Zebra Lounge (2001) poster

Zebra Lounge (2001)


Canada. 2001.


Director – Kari Skogland, Screenplay – Claire Montgomery & Monte Montgomery, Producers – Paco Alvarez, Lewis B. Chesler & David M. Perlmutter, Photography – Barry Parrel, Music – John McCarthy, Special Effects Supervisor – Brock Joliffe, Production Design – David Hackl. Production Company – Alliance Atlantis/Chesler-Perlmutter/Zebco Productions Inc.


Cameron Daddo (Alan Barnet), Stephen Baldwin (Jack Bauer), Brandy Ledford (Wendy Barnet), Kristy Swanson (Louise Bauer), Vincent Corazza (Neil Bradley), Brian Paul (Adam Frazier), Daniel Magger (Daniel Barnet), Dara Perlmutter (Brooke Barnet), Joan Gregson (Margaret), Larissa Gomes (Marnie)


Alan and Wendy Barnet are experiencing difficulty in their marriage and feel that they have lost their passion. While in an adult store, Alan picks up a swingers magazine and they decide to place an ad. Out of the numerous replies they receive, they decide to meet Jack and Louise Bauer. With Jack and Louise, they engage in a partner swap. This is enough to rekindle Alan and Wendy’s passion for one another and they decide that that is enough. However, Jack and Louise prove persistent – turning up uninvited at their children’s birthday party; Jack landing a big business deal for Alan; and Jack agreeing to outfit electronics for Alan’s boss. This starts to become disturbing after Jack beats up and kills a co-worker that received a promotion instead of Alan and then breaks into their house to leave the gift of a widescreen tv. When Alan and Wendy tell Jack and Louise to get out of their lives, they instead purchase the house next door to them and move in.

Zebra Lounge is a cable-made film that sells itself as a balance of erotic film and psycho-thriller. A number of such works came out in the aftermath of Basic Instinct (1992), blurring the lines between the two genres. See also the likes of Blindfold: Acts of Obsession (1993), Blood Run (1994), Tunnel Vision (1994), Tainted Love (1995), Primal Instinct (1996), Dangerous Attraction (1999) and Dead Sexy (2001), among others. In fact this proves not to be the case at all and Zebra Lounge is a straight Psycho-Thriller or perhaps more so a Stalker Thriller in the Fatal Attraction (1987) mould and there is little erotic content in the film.

Zebra Lounge was made by Canadian director Kari Skoglund who has made a number of indie films beginning with The Size of Watermelons (1996) and including the likes of Chicks With Sticks (2004), The Stone Angel (2007), Fifty Dead Men Walking (2008) and most famously Men With Guns (1997) and currently the high-profile Gal Gadot Cleopatra film, along with episodes of numerous tv series. Skoglund has interspersed these with various action films/thrillers such as Liberty Stands Still (2002), Rapid Fire (2005) and Banshee (2006). Skoglund has occasionally ventured into genre material with Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return (1999) and the tv mini-series Riverworld (2003).

Kari Skoglund has a minor reputation as an indie director and in 2001 – the year that Zebra Lounge came out – was voted Most Promising Rising Director by The Hollywood Reporter. All of which makes Zebra Lounge even more of a disappointment. It is crudely and clumsily directed – never more apparent than during the first few minutes where Cameron Daddo is talking to secretary Larissa Gomes and has sudden flashes of her in her underwear.

Cameron Daddo shares a kiss with Kristy Swanson in Zebra Lounge (2001)
Cameron Daddo shares a kiss with Kristy Swanson

The biggest problem with Zebra Lounge is its depiction of the swinger sub-culture. Having spent some time engaged in the field during various relationships, this author feels qualified to comment. The film feels written by people who have never spent any time visiting the field. Everything is written down to the level of tv movie pop psychology. Like, for instance, when Cameron Daddo and Brandy Ledford initially decide to go swinging as a way of sorting out problems in their marriage. Which is really, when you think about it for about thirty seconds, probably the worst reason in the world to want to engage in partner swapping. With all the nervousness and especially jealousy over seeing one’s loved one making out with another person, fear that they are going to find someone else more desirable than you etc, this seems like an overwhelmingly daft idea. (The majority of couples on the scene are usually at the opposite end of the scale – people who are so secure and familiar with one another that they have ironed these issues out and are merely looking for a little spice in their lives).

In normal circumstances, Cameron Daddo and Brandy Ledford should do something incredibly sensible like go and obtain some marriage counselling. What is even more laughable is how they suddenly decide that after having swapped and had sex with other people once! that their marriage suddenly has its spice back again and that all their problems are solved. After they are dragged back into things, one minute Brandy Ledford is saying “no more” and the next she is engaged in a lesbian kiss with Kristy Swanson without the slightest doubt about what she is doing. It doesn’t feel like credible psychology.

Not far beneath the surface of the film lies the same harsh conservatism that underlies almost all depiction of sexuality in modern Psycho Film in films ranging from Psycho (1960) through Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) to Dressed to Kill (1980) and Fatal Attraction and the numerous copies of these. These works hold the view that almost any type of sexual practice outside of chastity, monogamy, marriage and commitment to family either unleashes dangerous and disturbed passions or is lurking with deranged predators. Zebra Lounge could be a textbook case of this – indeed, the entire message of the film is nothing to do with erotic tease or a venture into forbidden passions than it is an illustration of extreme Stranger Danger peril (you know the sort – “don’t go on the internet it is lurking with predators”). Indeed, condense Cameron Daddo/Brandy Ledford and Stephen Baldwin/Kristy Swanson down to one character apiece and Zebra Lounge becomes nothing more than a by the numbers copy of Fatal Attraction in which a man dallies with a woman else outside the bonds of marriage and stirs up a vengeful psychopathic individual.

Kristy Swanson and Brandy Ledford in Zebra Lounge (2001)
Kristy Swanson and Brandy Ledford

The twists and turns of the plot become increasingly hard to believe. The other couple go through all sorts of standard stalkerish behaviour – turning up at children’s parties, inveigling themselves into Cameron Daddo’s workplace, breaking into their house to deliver gifts, and in one far-fetched twist managing to buy the very house next-door to Daddo and Brandy Ledford and moving in. In none of this are we ever really given an explanation of why Stephen Baldwin and Kristy Swanson are so obsessed with the rather boring Daddo and Ledford – the whole point of swinging is that surely there must be a lot more other couples out there to play with.

For all the erotic tease it seems happy to draw audiences in with, Zebra Lounge comes with an incredibly judgemental and high-handed morality. Contempt is poured on Stephen Baldwin and Kristy Swanson seemingly because of their lifestyle more so than for their unbalanced actions – “we want to be back to normal,” Brandy Ledford says angrily. “We’d never be like you … People like you being innocent just means you don’t get caught.” At one point, Baldwin and Swanson wield the threat of handing a videotape of them having sex over to child services and having their kids taken away. You can see from this that Zebra Lounge has gone from a story about a couple venturing into the swinging scene to creating a dividing line of normal and disturbed with a nuclear family on one side and people with non-standard sexual tastes on the other who are demonised as all that is opposite of the cosy Family Values embodied by Daddo and Ledford.

The erotic tease of the film is incredibly disappointing. We get one scene where Brandy Ledford (a former Penthouse pet) gets her top off and Stephen Baldwin has his way with her up against the wall; while Kristy Swanson is seen writhing about in her underwear but gets no more undressed than that. In terms of erotic titillation, this has all the stimulation of a toothpaste commercial.

Trailer here

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