Oct 23, 2013
The very first Italian film I ever saw—be it exploitation or otherwise—was Zombi 2 (1979) aka Zombie aka Zombie Flesh Eaters aka Woodoo directed by Guido “Godfather of Gore” (fuck hokey Hebrew Herschell!) Lucio Fulci (A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, City of the Living Dead). Before actually watching it, I had almost mystical expectations for Zombi 2, especially after hearing about the iconic scene where an aquatic flesheater battles a shark, so naturally I was a little bit let down when I actually saw the film for the first time some 15+ years ago and realized how poorly directed and nonsensical it was, but since then it has grown on me like an old battle scar such that I have developed a strange sort of sentimentality for it as the years have passed. One of a number of films that proved that Italians are the only people in the world that can make cinematic rip-offs that are better than the originals, Zombi 2, which was titled simply as ‘Zombie’ in the United States, was released as an ostensible sequel to George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978), which was known as Zombi in Italy. Apparently lifting scenes and dialogue straight from Dawn of the Dead, Zombi 2, despite being a work titled to cash in on another film, is especially interesting in that it deconstructs what Romero revolutionized with Night of the Living Dead (1968) in its reintroduction of the black voodoo angle which was quite typical of pre-Romero flesheater flicks like the first feature-length zombie film ever made, White Zombie (1932) directed by Victor Halperin and starring Béla Lugosi. A pleasantly putrid postcolonial celluloid guts-and-gore-fest featuring worm-infested zombie Spanish Conquistadors and pale black flesheaters descended from the African slave trades (although, despite being set on a mostly black island, most of the zombies are actually white!), Zombi 2 is a vaguely intertextual zombie flick that derives a great amount of its fright factor if looked at as a depiction of negro spiritual revenge for slavery and forcing civilization on the uncivilized (the fact that one of the main characters, Dr. Menard, is irked that he cannot figure out a scientific reason for zombification is symbolic of this 'revolt against civilization'). Indeed, in its great cliffhanger ending (Zombi 2 would work better as a prequel to Dawn of the Dead) where the zombies begin invading New York City—a place that prides itself in taking in rabble from the darkest and most primitive spheres of the earth—Zombi 2 has aged surprisingly quite well since its release over four decades ago, as not only has America been drastically degenerated into a third world shithole, especially where urban areas are concerned, but the American populous itself has turned more and more zombie-like, hence the popularity of flesheaters nowadays as a sort of biting reflection of humanity as a whole. Like Night of the Living Dead set on a tropical island with slight influence from H. G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau and White Zombie, Zombi 2, which was written by Fulci's longtime collaborator Dardano Sacchetti (1990: The Bronx Warriors, Manhattan Baby) and his wife Elisa Briganti, is a work that features almost intolerable histrionic acting, a shockingly juvenile and oftentimes nonsensical script, glaringly bad dubbing and a conspicuously culturally mongrelized cast comprised of people who could not even communicate with one another in real-life, yet it is also an undeniable masterpiece of quasi-exploitation zombie scenes with some of the most classic and iconic gore, makeup, music, death scenes and—most importantly—zombies in film history as a work that truly proves that Italians do it better, especially when it comes to agreeable cinematic trash of the superlatively sleazy sort. The film that made director Lucio Fulci a maestro of the macabre and an international superstar auteur of sleazy schlock cinema that was followed by important works like City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981), The House by the Cemetery (1981), The Black Cat (1981), The New York Ripper (1982) and Manhattan Baby (1982), Zombi 2 is and will always be, if nothing else, a rite of passage for any serious and self-respecting horror fan.
An abandoned yacht of the seemingly yuppie sort is floating around a New York City harbor, so two Harbor Patrol officers board the ship to investigate and one of them is in for a surprise when a bloated zombie that resembles a sort of rotting Fat Albert bites the flesh out of the officer’s neck thereupon instantly killing the man in blue, so the remaining cop shoots the undead being and the grotesque bulky beast falls in the ocean and simply disappears. Not long after, a beauteous babe named Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow), whose doctor father owned the phantom yacht and apparently left town to do some research on a tropical island, is questioned by the police regarding her daddy, who is nowhere to be found, thus inspiring her to do her own investigation. Meanwhile, semi-sleazy English newspaper reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch), who for whatever reason thinks he has the refined wit of Oscar Wilde, is asked by his editor (played by Fulci in a cameo role) to investigate the bourgeois ghost ship and when he does, he bumps into Anne, who he admits he has been stalking for some time at the behest of his boss. While getting to know one another on the boat in what will ultimately evolve into an aborted romance, Anne and Peter discover a note written by the girl’s father stating he is on the island of Matool (Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands) and that he contracted some strange undiagnosed disease, so the two strangers decide to head there. Upon arriving in the tropics, Anne and Peter bump into two sexy seafaring strangers, Bryan Curt (Al Cliver aka Pier Luigi Conti) and Susan Barrett (Auretta Gay) and the two join them on a pseudo-erotic exotic adventure that recalls Ruggero Deodato’s Waves of Lust (1975), which Mr. blond Nordic Guido Al Cliver also starred in. Unbeknownst to the four beautiful yet one-dimensional characters whose existences are ultimately trivial when it comes to the sleazy cinematic majesty that is Zombi 2, Matool is a perturbingly primitive island ridden with disease and death, especially of the walking dead sort, which has been assumedly cursed by voodoo slave magic. An atheistic physician at the local Christian mission, Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson), is determined to figure out why the negro natives, as well as partners, are dropping like flies and becoming reanimated into cannibalistic creatures, but his boldly bitchy yet nonetheless beauteous young wife Paola (Olga Karlatos) is determined to leave for obvious reasons. On their way to Matool, Susan decides to go topless scuba diving while wearing nothing but a thong of the ass-flossing sort and while under water she is approached by a shark, but luckily a predatory zombie, who can swim faster than most undead ghouls can walk, appears from nowhere and battles the sea beast, ironically saving the little lass' life in the process in what is easily one of the most iconic and irritatingly absurd scenes of Zombi 2.
