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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Zombie Strippers

When a movie is called Zombie Strippers, and the lead actress is a porno star, the bar isn't set very high. You know there will be lots of bloody makeup effects and lots of nudity, and this film delivers on both counts. You can also expect that it will have its tongue firmly in cheek, and that's true, too. But as an added bonus, the film is full of references that make it seem as if it were written by a grad student.

The writer, as well as director, photographer, and editor, is Jay Lee, and it's clear that he has done a little reading. Believe it or not, Zombie Strippers is something of an adaptation of Rhinoceros, the play by Eugene Ionesco. Don't let that frighten you off, though, as the parallels are only there if you want to look for them.

Set in 2012, we learn that George W. Bush has been elected to his fourth term and a Constitutional amendment banning public nudity has been passed (Christine O'Donnell must have won that Senate seat). In a lab in Sartre, Nebraska (grad student reference number 1), an experiment in reanimating dead soldiers goes awry. Some soldiers come in to clean up the trouble (the way to stop a zombie in this film is to remove their medulla oblongata, which is most simply accomplished by obliterating its head by gunfire) but one soldier gets bitten and escapes, ending up in a strip club. The soldier attacks the lead dancer (Jenna Jameson), and since the club is illegal, the owner (Robert Englund) decides not to call the police, but instead just chains up the increasing number of zombies. This pays off, as the customers prefer the zombie dancers to the living ones, even though when they go off for lap dances they end up getting eaten.

This is where the Rhinoceros business comes in (the club is called the Rhino, and Englund's character is Ian Essko). In that play, the characters turned into rhinos, a metaphor for conformity, whether it be to communist, fascism, or what have you. So here the strippers, one by one, choose to turn undead to either increase their tips or just go with the flow. It's headier than the usual trashploitation picture, but it certainly doesn't get in the way of the boobs and the fake blood. Rest easy that not too many minutes go by without one of the strippers showing nipple, with Jameson, the most successful adult-film actress of all time, logging in the most time.

Jameson, who once upon a time was a cute, dewy young woman with natural breasts, has used her considerable earnings to fund plastic surgeons. Even before the first bit of zombie makeup is applied, the extensive nipping and tucking on her face has already given her a slightly monstrous look. I will give her this, though--her acting is perfectly respectable, given the surroundings. She may not be ready for Medea, but has comic timing. The best laugh of the film belongs to her, when, after being turned into a zombie, she returns to her volume of Nietzsche, and says, "Now this makes sense." The joke might have been funnier had she been reading Kierkegaard, but let's not quibble.

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