Zombi 2 aka Zombie (1979)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay, Stefania D’Amario, Olga Karlatos, Dakar, Franco Fantasia
1/2 (out of 4)
He hates mornings, but the early bird gets the worms.
There was a time when I considered Zombie one of Lucio Fulci’s better efforts but I no longer hold that opinion. Not that I think the film is bad, but I just find it about on par with his other movies like The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, etc. It’s consistent with his other work of the period, and by that I mean consistently cheesy, consistently gory, and consistently dumb. Zombie (called Zombi 2 in Italy because the studio tried to pass it off as a “sequel” to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which was titled Zombi over there) is actually the most straightforward in terms of plotting and movie-logic – woman’s dad goes missing, trail leads to desert island where zombies run rampant, victims must band together to defeat them and escape the island. Never a fan of subtlety, Fulci fills the time with gore money-shots and in-your-face jungle music (because, you know, this is an island with natives who believe in voodoo!) The result is another zombie derivative that delivers the gore of a Romero flick while trying to take the genre back to old school roots (I Walked with a Zombie, Voodoo Island, Isle of the Dead, The Plague of the Zombies, etc.). While slow in the middle, and filled with idiot characters, it has enough boobs and blood to make for a decent time passer. However, like lots of Fulci output, the parts tend to be greater than the whole.
She’s thinking about all the fun Mia must be having…
Mia Farrow’s doe-eyed sister Tisa plays Anne Bowles, whose dad’s boat drifts into New York Harbor with a big fat stowaway zombie played by an uncredited Captain Haggerty, who takes a chunk of flesh out of the neck of an unfortunate member of NYC’s finest. Ian McCulloch plays Peter West, a British reporter (his uncle bought the paper, LOL) who has a meet-cute with Anne on the boat, where they have to pretend to be necking so an idiot cop won’t arrest them (the dialogue seems improvised but I found it funny). An ominous letter from dad sends the pair to St. Thomas and then it’s off to the island of Matool, where Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson) has been trying to figure out the cause of a zombie epidemic, which the locals attribute to voodooism and bad juju. Giving them a lift is Brian (Al Cliver, aka Pierluigi Conti) and his girlfriend Susan (Auretta Gay) who decides to bare her chest and go for a dive where she has unfortunate run-ins with both a shark and an underwater zombie. The ensuing fight between the zombie and the shark is most likely an attempt to get a Jaws reference in a zombie film, but I have to admit that it’s the best shark/zombie fight I have ever seen in a movie. (One of the many questions you’ll have at the end of Zombi 2 is whether that shark is a zombie now.) In addition to that famous scene, there’s the wince-inducing sequence where Dr. Menard’s wife (the gorgeous Olga Karlatos) takes a shower before having a zombie drive a wood splinter through her eye.
The zombies know Matthew 7:5 very well.
There’s not much else to Zombie, really, but Fulci’s zombies look great and the man knows how to frame them. The score by Fabio Frizzi is also very effective. This is helpful because the characters in this film have intelligence slightly one step above that of the undead they are fighting. Some of them literally have no sense of self-preservation, many times just standing there waiting for an oncoming ghoul to bite them. I swear, in one scene Mia Farrow literally bares her neck before one, like it was Dracula. You might argue that this was Fulci’s sly reference to said vampire, but I’m not convinced he could ever be that subtle. It’s best not to discuss the inability of our characters to shoot zombies in the head (see also: The Beyond). I have to admit that the great Ian McCulloch helps save the day here, much as he does in Contamination. I’m not sure if McCulloch (like Richard Johnson, like Christopher George) ever thought he would end up doing gory Italian horror flicks, but life is funny like that. McCulloch and Johnson use their acting chops to elevate the film (in comparison, poor Tisa Farrow goes through it with this dazed-and-confused look) while Sergio Salvati’s cinematography is as good looking as his work on the Gates of Hell trilogy. You’ll also get the Fulci trademarks – silly dialogue (one cop says “If that boat’s abandoned, we stand to make a nice little bonus if we bring her in!“. What? Why?), eye violence (and who else to perform it on than Olga Karlatos, with those beautifully expressive peepers of hers), and blood-spurts that look like broken faucets. Don’t think for a second Zombi 2 has anything going on underneath (like, say, Romero’s first trilogy); it’s a mostly silly exercise in exploitation that is best known for its sequences of gore-porn. Despite that, I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity for a brew-n-view with a beer and a willing audience.
- Bill Gordon
The 6th and 8th avenue lines must be closed for repairs today.
There are different versions of Zombie/Zombi 2 out there: there’s the Blue Underground Blu-Ray (2 disc), another Blue Underground Blu-Ray (1 disc), a Blue Underground DVD (2 disc), another Blue Underground DVD (1 disc), and a Media Blasters/Shriek Show DVD (2 disc set under the Italian title Zombi 2). I personally own the Shriek Show version, which has an amusing interview with Captain Haggerty (who passed away in 2006) and an audio commentary by McCulloch (who is literally speechless after watching the eye-splinter scene). There’s a second disc filled with bonus material, including a feature-length documentary (“Building A Better Zombie“) on the making of the movie, with lots of interviews and insights on the origins of the film, the special effects, screenplay, sound effects, and more. There’s also “An Evening With Dakar” which features Dakar on guitar and a group of trailers for zombie movies available on Shriek Show: Bio Zombie, Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, Zombi 3, Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, Flesh Eater, Zombie 4: After Death, Flesh for the Beast, Zombie Holocaust, and Zombie 5: Killing Birds.
Zombi 2 was called Zombie Flesh Eaters in the United Kingdom. When it was released on video uncut, it became an infamous “video nasty.” By 2005 it was officially removed from the list of obscene publications. You can get it as part of the DVD set Video Nasties – The Definitive Guide.