ZOMBIE

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Zombie aka Zombi 2ZOMBIE aka Zombi 2 - 1979
USA Release: July 18, 1980
Variety / Blue Underground
Rating: Finland:
CENSORED-BANNED / France: 16 / Germany: 18 / Italy: VM18 / Norway: BANNED / UK: 18 / USA: Unrated

Released just a few months after George Romero's zombie classic, DAWN OF THE DEAD, Lucio Fulci's (THE GATES OF HELL, THE BEYOND, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY) ZOMBIE is little more than an attempt to cash in on the success of a much better film. Despite this, it still manages to be extremely entertaining, with its over the top gore and camp exploitational feel making it well worth the price of a rental.

The film opens with the Coast Guard intercepting what appears to be an empty sailboat in New York harbor. Ah, but it only appears to be empty. On board is a ravenous zombie, who manages to take a nice sized chomp out of the throat of one of the officers before he's riddled with bullets and dumped overboard. Investigation into the boat's ownership leads to one Ann Bowles (Tisa Farrow: ANTHROPOPHAGUS, and sister of Mia Farrow), the daughter of the boat's owner. Ann is later approached by reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch: CONTAMINATION, DOCTOR BUTCHER MD), who has discovered a note from her father explaining that he's on some island called Matoul, and that he's contracted a strange disease. Ann and Peter decide to travel to Matoul and find Ann's father.

Eventually, they do arrive on the island, where they meet Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson: ALLIGATORS, BEYOND THE DOOR). Menard is trying to deal with the island's zombie epidemic by shooting the undead in the head while he searches for a cure. Menard sends our intrepid heroes to check on his wife, Paola (Olga Karlatos: MURDER ROCK). By the time they arrive, Paola is in the process of being zombie lunch, but not before having a gigantic wooden splinter driven through her eye in order to satisfy Fulci's fetish for extreme ocular mayhem. After that, all hell breaks loose as the dead keep rising and our heroes struggle to survive.

ZOMBIE is probably Fulci's best known film in the U.S., and while it's a better film than THE GATES OF HELL, it's not quite on the same level as his masterwork, THE BEYOND. Fulci's direction here is competent, not quite as out of control as his work on GATES. There are some of the standard rough edits, the leering shots of gore effects, and some pointless close-ups of characters, but it's not as distracting as it is in some of his earlier efforts.

The film features some good gore effects by Giovani Corridori (BLADE IN THE DARK, TENEBRE) and Gino de Rossi (THE GATES OF HELL, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY), notably the aforementioned splinter in the eye. Also worth noting are the zombie attacks and the zombies themselves. Still, the scene the movie is best known for is relatively gore-less. On the way to Matoul, one of the women on the boat decides to go for a dive. While underwater (and topless, no less . . . you've gotta love the Italians) she encounters a medium sized shark. She also encounters a zombie. What ensues is a battle royal between zombie and fish as each tries to devour the other. The scene adds nothing to the plot, but man, it's a hoot to watch anyway.

Truthfully, ZOMBIE is little more than an effort by an Italian filmmaker to cash in on the success of DAWN OF THE DEAD. And while it lacks both the social commentary and the likable characters that made DAWN such a success, it still manages to work as a fine piece of zombie cinema. Maybe it's the film's utter lack of pretension, or it's obvious low budget origins, but whatever it is, ZOMBIE is a flick well worth seeking out. Grab this one, call over a few friends, and get ready to be entertained.

Four Shriek Girls

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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