April 18, 2008

Zombie Strippers

Reviewed by Martin Tsai
“It’s really not as bad as it sounds, and it’s only 90 minutes long,” Columbia Pictures publicist Shane Kidd sheepishly assured before a press screening of “Zombie Strippers.” He was being honest, but in a sense he was selling the film way short. Studios won’t bother screening a horror flick for the press nowadays even if it’s half decent. And this one does sound just awful enough that it might be great.
Indeed, the very premise of the movie taps into the most primal fear and desire deep within the psyche of every heterosexual pubescent boy, fraternity member and overgrown man-child: It’s the female flesh, of either the vital or decomposed variety. What’s more, the film seems to be the culmination of many recent cult favorites. It’s “Planet Terror” meets “Showgirls” with a splash of “Southland Tales.” 
“Zombie Strippers” takes place in the not-too-distant, post-apocalyptic future where nudity is outlawed. A government experiment goes haywire and turns its subjects into the living dead. An elite military unit promptly cleans up the mess, albeit not too thoroughly. The zombie virus finds its way to an underground gentlemen’s club, morphing slinky pole dancers into super acrobats and ratcheting up the viciousness of their already intense catfights. Meanwhile, the club must keep its deadly troubles hush-hush and on the q.t. in order to stay in business. 
If there’s anything gratuitous about “Zombie Strippers,” it would actually be its ham-handed social critique. While the film satirizes groupthink mentality like the best of its predecessors by George A. Romero, writer-director Jay Lee gleefully takes this a step too far (such as setting his film during a fourth term of George W. Bush’s presidency).
Mr. Lee is very successful, though, in perverting the iconic images of his headliners. Never has porn diva Jenna Jameson looked so spectacularly unappealing. It’s also a treat to see Robert Englund squeal like a little girl while on the receiving end of the nightmares he has so mercilessly inflicted upon us. “Zombie Strippers” doesn’t have the scratched-up, reel-missing pretensions of “Grindhouse.” Instead, the film happily wallows in a vat of Velveeta like a pig in slop. It’s the kind of B picture that Peter Jackson would make before he went all highbrow on us. 
Reprinted from The New York Sun. © Copyright 2008 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.