A throwback to drive-in days when an outlandishly lurid moniker sometimes gave you all (if not more than) the amusement value of the movie itself, “Zombie Strippers!” is a one-joke pic that duly delivers on its titular promise to rapidly depleting returns. The kind of entertainment perhaps better suited to drinking games than full viewer attention, it offers porn queen Jenna Jameson and Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund in a repetitious mix of jokey splat ‘n’ grind. Sony shingle Triumph Films’ limited theatrical release should briefly pull in some yukking patrons before pic reanimates in DVD release.
“In the near future” at a secret government lab, a virus designed to keep soldiers active and obedient even after death (since in Bush’s fourth term, the U.S. is now at war practically everywhere) has gotten out of control. A SWAT-like, heavily armed Z Squad arrives to destroy the infected. But one of their own is bitten and flees, ending up in a nearby strip club where he/it noshes on star performer Kat (Jameson).
She dies, then revives. What’s more, un-death agrees with her — not only can those rigid breasts now be excused by rigor mortis, but the twin desires to dance for customers and dine on them prove quite exhilarating. Bloodied and gyrating, she’s an even bigger hit than before; soon other dancers are getting zombie-fied on purpose, holdouts booed offstage as passe.
Business booms, which is reason enough for proprietor Ian (Englund) to allow the sacrifice of those patrons whose private lap dances turn out to be their last. Once the latter become zombies themselves, they’re locked up out of sight in the basement.
Until they inevitably break out and cause full-on havoc, there’s nothing for pic to do but rinse and repeat: Pole dance, gut munch, pole dance, gut munch, ad finitum. Despite an occasional bright line, most of the humor (including political jabs and incongruous Nietzsche quotes) comes off labored. Some dialogue stretches really make you wish these zombies were the usual shaddap-and-eat kind.
Perfs are best described as broad; gore is expectedly over-the-top.
Writer-director Jay Lee — whose prior genre exercises “Noon Blue Apples” and “The Slaughter” sustained interest to a greater extent — does best here as d.p., giving widescreen-HD pic a slick look despite monotonous confinement to one primary interior setting. Other tech/design contribs are pro.
Production notes explain the script was inspired by Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros,” while character names nod to Camus, Sartre, Genet, the early 20th-century Theosophical movement and ancient mythological figures. But simple drop-kick referencing of intellectual touchstones amid splatstick doesn’t generate actual wit. This remains a lowbrow one-trick pony in the Troma vein, as opposed to the superior comedy-horror likes of “Shaun of the Dead” (or even “Evil Aliens”).
Still, one can be grateful for the fact that forevermore “Ionesco” and “zombie strippers” will be search-engine pals.