Taking the screenplay from Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti, director Lucio Fulci delivers a legendary zombie movie with the single intention to present a nasty and gruesome atmospheric horror that please any true gore-hound, splatter punk and zombie fanatic with extreme delight. They truly don’t make the zombie flicks like this anymore, with the incredible jarring music score, with a box cover art that screams gore heights, and unrelenting imagery which all has helped this movie achieve cult status. One must note that the film is not a sequel to Zombi (the Italian title of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
It is from opening moments that the audience knows the ride on unbelievable portions that they presented upon them, two New York Harbor Patrol officers (Martin) and (Bill) investigate a derelict yacht cruising unpowered and not answering any calls, a dead helm. Soon enough humanity starts to unravel, with Martin viciously attacked by a large rotting zombie giving him a grotesque love bite on the neck. Bill shoots and topples overboard; Martin arrives at the morgue only to unleash more horror. However a cut to the introduction of Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow) questioned by the police because the boat belonged to her father (Ugo Bologna) who left for a tropical island for medical research. Meanwhile, reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch) hot on the trail of the boat, crimes and the doctor, meets Anne and soon enough join with Bryan (Al Cliver) and his girlfriend Susan (Auretta Gay) to guide them to the island of Matool (St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.) Great part of the Fulci and the screenplay neither care of the plot holes and just ramp the film for the big stars the ZOMBIES, and why not, it is the reason the fans are partaking in the enjoyment of the movie. Herein, one of the three classic scenes occurs in the movie, Susan takes the time for a dip near the island, topless, and while diving, she encounters a shark, however avoiding it successfully, a zombie attacks it. Therefore the zombie versus shark battle, with the zombie taking a bite out of the shark, which rips off the arm of his opponent and each go their separate ways and Susan returns to the boat, visible upset and concerned. Matool becomes a cursed island, where rumors of the dead rising and Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson) works on a cure and answers while his wife Paola (Olga Karlatos) desperately wants to leave the island. All around David and his nurse (Stefania D’Amario), agony, turmoil, anger and various stages of zombie wretchedness overwhelming the living start increasing the ride of the roller coaster ride for the viewers.
The other two classic scenes of reference that most horror fans recognize first comes from the voyeur zombie, that observes Paola, fresh from a show, even though insanity goes on around her. This scene involves the piercing of Paola’s right eye with a large splintered piece of wood, pulling the eye out, while battling a zombie. The film Lost after Dark recently noted this scene with a shadowy homage to it, and yet the Zombie edition still stands the testament of time. A tidbit for the gore hounds Paola does have the undead over for late night dinner that must be witness to enjoy the savor of the feast. Lastly, the scene in the Spanish cemetery, in which the most poster and box cover represent, a worm-infested conquistador (Ottaviano Dell’acqua) rises up slowly scaring Susan into a motionless state and with full hunger attacks her gnawing on her neck, and thrashing it apart unleashing a huge amount of blood. One wonders if the zombies are not in fact vampires for all the neck biting they do in the movie, perhaps they sense that a primary artery for their feasting to center upon, either way the entire moment well worth the wait. The film to some is overdone, but this film contains straightforward horror with the intention to freak out, and satisfy the emphasis on importance of location, music for the dreading tempo and most importantly the vivid special effects, that pride themselves on the practical and believable richness capturing everyone’s attention. The battle near the end only strives to show perhaps in undercurrent of passion for life versus death and the hope of eternal life, the desperation for life, with bullets, blunt objects and Molotov cocktails, the raging fires, and blood splattering on white for maximum effect.
Fulci’s movie definitely is not without flaws, rather focusing on the story, less of the worry why it is happening and more on what to do now, and survival against the dead. This avenue takes the correct path, for this flick, the audience cares more on the gore and violence and therefore pumps up the production values with cinematography of the island, the wardrobes, and the endless flow of blood. Neither does the horror fans, in fact the movie now achieving the level of cult status, has had more DVD versions released and that it starts to match that of Night of the Living Dead and the VHS clam cases have become sought after collector items. The movie’s culture impact becoming increasingly shockingly, and not based from the Walking Dead or the countless other zombie influence, musical artists have referenced the movie from Faith No More to White Zombie and even Send More Paramedics. Filmmakers reference to the movie or find inspiration, Quentin Tarantion’s Planet Terror with stabbing wood into the eye, and artwork from The Monster Squad and Warm Bodies.
Many have stated that the movie’s appeal exists for those attracted to violence and that statement finds itself with a lubricious laugh, the world and society have their own levels of reality violence, far degrading than this movie. In fact this movie has an old school charm that far surpasses the more gruesome creations of today and yet the gratuitous shots of bloodlust which is captured across the screen in wonderfully display of passion for horror. Zombie, brings a class to the underground, known for a grimy, gritty cheapness of shots, this movie presents the positives of the market, with extreme thrills that never find themselves in cheapness, but rather basking in the glories bestowed upon them by the horror fans. This movie now in the 36th year since the release still finds itself in the high rankings with genre, after all the title strikes fear and gory passion to all: ZOMBIE!