Trans-American Killer (aka Switch Killer, 2004) Movie Review

Less an actual movie than a reason to film inside a strip club and show a lot of strippers plying their trade, “Trans-American Killer” (known overseas as “Switch Killer”) is pure B-grade Slasher material, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Although it does mean that “Killer” is not fit for the “proper” moviegoer, and as such only the brave and adventurous (or at least someone who enjoys the guilty pleasures that the genre provides) need bother. There are no named actors present, not even Joe (the other) Estevez or the prodigious talents of Frank (the other) Stallone. Heck, they couldn’t even afford the awesome skills of a Jeff Fahey or Lorenzo Lamas. Then again, since the movie barely runs 65 minutes soaking wet, it’s one of those “blink and you’ll miss all the gratuitous nudity and nakedness” sort of affair.

“Trans-American Killer” follows the adventures of stripper and closet lesbian Jamie (Cara Jo Basso), who after a tussle with boyfriend Bobby (Eric Bishop) ends with one side of her face pulverized, flees L.A. for the bright lights of Las Vegas. Safe in Sin City, Jamie now lives with her “Casablanca”-obsessed grandma, dates a butch lesbian, and flaunts her naughty parts at a strip club. I guess the change of venue didn’t exactly change Jamie’s life much, especially since new girlfriend Brooke (Monique Chachere) is just a big a dick (if you will) as Bobby. Speaking of which, there’s a mysterious killer using a very big knife to off everyone (especially women) Jamie comes into contact with. Can you say, transsexual serial killer?

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about “Trans-American Killer” is the fact that Jamie is a stripper, but somehow actress Cara Jo Basso manages to hide her God given assets from the audience for the entire film. It’s all the fault of writer/director Mack Hail, of course, who tries mightily to fill the nudity gap left wide open by his leading lady with a lot of anonymous stripper flesh. Not that it really helps, especially since most of the ladies that Hail does manage to persuade to drop trou are not, well, all that attractive. And before you send me email, yes, I know, I’m being very superficial. Then again, in a movie as devoid of substance as “Trans-American Killer”, is there any other way to approach it save from a purely superficial level?

While she never provides gratuitous nudity, it’s undeniable that Ms. Basso is a hell of a looker (not to mention possessing what must be zero body fat). Now if only she would stop plastering clownish stripper make-up all over her pretty face. Basso shows up in various skimpy attire, including a dance routine at work that should make the men (and the female-inclined women) in the audience sit up and notice. Alas, for those of you hoping to glimpse Basso in the nude, you’ll be disappointed. Perhaps the fact that Basso is the only good looking female actor in the entire cast means she gets to say “No”. And if you were wondering, it’s also a “No” on lesbian action involving Basso.

With the T&A signed and delivered (albeit by less attractive flesh), we turn our attention to the gore. “Killer” has a number of knife attacks, but there’s nothing here that would turn one’s head. The only real highlight is when Bobby, in woman’s dress, crashes a New Years Eve party being held in someone’s backyard and proceeds to introduce his knife to as many partygoers as possible. There’s also a fantastic chainsaw versus knife fight that just might have saved the film. Credit goes to Hail, who sprinkles a faux TV commercial about chainsaws throughout the film. Who knew B-movie filmmakers could even spell “foreshadowing”, much less employ it?

For the most part the cast is hit and miss, with Monique Chachere acquitting herself the best. As the bitchy lesbian with an attitude, Chachere livens up the party whenever she shows up, and it’s too bad she shows up much too infrequently. Basso does fine as the Fair Hair Lead, even if her acting gets exponentially enlarged (to almost comical proportions) by the stripper makeup her character has on for much of the film. The rest come and go, some ending up dead, others simply dropping out of frame. And did I mention all the gratuitous female nudity supplied by anonymous strippers?

As the knife-wielding transsexual killer, Eric Bishop makes for a terribly ugly woman, not to mention a not entirely convincing one. It’s almost comical to watch Bishop try mightily to lower his voice so that he sounds more feminine. In fact, one wonders why Hail didn’t loop all of Bishop’s voice with that of a female’s. It’s not as if Hail never doctors Bishop’s voice, which does in fact go through audio synthesizing on numerous occasions whenever the script requires Bishop’s character to switch from his “female voice” to his “man voice”. Bishop’s funniest moment has to be near the beginning, when Bobby is stalking a stripper and you can see actor Bishop struggling with all his might not to fall in the high heels he has to wear. Now that’s funny stuff.

“Trans-American Killer” is not altogether bad. As mentioned, it’s just 65 minutes, with the final 25 minutes needed for video release stuffed with a long ending credit sequence, music videos, and a brief behind-the-scenes look at the New Years Eve massacre sequence. There’s no denying that Hail and company knows the genre, and knows what the niche audience demands. Except for cheats concerning nudity by the lead, “Killer” basically fulfills its unwritten contract. As such, “Trans-American Killer” will surely entertain those who seek it out by name.

Mack Hail (director) / Mack Hail (screenplay)
CAST: Alixandra Agar …. Darlina
Jennifer Autry …. Silvia
Cara Jo Basso …. Jamie
Eric Bishop …. Bobby
Susan Blonsky …. Grandma
Monique Chachere …. Brooke

Buy Trans-American Killer on DVD