The Grindhouse is alive and well. For those people who wondered if Tarantino and Rodriguez's double feature of last year would spawn a new wave of exploitative shlock, then Jay Lee has delivered on that promise. Zombie films essentially need about three things that we (collectively) have determined to be vital requirements. Number one is a given, the film needs gore. Zombies eat the flesh of the living so where would a zombie movie be without disgusting gore? Gore in the case of zombie films is defined by either visible brain tissue or guts and intestines being ripped out. Now next is something for the fellas and that's an ample amount of nudity which may or may not have anything whatsoever to do with the plot. Most of us can still remember the bizarre disrobing and tribal paint nudity of Hell of the Living Dead, and Return of the Living Dead set a still untouchable high water mark in this regard. Well this just seems like a bonus, after all the film is guaranteed to get an R rating at the least, so might as well load it with profanity and a little sex. Third is the trickiest to maneuver and consequentially the most important. This is story, plot, and all those things that seem so necessary for a film to be successful. After all we are familiar with zombie lore and all too often we have sat through another bad zombie movie because a promise to deliver on the first two ingredients led to a failure on the final. Not to say we can't be entertained occasionally by a gory flesh eating naked woman, but it makes the film so much better if there's a reason why we should care.
Jay Lee has largely heard our praise and has taken it completely upon himself to make his contribution to the world of the zombie film. Like Rodriguez and Tarantino he wrote, directed, and shot his own film. I'll say from a personal standpoint that this film sold me on the title alone, I mean seeing something like this on a marquee how could you not be curious to see it? So like Lee is taking a page from years past and casting a horror movie legend (Robert Englund) and make sure that his sex appeal is as good as he can get with Jenna Jameson. It seems funny that Jameson is undoubtedly the world's most famous porn star now, if not of all time, yet his is pretty much her major film debut, shows the long way that adult film has to go for mainstream acceptance still. Jameson over the years has gotten some unnecessary plastic surgery which makes her at first seem a little odd, but once she becomes a zombie, it seems to work perfectly. The rest of the cast is largely unknown cast primarily for looks rather than acting ability, but how else would you put together a film about zombie strippers?
Plot wise we're pretty simple. In the not too distant future (roughly 4 or 5 years from now) the country is still at war, not just with Iraq and Afghanistan but nearly every other Middle East country as well as France, Canada, and my personal favorite Alaska. A fake newsreport fills us in on everything that's going on and if you pay attention to the top headlines flashing across you'll get a great deal more laughs. Lee is setting up our world which is a bit ridiculous but lets us know that well things might get out of hand here. In order to supply troops for these wars the US obviously needs fresh meat, and that's where the scientists come in. They have manufactured a drug to reanimate dead tissue where the only instinct will be survival therefore creating a group of soldiers who have no fear and can keep fighting. Of course the one unfortunate side effect is that they happen to crave human flesh, but nothing's perfect. Of course the x-chromosome responds more purely to the drug and therefore when women are bit or infected they take on the near super powers the drug was designed for, which of course lets us know why our friends at the strip club will be so entertaining. A group of special ops military come in, kill 'em all, and of course one of the blondes in the outfit gets her shirt ripped off, but again this is to be expected. The noob who already has gotten on our nerves gets bit and runs away when he realizes that his own soldiers are going to shoot him in the head rather than let him spread the disease. So he finds what looks like an abandoned building, which happens to be an illegal strip club, quite by chance. And well you can imagine how the rest goes.
The film is deliciously low brow and does not shy away from blatant criticism of the man currently and in the future still in the white house (which was purchased by Saudi's in the films opening). The Mexican janitor at the strip club named Paco is the brunt of all kinds of ridiculous jokes including at his end when he makes himself out to be a carbon copy of a Mexican bandit, and arguably the film's funniest joke. Englund is perfectly suited as a greedy but germophobic owner who wastes no time putting Paco in his place, usually for a laugh. His desire for money and morbid fear of his new cash cows certainly puts him in a curious position, he has his own reward towards the end. Several archetypes are thrown in their, the black action hero, the naive corn fed girl, the combat veterans, etc. It makes the film infinitely rewarding when the characters either fall into or break away from our established notions of what their place within the greater zombie lexicon holds. I can't give too much away but in a theater packed with about 12 people (six of which were me and my friends) we certainly gave loud ovations and were participating with it at every turn. I expected a film that was awfully entertaining, and I was rewarded, this is first class trash and I say that with every degree of praise. Definitely worth hunting out in your theater, but an absolute essential once the DVD comes out.