As a vague film about the long-term psychological repercussions of childhood rape, Stripped Down is most classifiable as art therapy. As such, it can be forgiven for its free-floating logic and dream sense that its ending introduces into its otherwise simple story of an IRS agent (Ian Ziering) doing an audit at a strip club, a situation that makes the man sympathetic to the club’s manager, Lily (Elana Krausz), and its strippers after he witnesses the owner (Marcus Jean Pirae) mistreating them. But that forgiveness, however kind, won’t produce the miracle needed to make the film enjoyable or ultimately comprehensible.
Stripped Down seems to prove, if other films hadn’t already for you, that a director haunted by traumas and wrestling with demons doesn’t necessarily produce artistically substantial films. The film’s creation was clearly a cathartic experience for director/actor/screenwriter/producer Elana Krausz, a victim of childhood rape, and her approach to depicting Lily’s perspective as a woman who lives with a similar past consists of scenes in which her mind frequently drifts in and out of the present and past, interchanging dreams with reality, and, inexplicably, one person with another, the good with the bad. These scenes don’t work because they don’t explain themselves; they’re also too heavy-handed and, at the end, so immersed in their own inwardness that they stop making sense and remain too open-ended.
When Stripped Down isn’t ineffectively groping for a way to communicate to us Lily’s inner world, it plays out simply enough. Actually, the story has all the ingredients to make a serviceable noir: a seedy club backdrop that lets little light in; the damsel in distress; the bad guy with overblown characteristics such as a cartoonish, gruff voice; the man from the law who steps outside of it when it prevents the exaction of personal justice. But these elements, even if they weren’t so hammy and amateurish here, are secondary to the more experimental focus on Lily’s subjectivity, which brings us to the fact that Stripped Down was really only made for one person.