Next fright film in my series is Zombie(1980), an Italian film by director Lucio Fulci, who also brought us The Beyond and The Gates of Hell. First, a little back story. When Dawn of the Dead(1979) by George Romero came out in Italy, it was titled Zombi. The Italians, known for cranking out 'sequels' and copies of popular films back in the day, put out a film titled Zombi 2, in an attempt to tie it in with the successful Romero film. Zombi 2 wasn't a sequel or continuation on the Romwero Dead films, even though it had flesh-eating walking dead and an apocolyptic atmosphere. To avoid confusion, when it was released stateside it was simply titled Zombie. I remember the simple yet effective ad line for this movie..."WE ARE GOING TO EAT YOU".
Our story starts with a boat floating into New York. There's no one on board...except for a zombie, as the police discover. The undead fellow is shot and falls overboard. The daughter of the man who owns the boat goes to the island he was last seen at to find out what happened to him. What happened is that the island is plagued with the living dead, who like to feast upon the living. Things get very bad very fast, and like most European horror
films of the 70's and 80's, no one is guaranteed to make it out alive.
I really like this film a lot...it's no citizen kane, to be sure, but it's one helluva good exploitation/horror flick. You know you're watching an Italian horror film when you see a) a naked woman go diving, and b)said naked woman is set upon underwater by a shark and a zombie, who proceed to attack each other. You just don't see this kind of stuff in a Spielberg movie, or a Hollywood-made, PG-13 'horror' movie like what's been foisted upon us fans in the last several years. Another thing you won't see in these types of movies, but will see in Zombie, is gore-and lots of it. If you have a weak stomach for cinematic violence, stay far away from this one, folks. There's ascene where a gal falls for the old hand-through-the-door trick, but with a twist...the zombie who has a handful of her hair pulls her face ever closer to a sharp shard of wood sticking out of the door, slowly impaling her eye on it. Nasty stuff. Add to this numerous zombies biting people, eating peoples' innards by the handful, and zombies getting shot in the head or cracked on the cranium with assorted blunt objects, and you have the kind of film that gives the Moral Majority nightmares for months.
The film has a downbeat, doomed feel to it that belies it's initial sunnyisland setting early on in the proceedings. The protagonists soon find that they're trapped on a very bad island, and escaping the island may not be the salvation they had hoped for. The film's score is pretty cool, too, with the 'Zombie Theme", a simple beat with a creepy, 80's synthesizer playing over it. I want to get that as a ringtone for my phone. The zombie make-ups are some of the best of that particular era, for my money. They look appropriately rotted, and most are thin and decayed-looking, with the exception of the boat zombie at the film's start, who is a bit on the heavy side. The gore effects are wet and nasty as well. Acting, well, is hit-and-miss here, as it is with most films of this nature, but it can be overlookedfor the most part.
If you're looking for a simple, gory fright film that goes for the throat(literally), then Zombie is the one for you.