selling it to me. I’m sold, however, on the promise of gangland werewolves, because I don’t conform to the marketers’ target demographic and am, possibly, a sexual deviant who in the 50s would have been chemically castrated or subjected to shock treatment therapy by a zealot matron screaming “Repent sinner! Be cleansed and never watch Lon Chaney, Jr films again!” Imagine the Ludovico treatment of A Clockwork Orange with clips of The Wolf Man instead of Beethoven and Nazi rallies, and that’s what werewolf fans had to put up with in intolerant times.

Of course, I may not even get to see Strippers Vs Werewolves, because I have a more pressing cinematic property, and that priority is The Avengers. Awesome comic book adventures, spandex-clad superhumans and fantasies about being a lustrous blonde Norse thunder god – now that’s a truly orgasm-inducing prospect.

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James Clayton sometimes howls at the moon but is reluctant to moon for money. You can see all his links here or follow him on Twitter.