The Film: Zombi 2 (1979) Buy it from CHUD!
The Principals: Lucio Fulci (director), Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Shit ton of zombies
The Premise: A zombie is found wandering aboard a yacht in New York Harbor. The yacht belongs to scientist father of Ann Bolt (Farrow, sister of Mia), who wants to find out where her father went and why a dead guy was walking around on his boat. She’s assisted by reporter Pete West (McCulloch) as their investigation leads them to the mysterious island of Matool – which seems to be suffering a bit of a zombie problem.
A bevy of live human flesh gets consumed, an eye gets obliviated by a wood splinter and, for no reason other than it’s awesome, a zombie fights a shark.
Is It Good? If you love schlock and gore in the trademark style of Italian cinema, it’s fucking magical. The acting sucks, the script is nonsense and Fulci’s decision to dub his English-speaking and Italian-speaking actors (common practice for similar films of the time) makes the dialogue feel foreign no matter where it plays. But I’m not hating, it’s all part of the Fulci charm – a washed up Italian director who took the gig on his buddy’s recommendation and inadvertently became the “Godfather of Gore.”
The film got tagged with the title Zombi 2 so it could be released to Europe as a successor to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (shown as Zombi in those parts). The films are completely unrelated in narrativ. Dardano Sacchetti had completed his script before Dawn was in theatres. The title itself is nothing more than a cash-in, making it all the more impressive that the film transcended said cash-in status and is still talked about today.
Dawn of the Dead is one of my all time favorite films; and Romero and Tom Savini are two of my all-time favorite artists thanks in no small part to their work in that film. But Giannetto De Rossi’s special effects blow Savini’s Dawn work away. This is a film caked in viscera, and De Rossi’s unique approach is iconic in a way we don’t often see. These are zombies that rise from the beneath the ground and the effects artist saw fit to bathe the actors in the right balance of rotted flesh and dirt. If you’re a horror fan who hasn’t seen the film, you’re still no doubt familiar with the poster (seen above) – in all of its wormy-eye socket glory.
Fulci employs narrative in the loosest sense here. You could fit Tisa Farrow’s Zombie Yacht through some pretty gaping plot holes (a trait that would only become more evident when Fulci moved on to The Beyond). But the plot becomes secondary to all the hand-crafted horror on display. This is a film more concerned with entertaining in the moment. It’s thin as paper that’s been soaked in blood and eaten by zombies. And if that’s a problem for you, then you don’t deserve an image as beautiful as this:
Is It Worth a Look? It’s required viewing for horror fans and gore hounds. Fulci would go on to make The Beyond, arguably a better film; but Zombi 2 is probably his most accessible work. Even though the stories are unrelated, it still makes a great double feature with Dawn, as they’re the two finest zombie films made during the genre’s most artistically-rewarding period. But don’t expect the social commentary of Romero’s work. Fulci just wanted to fuck some shit up. Like this lady’s eye:
Random Anecdotes: The film was originally released as Zombie here in the states and barf bags were rumored to be handed out before showings to account for viewers with weak stomachs.
Fulci makes a cameo as the newspaper editor that assigns McCulloch’s character.
Take a close look at the final scene where the zombies “overrun” New York City. Despite a metropolis seemingly sprawling with the living dead, the driving populace of NYC neither notices nor cares. The filmmakers didn’t have the budget to stop traffic and, due to punk being in fashion, city dwellers barely noticed the production during its short time filming on location.
Fabio Frizzi’s score is not only underated in terms of horror themes, it’s also one of the finest:
Cinematic Soulmates: Dawn of the Dead (original), The Beyond, The City of the Living Dead, Cannibal Holocaust