Zombie Strippers Review
Loosely inspired by the 1959 play ‘Rhinocéros’ written by Romanian/French playwright Eugène Ionesco (Christ, does that sound utterly ludicrous to anyone else already?), Zombie Strippers takes place ‘in the near future’ as the Bush Administration, now in its fourth term, has disbanded the U.S. congress, declared war on half the globe and made public nudity illegal. In a bid to prevent any more troop shortages a Nebraskan research facility has developed a virus which has the ability to re-animate dead tissue. But the virus leaks, infecting the entire staff, which results in a clean-up operation. A group of soldiers belonging to ‘Z Squad’ are sent to infiltrate and kill all known infected persons, but one of their own becomes infected. Fleeing the scene the hilariously named Byrdflough (Zak Kilberg) winds up in an alleyway just off from a strip joint named ‘Rhino’…
Meanwhile, innocent Christian girl Jessy (Jennifer Holland) has arrived at ‘Rhino’ so that she can earn enough cash to pay for her grandmother’s operation. Club owner Ian (Robert Englund) shows her to her dress room, where she meets the other strippers, including the intellectual Kat (Jenna Jameson); Goth Lillith (Roxy Saint) and Kat’s main rival Jeannie (Shamron Moore). Shortly after introductions Kat is attacked while performing on stage by the zombiefied Byrdflough. Everyone at the club believes her to be dead, but when she props herself back up and performs another routine in front of an ecstatic crowd bells start ringing. With these crazy fools drooling over the new-look Kat some of the other performers think that they too should become zombies and make tonnes of cash. So they do, and in turn eat their customers, which prompts Ian to store all the other zombie folk in the basement, lest word gets out about his illegal establishment…
Eugène Ionesco and zombie strippers - You just don’t mix them do you? much less the strippers and zombies part. Well writer/director Jay Lee has attempted such a feat with his so-called parody, and the results leave a rather divided opinion. Zombie Strippers treads a fine line between pretentiousness and the tongue-in-cheek; when its not having characters intermittently conjure up random thoughts on human existentialism it’s taking pot-shots at obvious targets with its political satire, namely George W. Bush. While you won’t find an ounce to laugh about with the latter - and you can just sense the smugness from Jay Lee’s script - the former raises the occasional smile. But once it dispenses with all of that we’re left with a fairly breezy offering that doesn’t outstay its welcome in delivering some fun in a crappy sort of way. I particularly found myself enjoying the over-the-top comradery of the Z-Squad: an elite bunch of stock archetypes which all too evidently plays up to cliché, not to mention the occasional insult spewing from one stripper to the next.
Where the feature ultimately gets it right though is with a brisk run time and the good sense to never let the pace falter. Its stars, from Robert Englund delightfully hamming it up to porn queen Jenna Jameson engaging us with her personality of all things, do wonders in helping to drive the tale along; although Jay Lee seems far more interested in providing several overly long strip scenes to pad out an already non-existent story. But then that would be half the point wouldn’t it? For sure there’s plenty of stripping, though whether or not the viewer will be titillated by most depends on how augmented they like their breasts. So yea, lots of tits and bum, though the covered-up stars ironically exude a little more sexiness. Oh, and zombies of course! Some of the more entertaining moments of the feature involve several of the bitchy “Uber sluts” taking turns trying to get one up over the other, which even continues once they turn into lumbering hags. The majority of the feature from this point onward sees several zombie maidens trying to out-strip the last for total supremacy in front of dozens of horny men, who for some reason seem really turned on by decayed flesh. I don’t know why the strippers become more agile in a superhuman kind of way, next to their gormless brethren, but it’s quite a laugh seeing a zombie stripper dance-off regardless. And it should be noted that although the film is fairly pedestrian in its direction it features some pretty tremendous prosthetic make-up; the more elaborate CG blood-splatter never convinces quite so well, however, but there’s little skimping on what was undoubtedly a small budget to begin with. Still, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s ever remotely scary. Despite its apparent comedy horror tag this leaves nothing by way of shocks, but plenty for the gore hounds out there.
