Monday, May 31, 2010

Zombie (1979)


Aka "Zombi 2", "Zombie 2: The Dead Are Among Us", "Zombie Flesh Eaters", "The Island of the Living Dead", "Zombies 2"

Zombie hold's a special place in this horror fanatics heart as it was one of the first Italian horror films to get this particular reviewer hooked on spaghetti horror. Lucio Fulci's Zombie, along with Dario Argento's Phenomena, gave me my first taste of spaghetti horror cinema and as a young man I was shocked to see how these films were no-holds-barred when it came to on-screen violence. This shocking violence mixed with stylistic directing and unique music made this reviewer an all-time Italian horror fanatic. I actually first heard of Zombie as I was, and still am, a huge fan of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead and I had read that Zombie was made in Italy as an unofficial sequel to Romero's classic (despite that film itself being a sequel to Night of the Living Dead). Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy with the title "Zombi" and became a huge success. In comes Italian director Lucio Fulci and he made a little shocker titled "Zombi 2", a film that would be confusingly re-titled "Zombie" for American release. Despite this film having no plot connection to Dawn of the Dead I really wanted to see the picture that was it's unofficial sequel. I fist purchased a crap VHS release from Edde Entertainment with the title "Zombie 2: The Dead are Among Us." The tape was of such low quality I couldn't even watch the damn thing. This then young reviewer then saved up his money to purchase the restored Anchor Bay VHS release with under the title Zombie. Finally I could see the film in actual widescreen quality. All the patience and waiting paid off and Zombie did not fail to entertain and shock this horror fan that had previously only been force-fed American horror fodder.
The film opens with an out-of-focus person who holds up a gun and blasts a bloody hole in the head of what is assumed to be a rising zombie covered in cloth bag. I knew I was going to be in for a bloody good time even before the title sequence featuring Fabio Frizzi's kick ass score popped up. After the title sequence we are then transported to New York harbor where there seems to be a boat adrift. The police board the boat only to find corpses and one big ass zombie which in turns takes a bloody bite out of a cops throat. This bite is so graphic and bloody that it shocked the hell out of this reviewer when he was younger. The other cop blasts the zombie into the water. We are now introduced to a news reporter (Ian McCulloch) assigned to write a story on the cop killing. He sneaks aboard the vessel only to run into the daughter of the ship's owner (played by Tisa Farrow, sister of Mia). Wanting to know what happened to her father, her and the reporter decide to travel to the Caribbean to investigate only to come across an island where the dead have risen and hungry for human flesh.
Director Lucio Fulci loads this film with memorable sequences and stylistic camera shots. Even the way his zombies look and walk are completely unique from Romero's approach. There are three extremely memorable sequences that Fulci shot that have been burned in my memory. The first is an amazing underwater fight sequence between a zombie and a shark (!?!?!). The film really does come to a standstill for this scene and it really has no relevance to the plot, but it's so amazingly shot and so damn memorable. The second sequence has a zombie (complete with worms in it's eye socket) slowly rise in a conquistador cemetery only to graphically bite the neck of one of our protagonists in glorious slow motion. This is an EXTREMELY graphic bite and again made this young reviewer's jaw hit the floor. The zombie in this sequence has become an iconic figure and even became the poster boy for the American poster artwork. The third sequence is probably the most memorable which has a zombie punch through a door, grab a beautiful woman's hair and slowly drag her head slowly to a larger splinter in the door where Fulci graphically shows the splinter enter her eyeball. This scene is the one scene everybody seems to talk about even years after they watch the film.
The downfalls of the film are that it does move at a slow pace and the climax is nothing more than a variation of Night of the Living Dead, but Lucio Fulci loads the film up with so much atmosphere and stylistic shots that it's easy to forgive the film for it's shortcomings. Some people say this film is nothing more than shocking gore sequences but I beg to differ. Sure it has many shocking sequences but Fulci is also able to craft scares and suspense around the gore making this a crowd pleasing bloody zombie romp.
Zombie is hands down one of the best zombie films ever made. It lacks the intelligence and underlying meanings of Romero's grand outings but for a straight forward, no bullshit zombie film you can't find one that is much more entertaining. Fulci's stylistic directing mixed with great atmosphere and shocking gore sequences makes this a must own for any horror fanatic. This film made me fan of Euro horror cinema as well as a follower of cult director Lucio Fulci. Fulci himself would make a sequel entitled Zombi 3 in 1988 but that film is a completely different story...
Written By Eric Reifschneider

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