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Originally published Friday, April 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Zombie Strippers": The title says it all

Hey, at least you don't have to ask what it's about, right? It's all right there in the title, and if you're in the mood for "Zombie Strippers,"...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

"Zombie Strippers," with Robert Englund, Jenna Jameson, Jennifer Holland, Roxie Saint. Written and directed by Jay Lee. 92 minutes. Rated R for strong violence and gore, sexuality, nudity and language.

Several theaters.

Hey, at least you don't have to ask what it's about, right? It's all right there in the title, and if you're in the mood for "Zombie Strippers," you've come to the right place.

Yep, we're talking pole-dancing babes in the buff here, and after they've been infected with a virus intended to make soldiers fight beyond their expiration date, well, let's just say their stage act is a (in the parlance of "A Clockwork Orange") "real horrowshow."

Writer-director Jay Lee (also credited as editor and cinematographer) has a knack for exposing the ample flesh of his female cast, regardless of whether it's rotting, exploding or oozing blood. After announcing its intentions with schlock-o-rama title credits and a setup that plays like an "Aliens" spoof with a $10 budget, "Zombie Strippers" struggles to be as entertaining as the "Planet Terror" segment of "Grindhouse," but ultimately leaves you wondering how this lowbrow horror comedy didn't go straight to DVD.

Oops, did I say lowbrow? I must've overlooked all those Philosophy 101 jokes about Nietzsche-quoting strippers, references to Sartre and the fact that Lee's wallow in gory exploitation was inspired by Eugène Ionesco's absurdist play "Rhinoceros."

You think I'm joking? Check out Freddy Krueger himself — horror favorite Robert Englund — as Mr. Ian Essko (get it?), the greedy, sleazebag proprietor of the Rhino club (nudge-nudge). He's thrilled when customers go crazy for his newly zombified strippers, even when they're lured into horribly gruesome death-sex. (This is one place where the three-foot rule should definitely be obeyed.) But when you've got porn-star Jenna Jameson in full-on zombie mode, well, you've got to expect some heavy competition for the booby prize.

Jameson shouldn't quit her day job (or maybe she should), but she's a pretty good scene-stealer when her character, Kat, turns into an undead dynamo with a special talent involving ping-pong and billiard balls. Her wacky abandon plays nicely against the comparative sweetness of Jesse (Jennifer Holland), the small-town virgin who's the Rhino club's unlikeliest new showgirl. When zombie hell breaks loose, Jesse can survive as well as any Z-squad grunt with a machine-gun, even with her dweeby boyfriend in tow.

Lee opens with a jokey, near-future news report à la "RoboCop," and deserves credit for crafting a gleefully shameless, kamikaze romp for hard-core horror buffs. His penchant for "intellectual" mayhem represents a step up from his obscure previous film, "The Slaughter," and at a time when most horror films are not screened for critics, this one was previewed (albeit for a tiny audience) more than a week in advance.

With a title like "Zombie Strippers," maybe a theatrical release isn't such a bad idea.

Jeff Shannon: j.sh@verizon.net

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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