Sony Entertainment does the film proud with this 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. Shot on High Definition Zombie Strippers looks pretty crisp here. It’s inevitably softer than its Blu counterpart, but detail is fine, colours are extremely vibrant and flesh tones are handled well given the deliberate boost in contrast and saturation levels during select scenes. Edge enhancement is very minimal and slight aliasing is present, but this is a stable and well compressed transfer.
The 5.1 surround track on the other hand just falls short of matching the visual quality. Much of the audio seems a little misdirected. I’m sure it’s an entirely director-chosen thing, but I find it to be as equally irritating as it is effective in spots. A lot of the film uses a heavy rock soundtrack to accompany the strip scenes, which accordingly blares out across the rear channels as well as front and active sub-woofer. The sensation of actually being there is a little to much to bare, while the same amount of attention can’t be said about the action portions of the flick. Suddenly there’s little excitement; gunfights have little impact, with pop-cap sounding machine guns and little directionality. Dialogue on the other hand comes across nicely and is very active across the central channels with no distortion or dropouts.
The bonus features do not include English subtitles, despite having a few other select European countries.
Barring a number of pauses, despite having four speakers involved, the audio commentary here is a fairly entertaining listen. Jay Lee tends to briefly talk about particular aspects of the shoot, while Robert Englund takes charge of providing the laughs. Jenna Jameson speaks frankly about her experience, covering make-up and the demanding physicality of the role, and when Joey medina decides to talk, which is rarely unless his character is on screen, he provides a few gags. There is an awful lot of backslapping and fun anecdotes to be had, but there’s also at least the sense that the cast and crew appreciate each other and have felt honoured to work together.
Deleted Scenes (39.59) is made up of twenty alternate and extended takes, each of which can be played individually or as a ‘Play All’ option; irritatingly selecting the latter still prompts a pause between each scene, complete with Sony copywrite message. These scenes also come with an optional audio commentary by director Jay Lee and Robert Englund, with actor Joey Medina turning up nearer the end to speak about his character. The scenes are mainly focused on extra character development, which is something Lee and Englund often find themselves talking about, while Lee also likes to point out a lot of the film’s subtext in its political satire and parodying of other Hollywood movies - which he really wants us to ‘get’. A lot of the scenes have been cut simply due to pacing issues, as many tend to drag on for an eternity. There’s not much here, then, that feels deserving of making it into the final cut. And I presume that this UK release presents the unrated version of the film, as some of the extended gore scenes are no different to the ones we have on this version of the film anyway. Jay Lee and Robert Englund do find themselves pausing on occasion, and some of the actor’s heavy appraisal toward Lee near the beginning is a little overbearing. An OK, but not essential listen.
There are two featurettes, though they’re pretty much fluff pieces. The Champaign Room: Behind the Scenes of Zombie Strippers (7.56) offers a brief rundown of the genesis of the film from Jay Lee and producer Angela Lee. There is also input from several cast members who talk about their character’s relation to those in the original Rhinoceros play and touch upon their own film’s underlining meanings, which somehow makes it especially grand. The second piece is The Dressing Room: How to Glam a Zombie (4.53). Again Angela Lee leads us into things, but it’s Visual Effects Supervisor Patrick Magee who does most of the talking this time. He talks about the challenges of trying to come up with new stuff in an oversaturated genre, especially given the film’s tight working schedule. Jenna Jameson also chats about undergoing several Zombie transitions, which became something much more difficult than she had originally anticipated.
There are also several trailers for upcoming Sony DVDs.
Sometimes I find myself with little to say about a film, and this is one such instance. What more is there to say really, other than Zombie Strippers offers exactly what it says on the tin. Despite some glaringly bad attempts at satire there are still plenty of chucklesome moments to be had; the entire cast know they’re starring in a silly movie and chew through the scenery (quite literally at times) with gusto.