Rather unfortunately, Mernard’s seemingly sexually repressed wife Paola is not so lucky because after a zombie plays peeping tom on her while she is in the shower, she is soon attacked and has her eye pierced when a zombie pulls her head into a large splintered piece of wood. The next day, aside from losing his much younger wife to cannibalistic corpses (which he has yet to discover), Mernard has the luxury of shooting his friend Matthias (Franco Fantasia) in the head after he turns into a zombie. Eventually Anne and her new friends arrive at Matool and she tells Mernard about her sob story regarding her father. When the group heads to Mernard’s cozy mansion, they discover the body of Paolo being dined on by a motley crew of reanimated corpses, but luckily they make a hasty escape, only to crash their jeep on the way out, which causes Peter to injure his leg. While resting in the jungle, Anne examines Peter’s leg and the two eventually begin to finally makeout after flirting for the entire film, but they make the unwitting mistake of getting down and dirty over the graves of Spanish Conquistadors, whose gorgeously grotesque corpses rise from the earth and immediately star feeding on human meat. While Anne merely has her hair pulled and Peter has his leg grabbed by the antiquated corpses, Susan is not as lucky as she becomes petrified at the sight of the zombies and essentially does not put a fight with the Conquistador corpse, ultimately being ripped to shreds in the process. Eventually, Matool becomes totally overrun by wobbling corpses, so the survivors barricade themselves in Mernard’s backwards mission hospital in a Night of the Living Dead-esque fashion. Naturally, the zombies bombard the hospital and break in, killing Mernard while he is looking for bullets. Stunned at seeing his girlfriend Susan in postmortem yet mobile zombie form, Bryan fails to fight back against his undead girlfriend and is bitten, thus contracting the cursed contagion. Anne, Peter, and infected Bryan manage to escape Matool via their yacht, but little do they realize what awaits them back at civilization. Of course, Bryan eventually turns into a zombie and Peter decides against Anne’s wishes to keep him locked in a secure boat room to prove to people back home about the zombie nemesis, but the journalist’s efforts prove to be in vain as NYC is already crawling with zombies as the ungodly epidemic has reached global proportions, thus basically superficially concluding where Dawn of the Dead begins.
Featuring pretty morons who go on romantic rendezvous in graveyards despite zombie epidemics, zombies who can barely walk but make great swimmers and underwater shark hunters, and centuries old Spanish Conquistadors that are still somehow rotting and fresh with worms, among various other absurd and nonsensical moments that transcend simple ‘movie magic,’ Zombi 2 is undoubtedly celluloid trash of the sickenly stupid sort, yet it is suavely stylized trash with charisma and ‘class’ that indisputably proves that sometimes style and sensationalism can reign over substance as a work that ultimately belongs to the best that the zombie horror subgenre has to offer. Featuring more (meat)balls than brains and more guts than sagaciousness, Zombi 2 is half-ass exploitation horror cinema done right as the sort of cinematic equivalent to going on a haunted house amusement park ride with a high-talian hooker. Thankfully, missing the moronically simple leftwing social commentary that plagues George A. Romero’s films, Zombi 2 even goes so far as being politically incorrect, portraying a coroner’s black assistant named James as a bungling buffoon, black islanders as supernatural beings of sorts who can sense evil as if they have some special animal sense, and women as hopelessly helpless and hysterical perennial victims who do not even have the sense to run when a zombie is slowly approaching them. Once described by its Scottish star Ian McCulloch in an interview as being, “a very silly and horrible film,” Zombi 2 was ultimately more successful at the box office than the film it ripped off, Dawn of the Dead, even spawning four unrelated and ultimately worthless sequels (only of one these, Zombi 3 (1988) aka Zombie Flesh Eaters 2, was an ‘official’ sequel and was directed by Fulci, who got sick and could not finish the film), though director Lucio Fulci would go on to be arguably the greatest Italian filmmaker of celluloid horror splatter who has ever lived. Featuring the greatest eye gouging scene since Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou (1929) aka An Andalusian Dog and zombies that are superior to any ever created by George A. Romero, Zombi 2 is, indeed, the ultimate flesheater flick as a work of hypnotic (and never hokey!) zombie horror that refuses to die and rightfully so!
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 9:50 PM
Soiled Sinema 2007 - 2013. All rights reserved. Best viewed in Firefox and Chrome.