Small-town horror comedy to die for

Staff WriterApril 18, 2008 

  • H

    Cast: Robert Englund, Jenna Jameson.

    Director: Jay Lee.

    Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

    Web site: www.sonypictures.com/movies/zombiestrippers.

    Theaters: Durham: Wynnsong.

    Rating: R (strong violence and gore, sexuality, nudity and language).

I'm really at a loss for words with "Zombie Strippers," perhaps the first and last T&A horror comedy starring a scary-movie icon and an adult-film star that's based on an French existentialist play.

Hitting theaters for a limited engagement before going to its original destination -- Blockbuster shelves all over this great land -- it is truly one of a kind. And I don't mean that as a compliment.

"Strippers" is another tale of small-town terror as a zombie virus hits the Nebraska town of Sartre. (Like the French existentialist -- get it?) It seeps into an underground gentlemen's club run by a skeevy, germaphobe owner (a hammy, hyper Robert Englund) and filled with so many pontificating, philosophical strippers I thought I was watching Atom Egoyan's "Exotica" for a minute there.

Anyway, when the club's most valuable table dancer (Jenna Jameson, turning in a performance of supreme uninhibited witchiness like I haven't seen since Grace Jones in "Vamp") gets attacked by a runaway zombie and eventually becomes a zombie herself, she becomes an even bigger attraction. (Apparently, dancing naked and covered in your own dried blood is a big turn-on for guys.)

Soon, several other strippers follow suit, with guys lining up to go in the VIP room, perfectly willing to be ravaged by these undead lap dancers.

Apart from directing scenes as if they were set in empty parking garages, writer-director Jay Lee attempts to ask some George Romero-size questions in a movie that really shouldn't be asking anything.

Since the movie is based on Eugene Ionesco's Theater of the Absurd play "Rhinoceros," "Strippers" also deals with issues of conformity and morality, as some strippers struggle with the idea of coming over to the popular, lucrative, zombified side.

But, of course, this is all just metaphorical whatever on our own zombified culture and how the powers that be are turning us into the walking, clueless dead. (Gee, are they? I hadn't noticed, Mr. Director Man!)

For the most part, "Strippers" is a movie that doesn't know whether to have its eyebrow raised or its tongue planted in cheek. With a plot as scattershot as most of the cast's wardrobe (Jameson, who has spent years butt-bald-nekkid on camera, wears her nakedness like a uniform), whenever the movie's alleged moments of deep profundity appear in between all the good old-fashioned gore, they feel out of place.

One minute "Zombie Strippers" is gross, gory and naughty, and the next minute it supposedly hits you with something that, as Arsenio Hall used to say, makes you go, "Hmmm."

Unfortunately, the latter is the part of the movie that's always unsettling.

craig.lindsey@newsobserver.com, (919) 829-4760 or blogs.newsobserver.com/unclecrizzle

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