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John’s Horror Corner: Zombie (1979; aka Zombi 2), Lucio Fulci’s gory Italian zombie movie honoring Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978).

July 1, 2018

MY CALL:  It’s not Romero, but it remains an excellent and classic zombie film worthy of any true horror fan’s time. Enjoy the gore and the honor clearly placed upron Romero’s work.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Zombie: Easily the best choice is Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). Fans of Fulcian gore may continue with City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981).

Riding in on George Romero’s undead coattails, director Lucio Fulci (Manhattan Baby, Aenigma) brings us Voodoo zombies rising from the grave in gloriously gory fashion. Originally released as Zombi 2, a follow-up to Zombie (the Italian release title for Dawn of the Dead), this film changes the “when Hell is full the dead will walk the Earth” premise while preserving Romero’s beloved atmosphere.

After her father disappears in the Antilles and his zombie-passengered yacht appears in a NYC harbor, Anne (Tisa Farrow; Anthropophagus) teams up with reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch; Alien Contamination, Zombie Holocaust) to investigate his disappearance. With the aid of Brian’s (Al Cliver; Demonia, 2020 Texas Gladiators) boat, they sail to the cursed island of his disappearance.

On this Caribbean island, Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson; The Haunting, Screamers) is researching the origin and possible cure for this undead epidemic. In a most uniquely forgivable (and very long) gratuitous nudity scene, this film features a sexy naked scuba-diving (Auretta Gay) session that turns into a dangerous shark encounter and then a marine zombie attack culminating in zombie versus shark. Talk about a novel way to introduce your protagonists to your zombies! But not all the gratuitous nudity in this film is so tactful. We have the typical shower scene fare as well because… uhhhh… more boobs! Right?

Consolations with the budget are apparent, but I appreciate where they aimed their efforts and it’s all quite satisfying! Crud-covered zombies leave messy wounds, rended latex flesh and rich (bright thick red paint-colored) spurts of blood. The zombies themselves often look like they took a Savannah mud bath before wandering to their fresh-fleshed fare and digging their hands into piles of intestinal offal (aka, Mrs. Menard LOL).

After the zombie-shark attack, perhaps the most famous and iconic (and gruesome) scene in this film is the eye gauge. During a struggle a zombie breaks through a wooden-blinded door and grabs the victim’s head, pulling her toward the door and its now splintered shudders. The wooden shard slowly approaches and (also slowly AND on-screen) sinks deeply into her eye and head! Wow! Some of the bite wounds and zombie head wounds are shockingly awesome as well.

Of all the cheap spin-offs and copycat filmmakers in the wake of Romero’s zombie trilogy, Lucio Fulci managed to add value to the genre with this fun (but never funny), gory, well-paced chapter of an ongoing zombie apocalypse that started with Romero’s small scale house siege by a cemetery, expanded across America with consumerism allegory bringing us to a mall siege, and now (through a new filmmaker’s eyes) we see how it affects a remote Caribbean nation. And whereas the dialogue and ancillary characters’ beliefs point to Voodoo as the cause of the walking dead, such rituals performed amid Romero’s world (in which zombies rise indiscriminately) could readily be perceived as the work of Voodoo instead of Hell hitting maximum holding capacity. Were I to insert this into Romero’s existing trilogy timeline, I’d place this during or even before the events of Night of the Living Dead (1968), leading into the much larger scale Zompocalypse of Dawn of the Dead (1978).

Highly satisfying to gorehounds and horror “film” critics alike, this is for Romero fans, zombie movie fans, and old school practical effects fans. I’d even contest this to be Fulci’s greatest work. The actors were better than the genre could expect at the time (as was the case in Dawn of the Dead) and the effects team stretched every dollar to its maximum (splatter) potential befitting Fulci’s vision. If you’re still reading and haven’t seen this film, please just buy it… right now.

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