Culture Clash celebrates the 40th Anniversary of 1979's Zombie!
Back during the late 70's George A. Romeo's Iconic sequel Dawn of the Dead premiered to raving reviews along with a huge cult following.
In order To capitalize off the success of Romeo's classic, Italian Horror Director Lucio Fulci created what is known as the unofficial sequel or at the very least, a spiritual sequel to Dawn of the Dead, or in Italy, it was referred to as Zombies, ergo the sequel's
Original title, "Zombies 2" .
The plot revolves around the protagonist, Ann Bolwes (Played by Tisa Farrow, yes, Mia's younger sibling!) who attempts to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her father's death.
Sometime after a Police Officer was killed by a Zombie, after investigating a Boat dispatched by Dr. Menard from the Caribbean island of Matool.
Ann is then joined by British Newspaper Journalist Peter, who also wants to get to the bottom of the story, by going to the island. And not to mention how this would boost his career.
To accompany Ann and Peter on what would be an ill-fated voyage, Brian and his Girlfriend, Susan is commissioned as their "tour guides" and as soon as they reach the vicinity of Matool, this is where all Hell, literally breaks loose!
Out of all the successes from Fulci's filmography, it was Zombie, to which the infamous Italian Director, is mostly known for. What would be considered a lowbrow schlock horror film to the uninitiated, would be an instant cult classic in the eyes of so many, as this film had raised the bar thanks to a few gory moments which trumps the Grindhouse films of old.
As far as Zombie being an ambitious film instead of a carbon copy of Romero's opus, this movie deviates into a world of its own.
By that statement, i’m talking about originality, by showing various spine-tingling situations
from an underwater Shark vs Zombie faceoff, eye gouging via door splinter, an action-packed Rio Bravo showdown followed by a very nihilist ending!
And let’s not forget those exploitative moments such as actress, Auretta Gay sporting the smallest thong in cinematic history or the beautiful Olga Karlatos (Purple Rain) emerging from her shower and once she hears a growling sound, barricades herself from the approaching Zombie only to have a chunk of splinter take out her eye socket prior to becoming a Banquet!
And for these examples, I am grateful that Zombie avoided the kooky comical pitfalls found in DOTD and instead, opted for a more serious narrative. (i.e. No Pie throwing at bluish colored Zombies.)
The makeup and gore effects had further distanced Zombie from its "Predecessor” this time the aesthetics of the Walking Dead was comprised of worm bearing, decomposed flesh eaters who set the standard for zombies in cinema, Videogames and television. Fulci wasn't referred to as the Godfather of Gore for nothing.
You wouldn't believe how many nightmares I've experienced as a kid after watching this Movie!
What I own, is practically a bare bones Blu-ray featuring trailers, commentary by Ian McCullough and a very disappointing introduction by Guillermo Del Toro.
The soundtrack was like nothing I have heard back then. Composer Fabio Frizzi's soundtrack comprised of an eerie synthesizer, and what's funny, is that the iconic splinter eye score was inspired by The Beatles' "A Day in the Life"! Who would've thunk it?
The rest of the soundtrack, featured drum beats to capture the Voodoo atmosphere but for the most part, it's pure synth aside from the superb main theme, which was often recycled be it the Shark fight or at times, the dead becoming "unearthed".
Zombie's pacing hardly disappoints as there's a hidden backstory regarding Dr. Menard's futile research and how it provided a familiar explanation of how the Zombies came to exist; by going after the genre's original roots, Voodoo!
Or as Dr Manard’s assistant, Lucas would say; “The Earth will spit out the dead to feed on the living.”
The Zombies ranged from the village locals, who have been afflicted by the mysterious disease or a few reanimated corpses from a Spanish Conquistador Graveyard. When you add in suspense, a fitting soundtrack, impressive cinematography and a buildup leading to the conclusive showdown, that is also reminiscent of John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, Zombie should be seen at least once, for the experience of it all.
As far as the supporting cast goes, it was Brian (Played by Al Cliver) who practically stood out among the others. His dialog referencing the Caribbean slave trade, was a minor history lesson for those not familiar with Man’s biggest atrocity, he also stepped up his game, when helping the others survive but not without a few unfortunate casualties, one costing his own life in what may be viewed as some tragic love story. But not to be shortchanged, Farrow gave acting credibility as Anne, whether it’s her reactions to horrifying scenes, or her sneaking aboard a shipyard Metal Gear Solid style. Of course, her best line was “I feel dead in myself” after the shocking events from Matool.
It was of no surprise, how Zombie's critical reaction (Negative, for the most part) and commercial success helped to put Fulci in the Italian horror spotlight, that was previously focused on Dario Argento. After watching a remastered version, now available on Showtime's streaming app, the movie has aged very well and its still scary as fuck!
Zombie, without a doubt is the first and best of Fulci's unofficial "Dead Trilogy" (The Beyond followed by City of the Dead.) I remember seeing this movie in Times Square NYC during the early 80's and as a Kid, and how I emotionally scarred I became during a period of two Months! Yes, many have experienced Traumatic Stress Disorder, from an accident or abuse , but a fucking horror movie?!?
That, is a testament of the film’s overall lasting effect!
Zombie, while not being the staple of Horror like Night of the Living Dead or even Dawn of the Dead, it maintains its well-deserved reverence and cultural impact till this very day.
"You'll eat it up"!
Zombie is available on Showtime and a remastered edition Blu Ray courtesy of Blue Underground.
Who was Lucio Fulci?
Italian Director and Goremeister Lucio Fulci was born Rome Italy 1927 and started his career initially as both an art critic and screenwriter. After his comedy films failed to capture a huge demographic, he then move toward the thriller genre and in retrospect, it was a smart move since his most bankable Horror films had put him on the map starting with Zombie then City of the Dead and The Beyond.
Two of Fulci’s cinematic signatures were violent scenes involving the eye or leaving protagonists, usually a Man and a Woman with an uncertain fate. (I.e. Zombie, City of the Dead and The Beyond.) Although Lucio considered himself a Catholic, there were scenes in his film that garnered controversial backlash from Catholic groups. (See; Never Torture a Duckling and City of the Dead.)
During the early 80’s Fulci’s career ran into many snags as his Films (Post Living dead/Apocalypse trilogy) were poorly received and to make matters worse, he was suffering from both Hepatitis and Diabetes.
Although many considered Fulci on the same level as Dario Argento , Fulci was resentful of Argento’s well received fame at the time. Years later, the two Directors agreed to collaborate for a remake of The House of Wax (Wax Mask) Note: It was Argento’s idea to help Fulci make a comeback especially since he was faced with dire financial circumstances. Fulci had written a plot synopsis and provided a screenplay for Argento.
Sadly, Lucio had died from complications of Diabetes prior to filming Wax Mask.
In 1998 The Beyond was re-released in theaters courtesy of Quentin Tarantino who is a fan of Fulci’s Movies and had paid homage to him with both Kill Bill and Planet Terror.
Fulci had no idea that his Films had such a huge cult following outside of Italy until he attended a Fangoria Horror convention in NYC. (Circa January 1996) There he was treated with royalty as thousands of fans flocked to meet him during a major Snowstorm at the time.
This was crowning moment, prior to his passing. While some horror aficionados, are so forthright when boasting how Herschel Lewis is the Godfather of Gore, it is Lucio who rightfully earned that title!
There can only be one, and that's Fulci!