Monday, May 31, 2010

Zombie (1979)

ZOMBIE

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 fanatic's 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


BLUE UNDERGROUND 3-DISC BLU RAY UPDATE:

Zombie is a film that is near and dear to us here at Blood Brothers: Film Reviews. Eric’s original review for the film was posted over 8 years ago at this time, but our experiences with the film go well beyond that. This is the kind of film that we watched on repeat via a dingy VHS when we were young teens. There are visceral memories that I associate with this film. The pulsating score. The blasting opening scene. The long tension of a woman being stalked by a zombie only to have it result in one of the most iconic eye pokes in cinema. Zombie is a classic for a variety of reasons as the review describes above. Fulci has a fantastic eye for key visual stings and the film is pummeling with its dense (and still strangely bright) atmosphere. Sure, as Eric mentions, the film is not perfect as it spends an odd amount of time showcasing a zombie fighting a shark, which, to be honest, is still totally worth the time, and it loves to dwell on moments of exploitation that can play a stark contrast to efficient narrative, but there is this brilliant balance in the artistry of those pieces that made the perfect grindhouse VHS watch.

It’s because of these memories of adjusting the tracking or rewinding some of the iconic moments that made me slightly hesitant to dive into this latest Blue Underground release of Zombie. It’s a brand new, pristine restoration of the film and there was a part of me that perhaps didn’t fully understand why someone would want to completely eradicate that grindhouse tonality of the film with this kind of new release. Well, those worries were all for naught. This latest release of Zombie should be the only release that fans watch from this point on. Not only is the new restoration of the film phenomenal, but it showcases that it wasn’t the VHS flaws that made the tone of the film so great – but the film itself. If anything, the crisp visuals and effective Italian score are made even more impressive. One can truly appreciate the detailing that Fulci embeds into the style of the film with his use of focus and space and there is a subtlety of the sound design that is brought out to balance out the use of the score in ways that I did not expect. Zombie was a great film before, but the new Blue Underground release further explores all of the nuances that proves why this film has lasted decades to remain one of the cornerstones of cult cinema.

As if that wasn’t enough, this Zombie release is just brimming with features that will have any self-respecting horror/cult cinephile in a damn tizzy.  As if to indicate that, when I first pulled out the film the damn thing weighed like five times the weight of a normal Blu Ray. It helps that the set is 3 discs (including a CD of the film’s soundtrack) and if there was actual weight to the special features included, it would be close to a metric ton. For convenience for those who perhaps have not looked into the release yet, we’ve added a list of the features below. Needless to say, it’s one of the most packed releases one is likely to have sitting on their self.

If you couldn’t discern by now, Blue Underground has truly gone above and beyond for this latest Zombie release. This is the definitive release of the film on both fronts, the restoration and the features included. Most fans have probably already ordered their copies by now, but if you were sitting on the fence then just know that this set will blow your ass off that fence so perfectly, your pants might still be hanging on the picket. 

BLUE UNDERGROUND FEATURES:

  • WORLD PREMIERE! New 4K Restoration from uncensored original camera negative!
  • 3-Disc Set includes High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray Widescreen 2.40:1 feature presentation + a Blu-ray PACKED with bonus material + Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD with score by Fabio Frizzi
  • Audio: 7.1 DTS-HD (English, Italian); 2.0 DTS-HD (English, Italian)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Français, Español, Português, Deutsch, Italiano, Dansk, Suomi, Nederlands, Svenska, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, English for Italian Audio
  • NEW! Audio Commentary #1 with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
  • Audio Commentary #2 with Star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater
  • NEW! When The Earth Spits Out The Dead - Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
  • Introduction by Academy Award® Winner Guillermo del Toro
  • Zombie Wasteland Interviews with Stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson & Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano Dell'Acqua
  • Flesh Eaters on Film Interview with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis
  • Deadtime Stories Interviews with Co-Writers Elisa Briganti and (Uncredited) Dardano Sacchetti
  • World of the Dead Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production & Costume Designer Walter Patriarca
  • Zombi Italiano Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi
  • Notes on a Headstone Interview with Composer Fabio Frizzi
  • All in the Family Interview with Antonella Fulci
  • Zombie Lover Academy Award ® Winning Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about one of his favorite films
  • BONUS! Collectable Booklet with new essay by author Stephen Thrower
  • Poster and Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Radio Spots
BLU RAY SET SCORE:

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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