I told you back in October that Demonia would not be the only time Lucio Fulci gets featured here on B-Movie Enema.
I mean, after all, that movie sucked, and he made so many other movies that were so much better. Even his not so great movies were way better than Demonia. Frankly, the only way to really make up for choosing that stinker is to cover the movie that he is probably best known for directing, 1979’s Zombie.
However, to really talk about Zombie, we need to take a step backwards in time to a few years before this movie would see the light of day.
In Italy, the production’s native country, technically it would be named Zombi, but it isn’t. In fact, it is actually Zombi 2. Why is that? Well, because, in Italy, Zombi is actually George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. That’s right, in Italy, Dawn of the Dead was simply re-edited by Dario Argento, and re-titled Zombi. Lucio Fulci’s Zombie was then released as Zombi 2. This follows a long-held Italian tradition to capitalize on American hits by either outright ripping off or re-purposing their own movies to act as spiritual sequels with enough barely changed to avoid Hollywood from coming after them too badly – at least back then.
Sadly, though, Zombi 2 (which I will from this point forward refer to as Zombie) was kind of unfairly labeled as a ripoff when it’s possible that the movie was actually scripted before Argento brought Dawn of the Dead to Italy (or at least there was some sort of version that eventually became Zombie). The success of Dawn of the Dead did allow for an immediate greenlight for Zombie. Fulci would eventually be brought on and the rest is history.
Before I dive into the play-by-play, here’s another interesting note: Filming for Zombie took place between June and July 1979. Its’ release date to theaters was August 25, 1979. That’s an amazing turnaround from principle production to post-production to theater release.
Also, as the movie begins, let’s also get this out of the way… It’s quite impossible to speak about Fulci’s Zombie without mentioning the bitchin’ Fabio Frizzi’s theme and soundtrack. Frizzi often collaborated with Fulci, but this one was something else. It’s constant pulse of the drumbeat feels like it is telling us of our doom while also pacing our own heartbeats. Don’t believe me? Check out the theme for yourself.
Yeah. Now we have the proper mood set for this post.
The movie famously begins with a gun being pointed at the camera. However, the guy holding the gun isn’t planning on shooting us, oh no. Don’t be silly. It’s a movie. The guy in the movie can’t actually shoot the audience. That is preposterous. No, it’s aimed at a body wrapped in one of those sheets that people are usually wrapped in when they are tossed over for a burial at sea. That body is sitting up, and is shot in the fucking face by the man with the gun. He tells someone that the boat can leave now.
And thus begins Lucio Fulci’s Zombie.
But what about that boat? Well, it is making its way, slowly and aimlessly, to New York City. The boat is intercepted by the harbor police who believe it is abandoned. The harbor cops climb aboard hoping it is actually abandoned so they can loot it and “make a nice bonus” before bringing it into the docks. They find the place trashed and infested with flies – probably from all the food rotting under the deck. Oh, and the fucking zombie that is also rotting and waiting to pounce!
So this fat fuck of a zombie attacks the first cop in the under bits of the boat (sorry, I really don’t know what that is called since 1) I am landlocked in Indiana and 2) I can’t swim so fuck off with boats and shit), and turns the cop’s throat into a blood spigot. The other cop shoots the zombie a couple times until it falls into the harbor.
The daughter of the boat’s owner, Anne, played Tisa Farrow (younger sister of Mia Farrow), is questioned by the police. She doesn’t know anything about where her father is or what the whole zombie thing is about. The cops seem pretty damn pissy with her as if she was some fat ass zombie who wants to eat harbor cops. Speaking of harbor cops, the dead one is getting examined by the coroners. The cop decides he ain’t so sure about this being totally dead thing and reanimates.
What’s kind of funny is that the movie cuts away from the zombie cop rising up to deal with these coroner guys planning on dicing him up for an autopsy. Instead, we shift focus to Anne sneaking aboard her dad’s boat to try to get some answers. It’s like, we know zombies are around. We’ve seen two already (one covered, one not). Not to mention, this is supposedly a follow up to Dawn of the Dead which, itself, is a follow up to Night of the Living Dead. I guess there is suspense to be had, but let’s just see zombie cop get up and do his thing and then shift to this sneaking about stuff.
However, I guess this is kind of important because also sneaking around her father’s boat is Peter West (Ian McCulloch), a reporter assigned by his editor who happened to look an awful lot like Lucio Fulci to check out this abandoned boat that got a cop killed. West isn’t so sure about the police story about a cop murderer – probably because he just saw Dawn of the Dead. They nearly get caught by a cop staked out on the dock when their snooping aboard the boat gets too loud, but West has the idea that they can get away from the cop by pretending to be a couple making out…?
