As Halloween weekend draws to a close, what better way to end it than with a trashy, absurdist horror movie? As written, directed, photographed and edited by Jay Lee (who apparently fancies himself a regular Herschell Gordon Lewis - and if you don't get the reference, you need to go back to horror movie school), Zombie Strippers is a pure drive-in D-Movie that walks a bizarre and fine line between complete crap and genius parody. Oddly it succeeds as both, as well as being a gross-out zombie movie.
It is "The near future" and George W. Bush has apparently seized the government in a coup and has not only abolished Congress, but outlawed public nudity, forcing strip clubs to go underground (of course). After being bitten by a zombie in a secret military facility in Nebraska, a special ops soldier (from "Z Unit" -get it? Yawn... ) stumbles into the Rhino Club, an illegal tittie bar run by germophobic fop Ian, played by Robert "Freddy Kruger" Englund as a cross between Liberace and C. Montgomery Burns. The club's star dancer is Kat (infamous porn star Jenna Jameson). The virus that created the zombies was intended to create an army of undead super-soldiers, but since it was formulated using X chromosomes (or some such nonsense) it works only in creating mindless zombie men and super-powered stripper women. After the AWOL soldier attacks and kills Kat, she returns with a hunger, not only for human flesh but for stripping, and proceeds to give the hottest show the Rhino club has ever seen. No matter that she chooses a poor horny schlub to accompany her backstage (much to the envy of his buddies) and proceeds to eat him afterwards.
Merenge (Jeannette Sousa) is the proverbial "Stripper with a Heart of Gold" who is frightened by what's happening and Jennifer Holland is Jess, the local new girl, stripping to make money for her Nana's operation, despite her Christian up-bringing. As the cliches pile on and more girls become infected, the cage in the club's basement (just what kind of club is this, anyway?) becomes filled with reanimated victims, ala Dead Alive. The zombie strippers become inexplicably the hottest draw in the club, despite their obviously decaying flesh. It goes without saying that by the time "Z Unit" arrives, all hell has broken loose and the club is overrun with zombies.
The biggest surprise here is Jameson, who shows an actual aptitude for acting. Kat reads Nietzsche (after she's undead, she reads it laughing; "This makes so much more sense, now!") and knows exactly where men's weaknesses lie. Jameson's wry performance is almost worth the rent alone. Lee's script makes some very off-the-wall references, but more often reduces itself to bad puns (illegal immigrant Paco [Joey Medina] actually says: "Badgers? We don' need no stnkin' badgers!" - ugh!). Other moments are quite hilarious, especially the zombie cat-fight between Kat and her undead rival, Lilith (Roxy Saint). Gorehounds will find much to admire and zombie fans much to laugh at. There were times, however, when Lee and company just tried too hard and some of the jokes are particularly lame. The horrendously over-the-top performance of Carmit Levite as Madame Blavatski (the strippers' "housemother") is just embarrassing and the production values include some very cheap CGI which often leaves much to be desired.
I've seen worse (HGL's Wizard of Gore, anyone?), though I've certainly seen better. A valiant, though flawed effort, with high amusement value, Stripper Zombies is yet another film that can be appreciated by genre fans, only. Oh, and straight boys might like all the nekkid boobies. **1/2 (Two and a Half Stars)
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