Sunday, October 14, 2012

Zombi 2

After Romero's Dawn of the Dead was released in the 70s and zombie movies were the next big thing, Italian filmmakers went hog wild on the genre and produced loads of them, some good and most bad. When you talk Italian horror movies a trio of directors always come up: Dario Argento, Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci. Lucio Fulci is considered a god among zombie fans for his strange takes on the genre and his preoccupation with in-your-face gore. Mostly involving eyeballs.

So, Dawn of the Dead was released and was a big hit. However when it was to play in Italy it was heavily recut by Dario Argento to speed up the narrative and showcase all the actiony gore bits and was renamed Zombi. The flick was a BIG hit. At the same time this was playing in theaters, Lucio Fulci was filming his own zombie flick called Zombi. Not good. So the producers renamed the film Zombi 2 and had Fulci shoot a couple of short scenes in an attempt to tie the two films together even though this was not officially connected to Romero's masterpiece in any way.
This was a HUGE hit in Italy and is considered by most to be Fulci's best movie. Ironically when it was sent to our shores it was renamed Zombie and heavily recut to take out all the nasty gore.

Cut to the present. I'm writing my own zombie flick and want to research the genre in both movie and book form. Naturally a LOT of Fulci films are required viewing. Zombi 2 was first on my list.

The basic plot, and I do mean basic, is that on an isolated island near the Bahamas a mad doctor is experimenting with medicine/voodoo in an attempt to cure some of the world's nastiest diseases, but ends up killing more people than he saves. Since he's messing with nature/voodoo the dead start to rise in revolt and along with a reporter, a woman looking for her missing father and the couple they hired to take them to the island they must take on an army of the undead.

Actually the plot itself makes very little sense, most likely because it was written by Italians, but in English and using both American/British actors AND Italian ones who were later dubbed over in English (like most Italian productions of the time). Did that make sense? Anyway, it's not the plot that matters here, but the gore and zombies. There is a lot, but nothing too nasty. Sure there's a lot of bloodletting and nasty zombie bite scenes, but we've seen them all already and done better.
What sets this film apart are two scenes in particular-- a scene where a zombie fights a LIVE SHARK and a scene involving a sharp piece of splintered wood and a chick's eyeball. The shark scene is flat out ridiculously fun. It all begins with the wife of the charter boat owner deciding to go topless scuba diving (?!) and while checking out some coral notices a shark circling overhead. While hiding from the bloodthirsty fish she is attacked by a zombie. She manages to get away from both the zombie AND the shark, but the zombie isn't so lucky. The shark attacks him and a big grappling fight ensues where the zombie bites off large chunks of the fish's hide before the scene ends. And what's weird is that this is a real guy wrestling with a REAL SHARK. Actually it's the shark's trainer made up to look like a zombie and the shark seems to think they're playing a game or something since it never snaps it's jaws at him once even though he's grabbing it by the fins and pulling it down with his weight. It's a strange and totally stupid ass scene, but kind of cool at the same time.

The eyeball scene looks fake as shit, but it's still very unsettling due to the way it's shot. A woman is hiding behind a door from a zombie, which punches through it and manages to get a handful of the woman's hair when she tries to get away. It S-L-O-W-L-Y pulls her head closer and closer to the splintered pieces of wood jutting out from the hole it made and then SPLAT! Her eye is S-L-O-W-L-Y impaled on the splinter, THEN it breaks off leaving this nasty piece of bloodied wood sticking out of her face. Just the fact that it's filmed with that slow anticipation made me squirm since you know what's going to happen, but are forced to wait for it for almost a minute. It works!
The rest of the movie is ho-hum. The acting is terrible, the script sucks and for the most part it seems like it was just thrown together to make a quick buck off the Dawn of the Dead name, even though that wasn't the case. It does however have a pretty bleak ending where zombies are shown rising from the waters off Manhattan and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.

It's a decent waste of 90 minutes, but I've seen better. A lot better.

It's followed by three sequels (the last two were unrelated films that were renamed Zombi 4 and Zombi 5 when they were released stateside), parts 3 and 4 I saw a few years ago and are just as strangely ridiculous (Zombi 3 features a disembodied zombie head that FLIES around biting people on the neck), but not quite up to the standards this film set. Why this film set those standards I've yet to figure out.

2.5 out of 5

*written 10/15/05

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