01 March 2009

Movielog, Zombie Strippers

Zombie Strippers, 2008
Written and Directed by Jay Lee
94 minutes

So... yeah. Who would have thought that a movie called Zombie Strippers could be so fucking boring? Especially with all the nudity on display? Sheesh.

I first became exposed (no comments from the peanut gallery here) to Jenna Jameson when she did a series of segments on various E! programs back in the mid-nineties, the first one being a report from the Cannes Film Festival. This was back before E! was basically a repository of reality shows starring washed-up celebrities (or, even worse, hot chick who wish they could be celebrities), instead actually being something of a source for entertainment news. Sure, there was a hefty chunk of soft-core salaciousness to a lot of that old programming, but for a fledgling basic-cable channel to hire a fresh-faced porn star, a real-life gets-fucked-for-money porn star, to cover the biggest film festival in the world was a ballsy move.

And you know what, maybe it's just my addled memories of a decade or so ago, but I remember Jenna Jameson (before she became the Biggest Porn Star in History) to be a cute, fresh-faced, engaging personality -- it may have been an odd choice to put her in front of a camera with her clothes on to cover a film festival, but her reports were entertaining and engaging if not exactly enlightening. So much so that she has spent much of the last decade attempting some level of mainstream success, i.e. to be known for more than just her ability to suck cock.

So after more than a decade of being a huge starlet, recently even being covered by entertainment media alongside more quote-unquote "reputable" actresses like Lindsey Lohan, it's perhaps unfortunate to report that from the evidence shown in Zombie Strippers, Ms. Jameson simply cannot act. Here she plays a big-name performer at an illegal strip club, perhaps a bit older than her compatriots but still pulling in the crowds, but even with a part that seems tailored for her she cannot give a decent line reading to save her life, and even the broadest comedy bits fall flat. This is a film filled to the brim with bad performances, and hers is arguably the worst of the lot, even by the standards of D-grade titty flicks.

But who watches this kind of movie for the acting? Jameson admittedly looks better than she has in paparazzi flicks of the last few years, more human and less "oh-my-god-what-did-they-do-to-her-face," and her figure is about as pneumatic as you'd expect from a veteran of point-and-shoot porn, which is either a plus if you're into that sort of thing of a minus if you aren't. More interesting is Roxy Saint as Lillith, a gothy stripper who actually has a decent line of dialogue or two, and whose body seems a bit less ravaged by the plastic surgery. Saint is a DJ in real life, and actually performed a couple of the songs on the soundtrack, which helps to solidify her talent, at least in my mind. Jennifer Holland is Jessy, a fresh-from-the-farm blonde stereotype who never actually gets any nudity in the film, but does a bit of a sexy dance before she runs from the stage. Throw in Penny Drake as Sox and ex-Playboy CyberGirl Shamron Moore and there's plenty of generic random nudity in the 90 minute runtime of Zombie Strippers -- at least the film plays it straight with the nudity and isn't the kind of tease that gives five minutes of boobies for the whole film. (Hey, I take what pleasures I can here!)

But the nudity's only half the story. There's a secret military base blah blah blah zombies escaping blah blah etcetera etcetera. After a zombie bites Jameson's character and she becomes one of the undead her stripping becomes superhumanly athletic and erotic, and the strip club's manager (Robert Englund) decides to screw his ethics in lieu of the cash that's suddenly pouring in. The device of the ethically challenged businessman is one that dates back in schlock-horror terms at least to Corman's Bucket of Blood, and it says something about Zombie Strippers that Corman's 1959 film is much more nuanced about the whole thing than this more recent version. Jameson (and other strippers in the club, once they have also been turned into zombies) begins to devour her clients after the show, and it must be said that some of the effects are actually pretty decent, and a couple of the kills are reasonably creative. The film works as a cheap horror film about as well as it works as a cheap titty flick, which is to say not very well, but at least it's trying.

Looking at the credits for the film, much of the credit (or blame) for Zombie Strippers rests on the shoulders of one man: Jay Lee. Lee is credited as writer, director, editor, and cinematographer, and it's clear that he's attempting to make something just a bit more sophisticated than meets the eye here. The film is set in the year 2012, during Bush's third term, and numerous jokes at Bush/Cheney's expense permeate the first few minutes of the picture. It's all pretty ham-handed parody that would have felt a tad out of date even five years ago, but at least it gives a bit of life to the early portions of the film. Also, the strippers in the club all seem to have been philosophy majors, Jameson's character in particularly being seen reading the complete works of Nietzsche on several occasions, and even quoting him in dialogue. Lee claims that this film is based on an absurdist play that I have not seen, and it's possible that he's being honest here. Lee's execution is way, way off, but his heart seems to be in the right place.

The film also tries to work as a comedy. A Hispanic janitor (Joey Medina) gets a couple of decently funny bits, although a sequence late in the film in which he gears up for war against the zombies is way overbroad (even for this material) and relies too much on Mexican stereotypes. It's also a bit humbling for the makers of Zombie Strippers to realize that one of their "best" gags (a relative term if I ever heard one) is based on a movie that's sixty years old. (It's such a great gag they use it twice!)

Ultimately, Zombie Strippers is all title and no content, a film that doesn't even meet the bottom-barrel expectations of the genre it's aping. I've seen D-grade Skinemax features with better production values than this, and more interesting scripts, too. There are literally hundreds of places you can see Jameson naked other than this, so why not pick one of those, instead? I know this is trying to be a parody of the genre, but the jokes fall flat and the story is completely uninvolving. It's not worth the ninety minutes I spent watching it, and it's certainly not worth the time I've spent writing this review. So much so that I think I'll stop there.

Rating: D

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