Zombie Strippers! (US-2008; dir. Jay Lee)
Much can be forgiven when you come upon an honest example of truth in advertising. Unlike many independent, low-budget films (and many big-budget ones as well), Jay Lee’s Zombie Strippers lives up to its title. Promises are made for zombies and strippers and that’s exactly what the film delivers. Plenty of cannibalistic zombie action, with the sort of extreme comic gore the more avid proponents of the subgenre like so much, and plenty of attractive women dancing and taking their clothes off to loud rock music. On that level at least, there’s not much to complain about. This is B-aesthetic sex-horror schlock at its wildest.
After the requisite living-dead corpses — products of a covert Government research program designed to produce super-soldiers — break out of the secret installation where they were engineered, a strip club situated nearby (in Sartre, Nebraska) finds itself infiltrated by the viral menace and its leading lady “killed” bloodily. Of course, Kat (Jenna Jameson) might be dead but she and her silicone enhancements re-animate well and prove a spectacular success on the stage. Encouraged by sleazy STD-obsessed club owner Ianna Esco (Robert Englund), other strippers decide to join Kat in living-death in order to increase their popularity with the patrons, oozing blood-smeared sexuality in orgiastic displays of cadaverous eroticism that go down a right treat with the audience. Seems sex and death are a perfect match. Attendance is up, money flows along with the blood and those who are merely naked don’t stand a chance of being noticed. Death becomes de rigueur.
Of course there is a downside. The dead strippers tend to eat the patrons, but what’s a few dead guys between friends? Soon Esco finds his club full of ravenous beauties who are rapidly decaying, his basement full to bursting with zombified ex-patrons and the whole scheme threatening to crash down around him in a big apocalyptic mess.
The thing is, whatever some critics say, this film is not badly made. It may be tasteless — and will certainly offend those who fail to understand the true zen of stomach-churning danse macabre and bare flesh covered in gore — but it was put together with considerable enthusiasm, looks much less cheap than might have been expected, and is often funny. References to existentialist philosophy (especially from the mouths of the strippers), obvious political satire and the socio-ethical criticism that is suggested by the fact that the strip-club patrons get ludicrously turned on by all that gyrating “dead meat” may not make the film profound, but they do suggest that it needn’t be taken entirely at face value — though you should by all means take it at face value if you want to. Throughout, the film displays a tongue-in-cheek attitude and a comedic vim that raises it above most other sex-and-horror exploitation flicks.
On top of that, the acting’s okay (if sometimes overplayed), the direction lively, the zombie make-up excellent and the nudity abundant. In short, I can’t see how — if you’re happy to watch a film with the title Zombie Strippers! in the first place — you could possibly feel you didn’t get your money’s worth …