*** Originally published on Beyond the Marquee, 07/10/12 ***
Shakespeare once wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet;” Well, there’s a lot in a name, or more specifically a title. Snakes on a Plane famously became a cult phenomenon before it was even released thanks to its no-nonsense (or all-nonsense) title. Don’t forget Hot Tub Time Machine which enticed viewers with the promise of a time travelling jacuzzi… and bubbled up a profit, grossing over $50 million domestically. Or what about 2009′s The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard? Bad title + Jeremy Piven = no business. So when old Billy Shakes asks what’s in a name, the answer is simple: ticket sales. This Tuesday, Charles Band and Full Moon Horror release a DVD with quite possibly the best title of 2012: Zombies Vs. Strippers.
At least you know what you’re gonna get.
Spider (Circus-Szalewski) owns the aptly-named “Tough Titty” strip club, in downtown Los Angeles. Unfortunately, business is in the red and his hand has been forced – he’ll have to sell off his little “Shangri-La” to make way for a nice new parking lot. As luck would have it, their last night in business ends up being their busiest as new clientele flock in. Unfortunately it’s to take refuge from a full-fledged zombie apocalypse. At first nobody seems to notice the chaos at their doorstep, but as the living dead try to infiltrate the “Titty,” Spider, and his band of loyal strippers (Vanilla, Bambi and Sugar Hills) fight to stay alive. Aided by the hard-as-nails biker gang “The Gravediggers”, a punk rock singer for “Nancy Reagan’s Vagina” and the house bartender Bobby (Don Baldaramos, looking an awful lot like Nick Nolte in his famous Hawaiian shirt mug shot) the bunch is in for the roughest night of their lives.
Half the fun of this movie is its mix of decades. The club is somehow frozen in time. The decor is as if Tahiti threw up and scratchy records play in favor of a readily available MP3 player. Spider wears a leisure suit and stripper “Vanilla” (the standout Brittany Gael Vaughn) looks, sounds and kicks ass like Pam Grier in her prime. Punk rock singer Spike (Adam Brooks) is straight from the 80′s, but the customers are modern day schmucks who just seem to have randomly stumbled into this semi-erotic time warp. While the “holed up against zombies” thing has been done numerous times, it’s the look of the sets and the characters that sets this one apart. A dash of sleaze, a spoonful of kitsch and a few buckets of blood give this film the cartoony, fun vibe you’d expect from Full Moon. First time director (and co-writer) Alex Nicolaou gets way above average performances from his actors – something not often found in films where attractive actresses are required to bare their breasts. Circus-Szalewski is brilliant, playing Spider not as a sleazeball, but as a hard working entrepreneur who readily admits he just has bad taste when it comes to entertainment. Red Wings, played by Brad Potts, also shines as the somewhat mature, definitely violent and overly moral leader of “The Gravediggers”. Even though these guys are traditionally viewed as low lifes, they’re charismatic and even somewhat loveable. That’s pretty important when you’re rooting for them to live.
The makeup and special effects are very well done and when CG is used to make a head explode or to set a zombie clown on fire, it doesn’t look cheap. Editor Danny Draven does a great job keeping the film moving at an exciting pace. Although it never lags, the ending does feel rather abrupt. It just sort of… finishes – but they do leave it open for a sequel. The story here is nothing revolutionary, but you can tell they’re having a lot of fun with it. Full Moon isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel; they’re taking the wheel that’s there and adding topless women. Nothing wrong with that.
I have to give this one 3 out of 4 devils. The humor is a bit sophomoric (a zombie Michael Jackson does his signature “hoo!” after getting whacked in the groin), but if you like the three B’s: Bullets, Boobs and Blood – you’ll have a blast with Zombies Vs. Strippers. If you don’t like zombie movies or are morally against strippers, you really have no business picking it up… and why would you? The name says it all…