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Small-time criminals become undead armed robbers — it’s a concept so simple in design that I’m surprised the scenario hasn’t already been done to death. “Necroville” co-director Billy Garberina takes a cinematic stab at the premise with his 2010 horror/comedy “Stiffed”, a motion picture about — you guessed it — three bumbling crooks who find themselves back in the land of the living after a car crash abruptly ends their lives. Outside of a few technical problems, this low-budget endeavor actually isn’t that bad. Sure, the dialogue sounds like it was written by a Tarantino devotee and the sound design is a little hissy, but it all comes together in the end. “Stiffed” is a good time, bumps, flaws, and all. I’m assuming, of course, that you’re forgiving of the problems generally associated with microbudget cinema, especially those that dwell within the horror genre.
As mentioned, the film concerns itself with the trials and tribulations of a trio of weathered criminals who are looking to put together their next big hit. Labeled the “Garbage Bag Bandits” by the police and the local press, the gang is anxious to find a driver for the job, though they’re more than a little hesitant to give the gig to a young upstart who doesn’t seem quite up-to-speed with how the business works. Things look particularly bleak when he shows up late to pick the goons up from their less-than-lucrative heist, an event which ends with an exploding dye pack and a fatal car crash that claims the lives of everyone involved. Except for the driver, of course. Isn’t that how it always works? The cops quickly close the case, but the reign of terror is far from over.
With the help of a coven of Satanists looking for some undead slaves, the trio is effectively brought back from the dead, a condition that does not escape our heroes’ collective attention. The head priestess, a curvy stripper named Chloe, quickly explains that they are free men, unbound from the shackles of mortality. Since they’re essentially unstoppable against things like bullets, blades, and broken bones, the trio set out to continue the crime spree they began before taking an unscheduled detour into the Great Beyond. Naturally, it doesn’t take long for one of the detectives on the case to figure things out. The problem, of course, is that he has no earthly idea how to stop a group of thugs who are incapable of dying. Can these rotting felons keep their limbs together long enough for one last score, or will their constant bickering derail their plans?
Billy Garberina milks this goofy premise for every possible laugh he can manage, and, for the most part, he succeeds in his mission. Not every joke is a laugh-out classic, mind you, but there are enough good moments sprinkled throughout to keep the production afloat. Unfortunately, the film feels a little too long for it’s own good; instead of keeping the picture under 90 minutes, Garberina and company have padded the film to a nearly unreasonable 105 minutes. The extended shots of naked strippers, as well as a creepy and entirely unnecessary sex scene, do little to keep the pace snappy. Had 10 or 15 minutes of useless material been smartly excised from the final cut, “Stiffed” would have been a much stronger experience. A movie this limited in scope really doesn’t need to be longer than an hour-and-a-half. The story’s a lot of fun, but it ain’t that fun.
Should you, the discerning viewers, spend your precious time and hard-earned money on something as outrageously ridiculous as “Stiffed”? Well, I suppose that depends on your tolerance for cheap, low-rent horror movies. The film is all sorts of fun, and, as long as you know how cheesy the flick in going in, you shouldn’t have too much to complain about when all is said and done. Length and sound issues aside, Billy Garberina’s morbidly hilarious outing is a worthy addition to any horror/comedy fanatic’s expansive library, particularly if they have a weakness for nudity, zombie-related humor, and necrophilia. Yes, I said necrophilia. Those of you who have ever wanted to watch a fat zombie get it on with a saucy stripper won’t know what to do with yourselves. “Stiffed” is an absolute blast, and I’m anxious to see what else Garberina and crew have in store for the genre down the road. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to find out.
Billy Garberina (director) / Devin O’Leary (screenplay)
CAST: Paul Asling … Detective Conrad Orser
Ben Chester … Ted
Daniel T. Cornish … Keno Bondi
Phil Duran … Milton Rivera
Neil Garcia … Vincent
Jamison Jontry … Chloe Tate