Zombie Strippers (2008)
I'll say one thing about Zombie Strippers off the bat: it surprised me, and that's not something I expected from a film with a name like that. Yes, the film has zombie strippers. No surprises there. What I didn't expect was in-the-face political satire and social commentary. Writer/director Jay Lee starts the movie off with a clip from a news program, filling us in on the current state of the USA. The story is set in the not too distant future, when G. W. Bush is starting his fourth term as president, and the country has basically gone to hell. It's interesting to compare this movie to Homecoming, in which the blame for the mess we're in is placed on a nameless president and his staff, who only bear a strong resemblance to Bush and his cronies. Here the finger is pointing squarely at Dubya himself. Reading the scrolling marquee across the top of the news screen was funny enough, but the live commentary just added to the enjoyment.
The nation has been in so many wars that our military is something like the 57th largest in the world, and government scientists have hit upon the solution of zombie soldiers to help support our waning troop levels. We cut to a zombie-solider-producing research facility, where an outbreak is occurring. A crack squad of doomsday commandoes is brought in to solve the problem. They specialize in things like stopping Armageddon, which we find out as the eccentric squad commander converses with one of the scientists at the lab. Things go awry at the lab, and the zombie outbreak is not contained. An infected solder gets away and, suspecting that he's going to be shot, hides out in a local strip club. At this point, I loved where the movie was going, and I wanted to watch more.
Oddly enough, when the strip club shows up in the story, it's almost disappointing. This part of the film was based on the French play Rhinoceros, which I suppose is a downbeat rumination on strippers and the men who watch them. Certainly Jay Lee seems like he's trying to make serious social commentary, using stripper archetypes like the jaded star with hidden depths, Kat (Jenna Jameson), the innocent newcomer just trying to make money for her grandma's operation, Jessy (Jennifer Holland), and the unscrupulous club owner, Ian (Robert Englund). For me, though, this turn in the mood of the movie clashed with what had come just before; it was a different movie altogether, and not as good. I liked it less partly because the things Lee was trying to say were so ham-handed (strippers do themselves harm by what they do, and the men who watch them have emotional issues), but also partly because, well, there was so much stripping. I know, you're wondering: How can there be such a thing as too much stripping, especially given that half the movie title indicates that this will be happening? Well, there's a time and a place for all things. I didn't really want to watch a strip routine, I wanted to watch a movie about zombie strippers. So the story drags a little bit, but there are still some really good, inventive scenes and characters, so it was still enjoyable. And of course, watching Jenna Jameson take her clothes off isn't all bad.
Getting back to the points Jay Lee was trying to make, there are obvious parallels that can be drawn between zombification and stripping. We all know the cliche about the stripper who's not mentally present, thinking of what to have for dinner while she's working the pole, but this movie takes it a step further: a zombie stripper isn't even really emotionally there at all. She's just a body without a soul, going through the motions. In the movie, after Kat becomes wildly popular after being zombified, the other strippers try to get infected too, so they can be just as popular, drawing parallels between zombification and being ruled by conformity.
There was a lot more thought put into this movie than I expected, but it didn't seem to know what kind of movie it wanted to be, which made for jarring disconnects throughout. I think Lee took on too much in trying to be more than just a film with zombie strippers, but the result is a better film than if he hadn't tried to do that at all. So, give it a whirl, and at the very least you'll get what the title promises.