I like how the ads for the Zombie Strippers! theatrical release billed its headliner as "worldwide media sensation Jenna Jameson". Let's just call a porn star a porn star, OK?
But Jameson's no dumb bunny. She's certainly taken advantage of all her breaks, exploited her talents, and built a successful empire around what's generally considered a sleazy way to make a living. Rather than shunning her origins or apologizing for herself, Jameson forges ahead, onward and upward. And yes, in spite of its title, Zombie Strippers! is a step up.
Zombie Strippers! certainly sounds like it would be a terrible movie just cashing in on a title, but it's not. Yes, it's about strippers who are zombies, but there's more to it than that. Any film, regardless of genre, which can successfully spoof "Scooby Doo" cartoons from the days of yore and a shining cinematic icon like Treasure of Sierra Madre can't be all bad.
It begins as what looks to be yet another U.S. political allegory using zombies as metaphors (from Night of the Living Dead, right up to Joe Dante's Homecoming, and beyond), even making a quite obvious dig at the Presidency by calling its evil, undead-spawning corporation "W" Industries. (However — bearing in mind the movie came out in theaters long before most of us ever heard of Sarah Palin — it is kind of funny when a news broadcast mentions there's war in Alaska).
For about the first half hour, I was just coasting through Zombie Strippers!, but then little by little, it drew me in. Two of the most noteworthy things are the script (bitingly funny, even when some of the actors aren't quite up to conveying the zingers) and the cinematography (mainly with a green cast, but not a sickly Saw palette; this is more reminiscent of a vivid Jean-Jacques Beineix saturation). Kudos to writer, director, and cinematographer Jay Lee. Judging from the interviews on the DVD extras, it sounds like he's a real force of nature! I'll definitely be tuning in for his next project.
As I mentioned, not all of the acting is great. However, those who are up to snuff bring it in spades. Noteworthy are Robert Englund as the racist, gun-toting, germ-phobic owner of the strip joint; Carmit Levité as the exaggerated Natasha-like Russian club manager; and Joey Medina as Paco, the wisecracking janitor. Jamison is mostly good, though (not surprisingly) her physicality outshines her spoken delivery.
I won't spoil anything, but listen carefully to the dialogue and pay attention to everything that's going on onscreen… this not the kind of movie you can fully appreciate if you just have it on in the background while you're multitasking. It's smart, and well-crafted.
Now, before I make Zombie Strippers! sound highbrow (after all, Jameson's character does read Nietzsche, and the not-so-live nude girls are indeed inspired by the French existential Theatre of the Absurd play "Rhinoceros" by Eugene Ionesco.) don't worry: there's plenty of gore, goo and guts for the bloodthirsty.
The CGI augmentation is sometimes as distracting as the silicone implants and collagen injections on the stars, but the practical effects and makeups are outstanding. There's a lapdance scene that's every bit as memorable and disturbing as the one in Dario Argento's "Pelts", and that's remarkable!
The Special Edition Unrated and R-Rated DVDs both include:
• Commentary with Director Jay Lee, Jenna Jameson, Robert Englund & Joey Medina
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Two Featurettes:
- The Champagne Room: Behind the Scenes of Zombie Strippers
- The Dressing Room: How to Glam a Zombie
Unrated DVD and Blu-ray™ High-Def features have:
• Deleted scenes
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
** Check out Horror.com's exclusive on-camera interview with Jenna Jamison