Okay. Sure. These two met like five minutes before they fuck up and drop a thing in the boat that brings the cop inside. West is like, “I got it! Let’s fuck!” Okay, I kinda get it. Tisa Farrow is kinda classy hot? You know, the kind of lady that you would take home to mom and probably comes from a pretty good family and shit but still can give you a boner and stuff? But is she that classy because she’s like, “Okay! Let’s make out and see if this gets us off the hook!”
I’m dubious. Shit doesn’t work for me when I’m hanging out in abandoned places.
Anne and Peter take off for the Caribbean in search of the island Matul. They meet Brian and Susan and ask to be taken to Matul – which Brian is really not so into doing. Brian eventually gives in but says they ain’t going to join them on the island. Over on Matul, Dr. Menard, played by Richard Johnson, and his hot wife, Paola, argue about her desire to leave the place despite his insistence to stay while he studies some voodoo shit.
Interesting story about Richard Johnson… In 1962, Johnson was director’s Terence Young’s first choice to play James Bond in Dr. No. Johnson TURNED IT DOWN. I mean, holy shit… Just think of it. In some alternate reality, Sean Connery is a nobody. The first guy to play Bond has two names that are also other words for penis, and he would have probably ended up in a red diaper for the movie Zardoz. Life is so strange.
Have I mentioned yet that Paola is hot?
I mean… Look at those eyes. Aren’t they gorgeous? I sure would hate for something to happen to either one of them. Especially from her voodoo-obsessed husband not wanting to leave the island where a bunch of fucking zombies are roaming about.
Oh my god.
Alright, I’m getting a little ahead of myself there. Sorry… I can’t resist a beautiful woman, but I also apparently cannot resist spoiling one of the legit money shots of Fulci’s career. Anyway, Paola is not only beautiful, but pretty smart and hip to what’s going on around the island. The zombies are apparently on “the other side of the island” and that raises a question – how big is Matul? Double-Not-Seven seems to think there’s no issue with zombies as long as they are an “over there” problem. He doesn’t seem to think there is much concern about “over there” becoming a “right the fuck here tearing my hot wife’s eyeball out of her fucking skull!” sort of problem.
Again… I am dubious.
Back on the boat with Brian, Susan, Anne, and Peter, they aren’t having too much luck finding Matul. Susan asks to stop for a bit because she wants to take some photographs or something. She decides the best way to do this is to take her top off and reveal dem tittaes and her teeny tiny floss-thin bikini bottoms. Like, seriously, that bikini bottom is made out of twine. Just a single string going right up that butt crack.
The funny thing is, though, if you think that is the most wondrous sight in cinematic history, well then, my friend, you ain’t never seen underwater zombie in the middle of the fucking Caribbean fighting a fucking shark!
I feel like Lucio Fulci was thinking to himself, “Hmmm… I wonder what I can do to make this scene out in the middle of a gigantic sea with just some dialog happening a little more exciting and make some douchebag in Indianapolis aroused in multiple ways?” Naturally, he would say this in a much thicker Italian accent than I typed it. He probably had a whole bunch of ideas, but finally settled on topless chick in the tiniest bikini bottom ever designed and a zombie vs. shark moment. How did this movie not win all the Oscars?
On Matul, guess what? Motherfucking zombies, yo. A villager hurries to the hospital where Dr. Menard works to say some shit is going down and it ain’t so good! Outside the doctor’s home, a zombie is kinda stalking around. He especially makes sure to peek into the windows to watch Paola showering. I, for one, am glad this zombie is a total perv because I can also watch Paola showering without going over the top as a perv in my own right. Thank you, zombie.
However, this zombie isn’t breaking into the Menards’ home to get his jollies off. No, sadly it is time to perform Paola’s completely and totally botched laser eye surgery. It’s so botched, I don’t even think the zombie even considered the fact that he was using wood, not a concentrated beam of light narrowed to laser focus.
I know I’ve mentioned this a couple times before, but I’m pretty dubious of the science of some of these scenes. At the absolute most, I’m very dubious of this zombie’s optometry degree.
