ZOMBIE~ Lucio Fulci, 1979 – Italy
As of 2015, zombies are super, super boring. That well is dry, there’s nothing left to harvest, the market is flooded with garbage, and we really need to move on to something else. Let’s do werewolves for a while, or something, anything else. We can come back to zombies in like, fifteen years, because honestly, I cannot handle Zombieland 2, you guys. Please, don’t make me do it.
Actually, it’s worth pointing out that this has happened before, this is the third time that Western pop culture has been just gaga for friggin’ zombies. It’s super ironic, zombie movies rise up, become overwhelmingly numerous, die off, lay dormant for a few decades, only to rise and repeat the cycle again. I guess everything sorta does that… But anyway, this most recent cycle has been pretty lame overall, so if you count yourself as a zombie fan, it would be a good idea to go back and check out some of the classics from previous eras. Assuming you’ve seen the three original George Romero Dead films (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead,) this one right here would be my recommend for the next zombie flick you need to see. For more, check out this list I published some time ago for a couple extra recommends.
Released initially as an unofficial sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (which was called Zombie, or ZOMBI in Europe), Zombie (AKA Zombi 2) is a damn masterpiece. This was a better time for horror film in general, especially in Europe, where Italy and Spain really seemed to have the market cornered on trashy splatter films for a few years, some of which didn’t even suck. Zombie is one such film, and it truly is enjoyably gruesome, so much so, in fact, that it wound up on the U.K. Video Nasites hit list back in the 1980’s. Never fear, however, nowadays the movie is widely unavailable in it’s raw, uncut glory, so grab yourself a copy and stick it to the Queen of England for trying to keep rad movies out of the hands of the peasantry.
THE PLOT~ When a seemingly abandoned yacht drifts into The New York City Harbor, police make a grisly discovery which kicks off an island hopping adventure for a Newspaper reporter (played by Ian McCulloch) and the daughter of a missing scientist (played by Tisa Farrow.) Along the way, they’ll face many challenges, including an endless legion mindless, man-eating corpses, possessed of an unstoppable urge to kill, as well as the formidable winds of the open sea, which threaten to undermine the complex infrastructure of Ian McCulloch’s elaborate comb-over hair-do.
Looks good, bro.
The movie is awesome start to finish, but it does have several especially well known sequences in it, two of which I think are worth mentioning here. Firstly, this movie features Fulci’s most infamous eye gouging scene ever, which, believe it or not, is a pretty prestigious accolade, because Fulci really liked to fuck people’s eyeballs up in his movies. He seemed to understand that folks really got super freaked out by that sort of thing, so anytime he wanted to make an audience to squirm even more than usual, eyeball destruction was one of his favorite go-to resources. Awesome. This one is pretty gnarly, and the British censors really didn’t like it. It’s a true highlight.
That scene is pretty great, but the second sequence I want to mention is more than great, it’s the stuff of legend. I’m going to break it down for you:
So, to start with, it takes place on a boat, far out in the ocean. We have not yet found our mysterious island, so there’s some tension built into the sequence from the beginning; Will we locate our destination? Will we not? Then, for reasons I do not remember and which are not at all important, it is decided that one of our female characters is going to go for a dive, and she’s going to do this wearing almost no clothing whatsoever. I take great care not to appear sexists in my writing, but if we are being candid, a huge cross section of Zombie’s audience is going to respond to that in a pretty favorable way, so it’s for sure worth a mention. Anyway, so we’ve got our mostly naked lady swimming around in this cool tropical, ocean setting, and then holy shit, suddenly there’s a big ol’ shark zooming up on her! She’s super scared, one minute she’s just swimming around, minding her own business, and the next, a freakin’ shark shows up. So far so good, right? Well, friends, it ain’t over yet. While hiding amongst a rad reef, hoping to escape the hungry snout of her menacing aquatic adversary, our frightened scuba-diving nudist happens upon another terrifying denizen of the deep; a mother fucking underwater zombie!!! We don’t know how this guy got down here, or how many other aqua zombies might be lurking about, but we do know one thing; Zombie is a film in which there is a sequence that features all of the following elements simultaneously:
A) An attractive, topless woman
B) A fucking shark
C) A damn zombie, who is underwater for some reason.
And it’s a real shark! It might even be a real zombie, honestly, I wouldn’t put it past them. And they fight! You should all be ordering Zombie Blu Rays off of Amazon.com right now, even if you already own Zombie on Blu Ray. If you’re not, it’s safe to say that you and I will never truly be able to understand one another, though I am willing to try. This is, almost definitely, the single best use of the motion picture medium ever in human history, and if you cry a little bit the first time you watch it, please, don’t be embarrassed, that’s a perfectly natural reaction.
Plus, the rest of the movie is also super, super awesome. Zombie is a high water mark from the “Yes I’m grumpy, but I still give a shit” phase of Fulci’s career, so the production is quite competent, and even artfully executed at times. It features excellent photography, impressive special effects (for the late 70’s), a boss-ass theme song, and more than enough graphic, zombie related violence to please any seasoned horror fan who hasn’t already seen this movie two thousand times (assuming that someone like that even exists.)
Really, the only thing about this full blown super-classic that I can say which isn’t straight-up, glowing praise is that I have shown the film to lots of people before, and I am sometimes surprised when it fails to hold their interest. For many mainstream, American cinema-goers, the pacing and trappings of Euro-cinema can often prove challenging in unexpected ways. If you’re not used to this style of film, you may find yourself getting bored, though I cannot fathom how. For fans of Euro-sleaze, however, Zombie carries my highest recommendation, and I even encourage less seasoned zombie enthusiasts to give it a try. Truthfully, if you think you like zombies, you should WANT to see this.