Sony // 2008 // 94 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // October 20th, 2008
They'll Dance for a Fee, but Devour You for Free
One thing seems to tie most (if not all) cult favorites together: ambition. Whether it's Evil Dead or Rocky Horror, the filmmakers aimed high considering the means at their disposal. This obvious ambition makes it easier to overlook the films' foibles (whether budgetary or narrative) in favor of the fun everyone seems to be having. However, because of the success of cult films, many filmmakers began aiming their sights at the cult audience. The problem is that these filmmakers never display the ambition of their counterparts, making it harder to forgive the problems with the resulting films. When you set out to make gold and you end up with crap, it can be funny. When you set out to make crap, and you make crap, no one is impressed. Zombie Strippers is a film that will impress few people, but if you harbor fantasies of undead lap dances, Zombie Strippers might just be for you.
Shockingly, Zombie Strippers has a pretty old plot (in fact, it sounds like Bite Me! with zombies instead of radioactive marijuana). An evil corporation (a stand-in for Halliburton) has manufactured a "chemo virus" to create super-soldiers. This corporation sends a crack team of soldiers to kill everyone in the lab when the virus is let loose on the lab's inhabitants. One of the soldiers gets infected and escapes to a nearby strip club, run by Ian (Robert Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street). One of the strippers gets infected and suddenly becomes the toast of the club. While the virus ravages her body, her coworkers have to decide if the risks of infection are worth the gains in attention.
I admit I didn't have high hopes for Zombie Strippers, but I admire Robert Englund enough to give it a try. Although the film had some potential, a number of flaws kept it from being the fun horror-comedy it so desperately wanted to be.
I have nothing against plastic surgery per se. However, I think it's much like magic: if I can see the trick, the magic is lost. Huge, gravity defying lumps grafted on a woman's ribcage simply aren't sexy to me. To be fair, not every woman in the film is surgically "enhanced," but enough of them are to ruin any kind of sex appeal the film might have generated. Plus, decayed flesh just isn't that attractive to me. I think the surgically altered women also remove some of the "bite" the film might have had as a satire. There's potential in the idea that people would be willing to become zombies to be more beautiful, but considering the lengths the actresses have already gone to, there's nothing really shocking about becoming a zombie.
Much like surgery, I have no problem with CGI effects. But again, I don't like the artificiality shoved in my face. Zombie Strippers features exploding heads, gunshot wounds, and decaying flesh, all with CGI effects. But not just any CGI effects: cheap, nasty cartoonish CGI effects that leech whatever tension or horror the film might have been building.
When you have a film called Zombie Strippers that's neither sexy nor scary, you don't have a whole lot left.
With all that said, Zombie Strippers isn't a total waste of time. Amazingly enough, I found much of the comedy pretty funny. The film takes potshots at George W. Bush & Co. which are cheap, but surprisingly effective. No, it's not The Daily Show in its political commentary, but the film earns a few chuckles.
Beyond the political commentary, most of the laughs come from Robert Englund, who gets to smarm it up as the strip-club manager. There's always a knowing twinkle in his eye as he chews through the scenes, playing up an abusive parody of the nightclub stereotype. It's far from his best work, but his presence brings a legitimacy to the film that it otherwise doesn't deserve.
It's sad that the CGI in this film is so bad, because the practical makeup effects are surprisingly good. Zombies have an interesting cast to their skin, blood is provided in appropriate colors and viscosities, while the decay of the victims gets effective presentation. If the same attention to detail transferred to some of the bigger effects pieces (like the exploding heads), then Zombie Strippers might have been a minor gore classic. Instead, it's an object lesson in how not to do special effects.
This Blu-ray release is more than the film deserves. The high-definition transfer does a fine job with the stylized look of the film, although very dark scenes suffer from a bit of noise. The audio does a fine job balancing the dialogue, effects, and music. Extras are surprisingly plentiful. A chatty commentary track with the director, Englund, and Jenna Jameson might make better viewing than the film's own audio track. We also get a popup trivia track, and over 40 minutes of deleted scenes (with commentary). I still can't believe how much material they shot. There are also two featurettes. One takes on the making of film, and the other the zombie makeup. Neither breaks the 10-minute mark, but most of the production stuff that fans would want to know is covered in the commentary.
Zombie Strippers is going to have its fans. If you think the idea of an undead exotic dancer is your cup of tea (and you don't mind a little surgical alteration) then Zombie Strippers might satisfy. Typical zombie fans are warned that the film fails to provide much zombie goodness (including effective gore), while the nudity (much of it zombified) isn't likely to satisfy most soft-core fans. I can only (lightly) recommend this as a "drinking beer with your buds" kind of film. Otherwise, just leave this disc to die.
Zombie Strippers is guilty of aiming even lower than a film with Zombie and Strippers in the title should.
Review content copyright © 2008 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Commentary with Jay Lee, Jenna Jameson, Robert Englund, and Joey Medina
* "Titillation and Sass" Trivia Track
* Deleted Scenes with optional Commentary
* "The Champagne Room: Behind the Scenes of Zombie Strippers"
* "The Dressing Room: How to Glam a Zombie"