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I figured Zombie Strippers was nothing but a crass cash-in on the recent trend set by the Tarintino and Rodriguez Grindhouse films. Indie-filmmakers using the device of making purposely cheesy movies, with strong streaks of sex and violence to sell it; something fairly easy to pull off on a low-budget. And I was right, but I didn't expect the film to actually be somewhat inspired. Don't get me wrong, the film is trashy as hell, but it's got a fun, easy-going spirit to it, that raises it slightly above other films of the like. While watching some of the special features, they mentioned writer/director Jay Lee's previous film The Slaughter, a film I'd been on the fence about watching. Not knowing whether it'd be something fun or a total waste of time; but after enjoying Zombie Strippers, I quickly gave it a chance to entertain me as well, which it did to a lesser degree.

Strippers starts out like most zombie movies, with a mutant virus that causes the dead to rise escaping from a secret laboratory. The twist with this film, is the eventual zombies are all contained to an illegal strip club. There's a good joke at the beginning of the film, George Bush is currently in his 4th term, leading America into a military state existence, thus the illegality of strip clubs. Jenna Jameson plays Kat, the top stripper at The Rhino, owned by Robert Englund, who appears in yet another horror film as one of the few recognizable faces. In stumbles an infected grunt from an elite special forces group, who cleaned up the zombie-filled secret laboratory in the opening scenes. When he makes a turn for the undead and brutally kills Kat on stage, England thinks that's the end of his club. But she quickly re-animates and decides to strip for the stunned crowd anyways, which in this world is apparently the sexiest thing possible.

Soon being a zombie is the best thing to ever happen to naked women. The male crowd goes nuts, throwing bills around without regard. Even when they're taken backstage and eaten by one of the new zombie strippers, there's another ten horny guys ready to take his place. I'm not exactly sure what the appeal of rotting flesh is to these guys, but being a zombie gives these girls some mad dancing skills. They twist and turn on the stripper pole, like they're competing for Olympic gold. Englund and his crew are a little taken back by it all, but the money keeps rolling in, and as long as the girls only kill the customers they seem fine with it all. Eventually it all begins to get out of hand, with zombies piling up by the hundreds in the club's basement.

The whole film is played tongue firmly in cheek, they know you can't take any of this serious, so they don't try to scare you at all, but instead go for some good sick laughs. That doesn't mean these guys skimp on the zombies in the least, in fact, I'd put a few of these up with the best that Tom Savini ever created. I particularly liked the zombie missing his lower jaw, tongue wagging menacingly. There's a disgustingly hilarious scene that 99% of the population would rightfully call offensive, where the top strippers battle for supremacy, it ends with Kat shooting pool balls out of her hoo-ha, ripping through bystanders flesh and bone. This and a few other sickeningly genius scenes rise the film up a few notches.

There are more zombies to be found in Jay Lee's first feature film The Slaughter, but they're the Evil Dead, Sam Raimi sort. This is another film where they take a typical horror situation and turn it on its head, trying to play it more for laughs than scares. The film opens with a horribly executed scene, where we see a group of naked girls, lamely overlaid one another in editing, performing a ritual to raise an ancient demon woman with bad teeth and a boob-job. I thought I was in for some brain torture, but the film thankfully gets better with the next scene, the only one in the film that is executed to truly scare. A woman is woken in the middle of the night, she goes to her daughter's room, where everything seems okay. Another poorly done double exposure of a creepy hand rising out of the floor, tells us it's not. The scene has some actual suspense, with the mother and daughter, eventually meeting gruesome ends.

The film drags on a bit from here, with the introduction of a group of kids who've come to clean up the murder house 40 years later. They're the typical horror movie fodder,there to do a little work, party hard, smoke pot, have sex, take baths in darkened rooms, and be re-animated from death. They find a book that looks exactly like the Necronomicon from the Evil Dead, of course one kid decides to read a few passages from it out loud, a few minutes later, a couple having sex upstairs seals their fate for the worst. The demon-woman rises and begins to kill everyone off in rapid succession, with each one returning as a zombie to torment the few left alive. Again the crew does a good job with the zombie make-up, these guys are easily the highlight of the film.

There are some awkwardly staged scenes where the few alive characters have long discussions while they're being attacked by the zombies. The main guy Iggy plays the Randy from Scream role, he's full of smart-ass remarks, a ton of pop-culture references, nothing you could possibly believe somebody would say if actually being attacked by zombies. Meanwhile, the zombies stand-by in the background while the characters are having their conversations, holding back their attack until their mouths stop spouting gibberish. It's a ridiculous way to stage these action scenes. Some of it is forgivable, because what they're saying is actually fairly funny, but there's a lot of groaners in there as well, making you want the carnage to pick up again. The whole demon-woman thing, is fairly weak, the actress is artificially beautiful, she gives a lame performance, you can't buy it for a second.

If you're into horror films, both are worth checking out. Just be prepared for a high dose of ridiculous comedy. Zombie Strippers is more polished, with a better storyline, cooler looking zombies, the action scenes staged with more pizazz, and slightly better acting. Neither film is anything I'd call a must see, but if you like your brainless-fun soaked in gore, you could certainly do a lot worse. I'm looking forward to Jay Lee's next film, I think he has a great horror-comedy in him. With these two films he's proven that he and his crew can do a lot with a small budget. The films are each pretty well photographed and edited, the make-up is top-notch, and he's got a great eye for gore and good ear for comedy. - Zombie Strippers - Grade: B - The Slaughter - Grade: C+

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