Back in the late 70’s George A. Romeo’s iconic sequel Dawn of the Dead (1978) premiered to raving reviews along with a huge cult following. In order to capitalize off the success of Romeo’s classic, Italian Horror Director Lucio Fulci created what is known as the unofficial sequel to DOTD. Ironically, the film was written before Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy, as some action/adventure thriller with no link whatsoever to George A. Romero’s films.
However, Fulci had raised the bar with Zombie, that consists of “Grindhouse”- fare thanks to exploitative scenes from splattering of brains, eye- and throat- gouging, a downbeat ending and there’s actress, Auretta Gay sporting the smallest thong in cinematic history. (Oh, mah Dayuuuummmm!)
Zombie aka Zombi 2 and Zombie Flesheaters had distanced itself from DOTD by avoiding the kooky comical pitfalls and instead providing a more serious tone (no throwing pies in the face of blue colored Zombies.) The make-up and gore effects had distanced Zombie from its “predecessor” and as of recent, the Walking Dead’s Zombies are comprised of decomposed flesh eaters. The makeup effects from Zombie are courtesy of the renowned Giannetto De Rossi, has set the standard for the Zombie genre whether its cinema, Videogames or television. It’s apparently obvious that Fulci wasn’t referred to as the “Godfather of Gore” for nothing!
The film’s plot involves the protagonist, Ann (Played by Tisa Farrow) who goes on a quest to unravel the mysterious death of her father, after a Police Officer was killed by a Zombie when investigating a Boat approaching the NYC Harbor. Ann is then joined by British newspaper journalist Peter, Seafarers Bryan and his girlfriend, Susan who was involved in some of the more “memorable” scenes of the Movie. This investigation leads to a fateful voyage to the Caribbean island of Matul. And that’s where all hell breaks loose!
Despite the farfetched Shark/Zombie fight, Fulci’s seminal classic had a great amount of memorable scares and one in particular is when the group walks into the Doctor’s cottage only to find his wife, Paola, being served as the main course of a flesh-eating banquet. I couldn’t believe that damn Fulci went there! Talk about nightmares on end after seeing this movie. I wonder if there was a “Zombie V Shark” feature in a “Making of”- documentary that was released with the 2-Disc DVD set a few years back.
Unfortunately, all I have is practically a bare bones Blu-ray featuring trailers, commentary by Ian McCullough and a very disappointing introduction by Guillermo Del Toro which didn’t serve as a decent foreword to the Film. And as game-changing as the Zombie v Shark scene was, I have to give props to Paola’s terrifying eye splinter scene. Here you see this beautiful naked Woman (Olga Karlatos) emerging from her shower, barricading herself from a Zombie only to have a chunk of splinter take out her socket and we all knew what occurred afterwards.
The soundtrack was like nothing I have heard; it is comprised of an eerie synth Music accompanied with a few drum beats to capture the Voodoo vibe. The main theme i often used especially when the party of four are ambushed by Zombies. You can feel the sense of dread and hopelessness from Fabio Frizzi’s groundbreaking soundtrack. The pacing of the film hardly disappoints as the story provides a familiar explanation of how the Zombies came to exist; Voodoo. Or as Dr Manard’s assistant Lucas would say;
“The Earth will spit out the dead to feed on the living.”
The Zombies consisted of the locals afflicted with the mysterious disease and a few corpses risen from a Spanish Conquistador Graveyard. Like I said, the pace never lets up. As there are constant frightening moments and the final showdown is reminiscent of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 however, not without a few casualties.
And just when you thought the surviving protagonists would sail off into the Sunset after escaping the horrific Island of Matul, things had taken a turn for the much worse!!
Zombie‘s critical reaction and success had put Fulci on the map and after viewing my Blu-ray copy, the movie has aged well and it’s still scary as all fuck! From the haunting score to copious amounts of gore, Zombie rocks! Zombie, without a doubt, is the first and best of Fulci’s Supernatural Dead Trilogy (The Beyond and City of the Dead). I remember seeing this movie in Times Square NYC during the early 80’s and as a kid, it scared the living shit out of me!! According to box office returns, Zombi 2 grossed higher in the domestic Italian box office than its “predecessor”, Dawn of the Dead.
So if you happen to be sick and tired of watching soap operas mixed with Zombies or fucked up franchises like PWSA’s Resident Evil, skip those for now and treat yourself to a viewing of this Cult classic.
“You’ll eat it up”!
Who was Lucio Fulci?
Unless you’re not a true Horror aficionado, allow me to elaborate. Italian Film director, screenwriter, producer and Godfather of Gore- Lucio Fulci was born Rome Italy 1927 and started his career initially as both an art critic and screenwriter. After his comedy films failed to capture a huge demographic, he then move toward the thriller genre and in retrospect, it was a smart move since his most bankable horror films had put him on the map starting with Zombie-then City of the Living Dead and more notably, The Beyond.
Two of Fulci’s Film signatures were violent scenes involving the eye and leaving a protagonist couple to an uncertain fate. (I.e. Zombie, City of the Living Dead and The Beyond.) Although Lucio considered himself a Catholic, there were scenes in his film that garnered a controversial backlash from Catholic groups (Never Torture a Duckling and City of the Living Dead).
During the early 80’s Fulci’s career ran into many snags as his Films (post Living dead trilogy) were poorly received and to make matters worse, he was suffering from Hepatitis and Diabetes. Although many considered Fulci on the same level as Dario Argento , there were speculations that Fulci was resentful of Argento’s well received fame at the time. Years later, the two Directors agreed to collaborate for a remake of The House of Wax (Wax Mask). Note: It was Argento’s idea to help Fulci make a comeback especially since he was under dire financial circumstances. Fulci had written a plot synopsis and provided a screenplay for Argento. Unfortunately, Lucio had died from diabetic complications prior to filming Wax Mask.
In 1998 The Beyond was re-released in theaters courtesy of Quentin Tarantino who is a fan of Fulci’s movies and paid homage to him in Kill Bill and Planet Terror. Fulci had no idea that his Films had a huge cult following outside of Italy until he attended a “Fangoria” horror convention in NYC (circa January 1996). He was treated with royalty as thousands of Fans flocked to meet him during a major snowstorm at the time.
Here’s to you, Fulc.