In an alternate future, George W. Bush is still President and America is at war with two-thirds of the world. With public nudity more or less banned, strip club owner Ian Esko (Robert Englund) runs the hottest place to be. When his star stripper, Kat (Jenna James) is bitten by a zombie infected with a super soldier serum (stay with us on this…), he decides the show must go on, allowing Kat to continue to dance. Pumped up, violent and sexy, Kat becomes a hit, leaving the rest of Esko’s troop of strippers disgruntled and jealous. One by one they open themselves up to temptation; allowing Kat to bite them and become one of the undead. When the strippers start taking more than tips from their punters, Esko is forced to start hiding the horrors that are happening in the Champagne Room.
And yes, it’s based on a play about conformity and Nazis from the 1950s.
Englund and Jameson are the most obvious examples of stunt casting, but this isn’t something to hold against them. Okay, let’s be honest. Meryl Streep has nothing to fear from Jameson in the acting stakes. However, whilst it’s easy to dismiss her part as nothing more than boobs and bum, Jameson is clearly in on the whole joke and throws herself into the part of Queen Bitch with gusto. Englund is equally fun as Ian Esko; the mysophobic club owner who seems more concerned about catching herpes from his staff, than the apocalypse that’s brewing around him.
There’s a delicious humour that runs throughout Zombie Strippers. A lot of this, surprisingly, coming from the themes of individuality and mass movements. Jameson is fond of reading Nietzche, which she finds even more enjoyable now she’s dead. Meanwhile, the only Christian stripper in the room, Jessy (Jennifer Holland), contemplates giving up her religion and soul, so she can raise money for her Grandma’s medical bills, only to be called an ‘existential bitch’.
Unfortunately, none of this wallpapers over the large cracks that make Zombie Strippers almost, at times, barely watchable. Despite being less than two hours long, there is a lot of fat that can be trimmed up. For a film with strippers in the title, there is actually too much stripping. We don’t need to see every single girl’s routine to get an idea of who they are. That’s what dialogue is for guys! Yes, yes, we sound like party poopers, but really, take out the stripping at the beginning and the film immediately becomes leaner and meaner.
There are also a few humour stillbirths and most these are in the form of Paco, a deliberately stereotypical Mexican who raises barely a titter. There’s also the mercenaries who go under the banner of the Z-team. Despite having stopped the Apocalypse (‘Lieutenant Ryker here killed Satan himself with a sharp stick. Good work soldier!’), they seem to suck the joy out of every scene they’re in.
Finally, with the numerous references to the Bush Administration, Zombie Strippers really wants to be a biting satire on the Gulf War, but it all comes across a bit gummy.
Zombie Strippers is an unapologetic mixture of gore, bad jokes and nudity. It’s about as subtle as a slap with a tissue wrapped around a sledgehammer. At its very best, it’s Peter Jackson’s brilliantly demented Braindead. At it’s very worst, it’s Troma’s mind-numbing Rabid Grannies. However, the bottom line is that even going in as cynical as you want, Zombie Strippers sneaks up on you and by the time, the blood hits the fan, you’ll find yourself being willingly taken away. Definitely one for Friday nights with pizza, beer and a low set of standards.