Zipperface is a 1992 erotic thriller/slasher film, directed by Mansour Pourmand, who also wrote the original story. It also includes some Italian giallo influences.
Someone in a full leather outfit and hood is killing sex workers in an unspecified city. As the city’s female mayor is up for re-election, she wants action on this. The case falls to newly promoted female police detective, Lisa Rider.
The subtext of male anxiety over female power in the professional sphere is pretty obvious. Lisa has to deal with entrenched sexism in the police department. Meanwhile, the mayor is waited on by her husband Brewster, fetching her pills and water and rubbing her feet in her office.
This film has the earmarks of trying to create another iconic masked movie slasher, like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, but Zipperface is an ineffectual antagonist. The direction does not make him look at all intimidating, and he repeatedly gets kicked in the groin by the women he’s trying to assault.
There’s a subplot involving Michael, a photographer whom Lisa dates and who becomes a suspect. It’s expected that there will be red herrings in this type of movie, but it goes over the top in making Michael look suspicious. He plies her with wine, pressures her into posing for revealing photos, shows up unannounced at her apartment with more wine, immediately asks if she’s naked under her robe, calls her “my fantasy,” and even seems to be on the verge of strangling her twice. That Lisa does not kick this twitchy stalker to the curb makes her look very stupid. Instead, he becomes the love interest.
Through plot contrivances, Lisa, who has been dressed rather frumpy through most of the movie, swaps outfits with a sex worker and wears a studded leather bustier for the final confrontation. Unsurprisingly, she ends up bound and at Zipperface’s mercy. She tries to throw him off by playing with him.
Zipperface: “You are going to die.”
Lisa: “No, no, we can play.”
Zipperface: “Play?! I’m not playing!”
She’s ultimately rescued by Michael. (So much for strong women.)
The killer is finally unmasked as… Brewster, the mayor’s husband.
Brewster: “You know, there was a time in my life when I wanted to be in politics myself. To be in the public eye, a superstar, not a doorman for some ambitious woman. No, not that.”
Brewster: “You know, the first one I killed, it was an accident. I had to kill the rest. They knew my face.”
(This is actually not true, as he was wearing the full body mask and suit, which suggests he is still rationalizing his killings.)
The mayor immediately pulls a gun out of her purse and shoots him in the head in front of three police officers.
This is where the subtext gets a bit misogynistic, as if the mayor is the ultimate villain of this story, rather than her husband’s inability to handle his wife’s success and status.
Zipperface sees sadomasochism and fetishism as a product of male insecurity, brought on by feminist advancement in spheres like government and law enforcement. What little S&M action there is is mostly off camera. The sex worker women who participate, only as submissives, make insincere statements of their submission. They often say that the client is “softcore” or “only wants light bondage”.
Lizzie: “I’m telling you, he’s okay.”
Natalie: “What does he look like?”
Lizzie: “Like all the rest, a certified perv. Relax. He’s safe. He wants me to tie you up. Honey it’s okay. I’m going to be in control.”
Underlying the plot is the folk-belief that male sadism must always escalate into real non-consensual violence.
Zipperface is not a well-made film. The production values are low, the acting is mediocre and the story is detectives-hunt-serial-killer cliches. It was packaged as a horror/slasher film instead of a detective-hunts-killer story, aimed at the VHS store market of the late 80s and early 90s. If it weren’t for the fact that clips were used in the video for Carpenter Brut’s synthwave track “Leather Teeth”, it probably would have sunk into obscurity.
Mansour Pourmand’s only previous director credits were a TV series and a movie in pre-Revolutionary Iran. This was Dona Adams’ (Lisa) only screen credit.
See also the strange case of the mask of the Cambridge Rapist, likely an indirect inspiration for this film.