Directed by Jay Lee, 2008
Thanks to an Easter tip from Russell, I’d had weeks to anticipate opening night of Zombie Strippers (an honor Madison was given alongside many larger towns-- how magnificent to see our zombie-friendliness recognized!). This is, of course, the Jenna Jameson vehicle that by virtue of its star and its title leaves the plotline fairly well telegraphed. It’s likely that your assessment of zombie strippers is close to complete without my input. But while the evening’s first crowd settles into the theater (I saw an afternoon show) I’m going to bang out a quick review. Timely? Me? There’s a first time for everything. Now let’s get some more butts in those seats, because it was a good movie for fans of zombies and comedic horror.
You know that contemporary trend that dictates half a movie’s budget should be spent on its artistic, engrossing credit sequence? Zombie Strippers hates that trend. The way it drops almost immediately into zombie action is one of the more transgressive things I’ve seen on the screen in months. The smirking premise: George W Bush’s fourth term and eighth war are in full swing, and while he disbands Congress and declares public nudity illegal, insufficient American lives exist to fight on multiple fronts. Are zombies partisan? I can imagine Republicans loving them as much as I, a self-avowed bleeding heart liberal Democrat, do. But don’t worry; if you’re not offended yet, you will be later in the movie (probably while laughing aloud). With soldiers’ lives an increasingly nonrenewable resource, a virus is created to reanimate the dead and encourage unstoppable supersoldier behavior.
And so we have our science-born zombie virus. In a neat nod to other epidemiological threats we have a transmission vector named Byrdflough, pronounced Birdflu. Oh, how I chuckled. When our infected soldier falls into an illegal strip club, Zombie Strippers kicks into high gear and strips away (groan) any doubt that a cinematic debut was a fluke. And I do not say this solely because Jenna Jameson is taking her clothes off. I am female and not so easily swayed by cinematic eye candy, and therefore you may trust my unbiased judgment in this matter. (Did you buy that? Cool.)
When a soldier returns from the dead, his reanimation has reduced him to primal pursuit of his training: he is a supersoldier. When a stripper zombifies, she too harnesses her training. Superstripper. Jameson’s philosophy-quoting star stripper leads a personable stable of dancers (goth, cynic, ingénue, rival, coward, firecracker, et cetera) on and off stage and in and out of death. The passionate performances of superstrippers brings in copious cash, even if it results in a little backstage blood, so fastidious club owner Robert Englund encourages the zombie stripper trend-- for a while. The zombie stripper performances really are fantastic; there’s enough dead girl to the choreography to maintain an edge of revulsion but despite bloody wounds these are unequivocally beautiful women.
I mentioned that you would be offended at some point, but perhaps I should downgrade that promise to “grossed out.” The gore is great, but it’s the broad sexual ribaldry that makes it a laugh-out-loud horror comedy. Englund insults his dancers’ herpes and carries disinfectant to spray in their wake. Rival strippers engage in a final showdown using cliché sex acts made hilariously terrifying by superstripper strength. At my early afternoon showing two of the three people in the theater laughed themselves out of breath. Not telling which one I was.
Less plot, more reviewing! The zombie makeup was excellent-- I love good zombie design, and many of the strippers and victims alike were superb examples of what’s possible with enough budget and creativity. (I see so many movies that have neither, when a decent quantity of either one would suffice.) Characters were certainly broad caricatures but the right nuanced script turns those caricatures into comedy delivery systems instead of endpoints in and of themselves. The editing was tight (not something you take for granted when you watch as many amateur horror movies as I do) and the story was perfectly paced. I would see it again, and plan to.
But then again I am an unrepentant zomploitation fan.
Zombie explanation: A super-soldier virus designed to supply multiple wars of American aggression under an illegal administration.
Contribution to the zombie canon: It has zombie strippers in it. Duh. It’s also a good contribution to the ongoing subgenre of zombie comedy.
Favorite moment: A recently resurrected zombie stripper, laughing to herself as she reads Nietzsche: “This makes so much more sense now.”
Favorite zombie: I will avoid the obvious “goth stripper zombie” response and instead nominate a split-jawed fellow reminiscent of the iconic Dr. Tongue from Day of the Dead, one of cinema’s best and scariest zombies.