Alright, so I guess the zombies are no longer an “over there” problem. At least I think Paola could attest to that being the case. I believe this girl that works for Dr. Menard is kind of hip to that idea as well considering the people who have recently died at the hospital are still moving around and shit. While Menard’s nurse deals with the fact that Matul General Hospital is about the worst place on the planet to survive illness, Anne has arrived and found Menard. Menard explains to Anne and Peter that her father got ill and ultimately came back as a zombie and had to be put down. In fact, he was the zombie killed in the opening of the movie. So I guess we’re full circle now.
Menard says that the dead coming back is due to voodoo. Peter and Brian are… you guessed it – dubious. Brian says voodoo is just some bullshit and Peter agrees. Menard, though, just told that fucking story about how he had to kill Anne’s father… after he had already died. They are either riding around in a jeep with a guy who is telling them the truth about the voodoo some dude do’d or they are riding with a shittin’ murderer.
He asks Anne, Peter, Brian, and Susan to go back to his place and check in on Paola. While they return to his place, Menard is told by a newly arrived patient with a bite wound that there are now zombies on THIS side of the island. At the Menards’ home, Paola doesn’t answer when called. When she’s discovered, it’s probably kind of embarrassing because they see her zombie caller going down on her… leg!
So this zombie voodoo shit? Fake news obviously.
As they try to leave, they are quickly surrounded by all those zombies that were, you know, nowhere near this side of the island. Peter is quick to action by bashing a zombie in the fucking head with a 2×4 and they escape. They try to get back to the hospital only to find that the road back is just lousy with zombies, causing them to wreck and forcing them hoof it back to Menard. Unfortunately, our band of awesome heroes is hobbled with Peter having fucked up his ankle.
When Peter needs to rest up, Brian and Susan go up ahead to check things out. They come across an old cemetery for the Spanish conquistadors that originally brought Catholicism to the island, this seems like a pretty bad place to be when there are literal zombies all over the damn place. In fact, though, it is where Peter and Anne decide to make out that is the first place to not be as a couple zombies come out of the ground to grab at her hair and his fucked up ankle. When Peter goes back to help them, Susan is left alone to deal with our poster child zombie who decides he just wants to neck with her, like, immediately.
This is an Italian horror movie, so you can probably guess that these last 20 minutes are just loaded with gore and our human characters dying left and right. And, you’d be right. Susan dies from, no duh, her chewed up jugular. Brian is barely able to keep moving – so you can probably guess how he’s gonna bite it later. The rest of the conquistador cemetery rises as zombies and begin to pursue Anne, Peter, and Brian.
Soon, there are zombies all over this piece. Our surviving trio barely make it back to the hospital and get let in by Menard before all the zombies descend on them. For a second time, Menard explains that people are getting up and walking around after they’ve died. Oh, so now you’re gonna listen to this explanation?
Anyway, it hardly matters because the zombies are busting into the hospital and Menard gets eaten by some dude. The rest of the dead patients at the hospital come back and start killing off all the remaining staff. Peter, Anne, and Brian are barely able to escape the zombies inside the hospital, only to have to deal with the ones, including a zombie Susan, outside the hospital. Susan bites Brian, but Peter gets rid of her so they can escape on Brian’s boat. As they head back to New York, Brian dies and is locked up to offer proof of what the fuck is going on out there in the goddamn Caribbean. They also learn from radio reports that shit in New York has kinda gotten out of hand as that whole harbor situation from the beginning of the movie has turned into a whole thing and catching on faster than the Macarena.
This movie is awesome. While it doesn’t quite carry the same gravitas as Romero’s first three Dead films, it still hits a lot of crucial genre points. You have some karma deaths with Menard refusing to leave only for his wife to get it real bad and for him to pay for his stupidity. You have tension and claustrophobia of being attacked by the slow moving monsters that have you pinned into tight spaces. There’s a fucking shark fighting a zombie. Eyeball gauging – which would become a big time Fulci trope. It’s a really good movie.
Sure, there is bad dubbing, but that’s just because Italian productions often mixed English, American, Italian, Greek, and Spanish actors (often many more nationalities) and allowed them to speak their own language. It was only later that the other languages were dubbed into whatever it needed to be to play in a market. While that often can lead to some joking, really the movie is well made and for how quickly they filmed it and turned it around to be in theaters within just a short few weeks, it’s a testament to how Italians could crank out movies.
Alright, so I feel like I have, at least for now, avenged my earlier choice of having Demonia represent Lucio Fulci. But you know what? I’m not so sure I’m done with the whole living dead thing. That said, I want to try another flavor of the dead coming back to life. So, let me check out this 1981 flick called Dead & Buried. Come back next week to find out more about this little gem.