• Kelly M. Hudson

Naked and Ready to Kill! (Badass Femme Week Pt. 5)

Someone is killing the strippers from the Rock Bottom Dance Club. Detective Cody Sheehan (Kay Lenz) is on an undercover stakeout when she stumbles upon one of the victims, a girl stabbed and doused in gasoline. The killer is there, laughing, shrouded in the shadows. Sheehan tries to stop him but he sets the girl on fire and escapes. Guilt-stricken, Sheehan wants to catch the killer, but the only way is to go undercover as a stripper at the club (listen, it was the 80s, and according to 80s logic, this makes perfect sense), much to the delight of fellow cop Detective Heineman (Greg Evigan). He roguishly cheers her on during her “audition,” and constantly chides her about finally seeing her naked. She takes it all in stride as she learns to become a better dancer and performer, makes friends with her fellow strippers, and searches for clues as to the identity of the killer. Several regular patrons of the club are suspects, and Sheehan works her way through the list, as other girls die. Eventually, she uncovers the identity of the murderer, and the race is on to stop him before he kills again.

Directed by Katt Shea, this is a pretty typical 80s urban action/horror hybrid. Most of the running time is taken up with girls performing on stage, doing intricate sets that simply aren’t realistic today. They put a lot of time and effort into their look and costumes and the performances are straight out of 80s MTV music videos. The women are all gorgeous, of course, and we learn more about each of them individually as Sheehan conducts her investigation. This makes them all flesh and blood and real, not just objects of fantasy, so when some of them die, it is properly horrifying. The film offers a unique look into the life of sex workers and it’s interesting to watch as Sheehan’s view of the profession changes. At one point, Heineman accuses her of wanting to quit being a cop and becoming a stripper for real. The fact that she does not seem to shrink from this change in employment status speaks volumes. There is a very uncomfortable moment towards the end when (spoiler) the killer is revealed to be a man dressing as a woman. Now I’m not really certain if the killer was just doing this to gain entry into the stripping world or if he was actually trans, because the narrative is unclear on this, but it is unsettling and could be triggering for some.

What’s to say about Stripped to Kill? If you like boobs, you’re gonna love this one. If you like serial killer stories, you’ll find plenty here to satisfy. If you like horror and action, this one has both in spades. Really, any fan of exploitation movies will love the shit out of this. This is a film of female empowerment, from the set being run by a woman director, to a female star, to the normalization of the stripping industry. Also, it’s so 80s that it hurts, and that’s a good thing.


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