Hi everybody, I’m back. I survived the two exceedingly hot days in NYC and I survived today’s less-hot day. Sadly, I have a summer cold that feels like the superflu, so my posts (And emails and life) have been delayed a bit. I watched this movie about a week ago, wrote a draft of what I was going to write about and now I’m finally feeling like I have the attention span to type this puppy up. I’m really glad, actually, because I love this movie.
Lucio Fulci’s 1979 release Zombie aKa Zombi 2 is the first Fulci movie that I ever saw that wasn’t chopped up and recut for American audiences. A friend in college showed it to me and it absolutely blew my mind. Up until then, I was only familiar with Romero’s zombies and Seven Doors of Death, the American cut of The Beyond. Zombies scared me a lot. The zombies were so much more desiccated than Romero’s undead and the ending was so much more hopeless. By the way, there are spoilers ahead. I just like the ending of this movie so much, I had to post a screen cap. So, onward to plot!
A boat drifts into N.Y. Harbor. The harbor patrol investigates and are attacked by a huge, bald zombie (Played by an uncredited Captain Haggerty, t.v.’s “Mr. Clean.”)
Investigative reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch) is ordered to investigate by his editor, played by Lucio Fulci in a cameo.
He meets Anne Bolt (Tisa Farrow), the daughter of the ship’s owner.
Anne’s father has been working on the remote island but she hasn’t heard from him in months. She decides to go to the island of Matool with Peter.
Bryan (Al Cliver) and Susan (Auretta Gay) take Anne and Peter to the remote island on their boat. They find the desolate island under siege by a plague.
Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson), her father’s colleague, tells Anne that her father succumbed to the plague that kills people and then causes them to rise from the dead. The natives think it’s voodoo but Dr. Menard thinks there’s a scientific explanation.
The group finds Dr. Menard’s wife, Paola (Olga Karlatos), dead with a big old splinter in her eye and zombies eating her corpse. They make their way back to the hospital and are picked off one by one. Susan’s bit while sitting on the grave of a conquistador. Bryan’s bit by Susan and eventually, Anne and Peter are the only survivors. They take Bryan’s ship and lock Bryan in the bilge, as proof of what they’ve witnessed. They turn the radio on as they head out to open ocean and hear that zombies have overtaken the city of New York. The movie ends with the amazing shot of zombies crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.
That is one over-the-top ending. That’s part of the reason I love Fulci. I watch an Argento film when I want something lyrical and slightly abstract, I watch Romero when I want social commentary, and I watch Fulci when I want something weird and gross. I like to watch the trailers of the movies I watch, especially the international trailers versus the U.S. trailers. The U.S. Zombie trailer cracked me up because it has this warning.
Yup, that pretty much sums it up. This movie does have some crazy moments. If you haven’t seen Zombie yet, you may have heard of it as the movie where a topless woman is scuba-diving and is attacked by an underwater zombie. She escapes and then the zombie attacks a shark. Yes, this is that movie.
I always laugh when I hear people say they’d go to an island to escape from zombies. They don’t need to breathe, they could probably survive underwater and just wander back on land as long as they didn’t become to decomposed.
The movie also has what would become Fulci’s signature, an intensely close-up shot of someone getting stabbed in the eye.
Interestingly, the movie was originally called Zombi 2 to make it seem like a sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which was called Zombi in Europe. I find that interesting because, as I said earlier, Fulci and Romero are two very different directors.
I love the way the movie is bookended by the ghost ship at the beginning and the ship returning to N.Y.C. at the end. The boat at the end may as well be a ghost ship, it has a zombie on board and it’s heading back to a dead city.
Isolation is an interesting theme in the movie. Matool has this dusty loneliness that reminds me of Schweick’s painting at the end of The Beyond. The hospital, that used to be a church, is clearly in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by dense vegetation. Dr. Menard’s estate is also very isolated. There’s absolutely no way for these people to get help, short of leaving the island.
A theme of decay also runs through the movie. The hospital looks like a strong wind would knock it over. The corpses in the movie are also incredibly desiccated. It’s not just the recently deceased who are returning, everyone who was buried on the island seems to be returning, as long as they have enough flesh to be mobile.
Honestly, upon rewatching the movie, I’m trying to figure out if this movie is racist. The inhabitants of the island are portrayed as goofy and child-like. This may be due to the dubbing, though. The version I saw was the Blue Underground release that had an Italian language version, with no English subtitles, and an English dubbed version. On the other hand, the natives were right about the plague. They knew that science wasn’t going to be able to fix it and to just get out of the way. So I’m turn by this issue and left deeply uncomfortable.
The music in the movie is amazing. It was done by Fabio Frizzi, who would later do the music for The Beyond. Zombie has one of the creepiest themes I’ve ever heard of, a combination of heartbeat-like drumming, synth lines, and moaning. The music also has increasingly frenzied tribal drumming as the movie progresses. The foley artist must have had fun with this movie because the sound effects are some of the grossest I’ve ever heard. When a zombie bites a victim, it sounds like they’re really being bit.
The movie has some jump scares but it’s also scary because of its level of gore. I liked the occasional shifts of point-of-view. Fulci sometimes used shots from the point-of-view of the zombies in the jungle and that made the movie feel very tense at parts. Plus, there’s the fact that the corpses are very decomposed and very gross.
So this movie lived up to being as scary as I remembered it. That’s always a pleasure. While the movie doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense, it’s definitely worth watching, especially if you want to contrast European zombie movies with American zombie movies.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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