It’s no spoiler to reveal that Kat (Jenna Jameson), queen bee and queen bitch of The Rhino strip club, is the first of that venerable institution’s girls to get zombified. Previously glimpsed in her dressing room reading Nietzsche, we revisit her after a lap-dance which escalates into disembowelment in this selfsame location, nose buried in this selfsame volume. Her blonde tresses are matted with blood, her breasts caked with same, and she’s giggling delightedly. “This makes a lot more sense now,” she observes, lowering the book.
Ladies and gentlemen, ‘Zombie Strippers’ had me at the Nietzsche gag.
But let’s backtrack a bit. Before we’re even introduced to Kat and her co-workers (as in work that pole, yeah baby, work it, &c &c), ‘Zombie Strippers’ (a title I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with typing) kicks off with a newsflash and threatens to play its hand in its first scene. ‘Zombie Strippers’ is set in George W. Bush’s fourth term – fuel prices have rocketed, the economy has nosedived, Jenna Bush holds high office, political instability is on a knife-edge, the military budget has been slashed and some boffins in a top-secret military industrial compound have developed a serum that brings dead soldiers back to life and makes them unkillable … again.
All of which is like watching a five minute opening sequence that promises you ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and then cuts to a plastic camel in a kid’s sandbox. And can’t even be bothered to sample Maurice Jarre. And has fake-titted pole-dancers shaking their ya-yas instead of Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif.
You see, the main problem with the work that the military industrial dudes are doing is that they’ve experimented on civilians and not the military, therefore the newly zombified test subjects, instead of going munchie-munch on anything vaguely Saudi Arabian, basically just turn on anyone and everyone. Someone presses the panic button and an elite unit are dispatched to quell the undead insurgence. And thus ‘Zombie Strippers’ begins in earnest.
I’d love to tell you all about this highly trained and rigorously skilled platoon, but fuck me if they’re not the most interchangeable bunch of ciphers committed to
The long and the short of it is that these GI Shmoes mix it up with the zombies, during the course of which an injured platoon member stumbles out of the top secret military industrial complex and into the strip club next door. Because, yeah, that’s the kind of movie we’re considering, ladies and gentlemen. And to think that in the first six months of this blog’s existence I wrote about Werner Herzog, Dirk Bogarde and Alfred Hitchcock. Fuck my life and all who sail in it.
Anyway, the strip club is owned by some sleazy motherfucker played by Robert Englund during that stage in his career when it was humiliatingly obvious that no-one was going to hire him to play Freddy Krueger anymore and reading the telephone directory while paint dried in the background suddenly became an acceptable career move as long as there was a pay cheque involved. (On the off-chance that this review is being read by any humanitarians who think this last comment was unjustifiably harsh, I have two words: ‘The Mangler’.) Many and silicone-enhanced are the ladies who shake their superannuated moneymakers at The Rhino, and most are as interchangeable as the aforementioned grunts. The two who merit a trip to IMDb are Jeannie (Shamron Moore), the brunette whose rivalry with Kat elevates the material to the level of ‘All About Eve’ if ‘All About Eve’ had been directed by A. Gregory Hippolyte and starred Delia Sheppard and Shannon Whirry*; and Gaia (Whitney Anderson), the virginal small town Christian girl who’s only embarked on a life of bump ‘n’ grind in order to pay for her grandmother’s operation.
At this point in the narrative, the soldiers recede into the background for, oh, a good 40 minutes, maybe longer, while the strippers gradually get infected. Now here’s the bone of contention: the girls prove more popular with the frat boy crowd who represent The Rhino’s key demographic after they become zombified. Now, maybe there’s a rich vein of satire being mined by ‘Zombie Strippers’ that yours truly as a non-frat-boy, non-strip-club-visiting Brit is completely missing out, but the concept of flesh-sagging, blood-dribbling, dead-eyed zombies grinding deathlessly against a pole pulling in the crowds when there are live, firmly-proportioned, hourglass-figured women offering the same kind of entertained is a little alien. But then again I didn’t like ‘Titanic’ much, so what the fuck do I know?
Maybe ‘Zombie Strippers’ is keying into the same motherlode of consumerist satire that made Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ an instant classic. Who am I to question writer/director Jay Lee, the auteur who brought us ‘House with 100 Eyes’ and ‘Deathchair: The Chair That Eats’? Who am I to spend 1,000 words (‘Review with 1,000 Words’!) ripping the piss when the climactic zombie bitchfight between blonde with her ready-mixed-concrete baps out and brunette with her ready-mixed-concrete baps out establishes a marriage of aesthetic, context and imagery so potent that you wonder why Sergei Eisenstein even bothered?
Come in, number Agitation, your time is up. The hour is late, the rowboat is leaking, and lake of snark across which you are propelling this rickety craft is a deep and fetid body of water. Pay heed to commonsense, save your sanity, grovel to your good lady wife. Wrap this thing up; toss off – ooo, er, missus – a summarising comment on ‘Zombie Strippers’.
Here goes, then: it’s not big, it’s not clever, it’s not scary, and it’s not sexy (thirty seconds of Salma Hayek’s snake dance in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ is infinitely more trouser-tumescing than the half hour of kit-offery that constitute the movie’s middle section), but it’s often funny – the ‘Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ homage is all the more hilarious for not paying off the way you expect it to – and for no other reason than that ‘Zombie Strippers’ earns a pass. Oh all right, let’s be honest: it also earns a pass because of its title.
*Forgive me, father, for I have sinned …