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ZOMBIE (ZOMBI 2)

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay
Director: Lucio Fulci
Audio: English / Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, Surround 2.0, or original monaural
Subtitles: English
Video: Color, 2.35:1 widescreen
Studio: Blue Underground
Features: Trailers, TV and radio spots, art galleries, Lucio Fulci biography
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: July 27, 2004

"Father of my father always say, when the earth spit out the dead, they will come back to suck the blood from the living."

Film ***

First, there was Night of the Living Dead.  A decade later, there came Dawn of the Living Dead.  Both films, conceived from the twisted imagination of director George Romero, would lay the foundation for an entire sub-genre of horror films - the contemporary zombie flick.

In Italy, Dawn of the Living Dead (a.k.a. Zombi) proved especially popular.  Since the Italians did not want to wait another decade for a Zombi sequel, they made one themselves.  Known as Zombi 2 (or Island of the Living Dead), this unofficial sequel to Dawn of the Living Dead made a killing, eventually spawning its own franchise of European zombie flicks.  When Zombi 2 was imported westwards for American distribution, it was renamed Zombie, not to be confused with Zombi (bringing us full circle to Dawn of the Living Dead again).

To paraphrase a popular adage, though, a zombie by any other name would smell just as foul.  Today, ravenous fans of horror films regard the cult classic Zombie as the pinnacle of 70's European zombie flicks.

Certainly, there are enough boldly audacious scenes in Zombie to quench any thirst for buckets of blood.  One zombie gores out a shrieking victim's eyeball with a jagged wooden splinter.  Another zombie has the putrid guts to wrestle with a real shark and to take a chomp out of it, too!  Nor can we overlook enough stomach-turning feasts of flesh to justify the film's second alternate title, Zombie Flesh Eaters!

Zombie opens one unremarkable day when a lone boat drifts into the New York City harbor unhelmed and apparently abandoned.  The unsuspecting harbor patrol searching the craft discover otherwise when they are attacked by a frenzied, blood-thirsty creature.  Its languid eyes dull and unseeing, its skin blanched by the rank vapors of rot, the creature can only be a zombie!

This unholy creature is vanquished with extreme prejudice, but what of the boat's owner?  Has he fallen victim to more of these foul creatures, or does he yet languish somewhere in the Antilles where last he was seen?

An investigative reporter, Peter West (Ian McCulloch), sensing a juicy story, determines to exhume the truth.  Accompanied by Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow), daughter of the missing scientist, West heads to St. Thomas and from there, onwards via charter boat to the mysterious island of Matool.

This sea trek through treacherous waters brings West and Bowles to the shark-infested shores of a voodoo isle.  Their cautious steps as they venture ashore are soon shadowed by distant drumbeats, like the incessant harbingers of impending doom.

Matool is no friendly castaways' isle.  All around, there is a palpably repugnant, sweet aroma of decaying, maggot-infested flesh.  A contagion of zombies has blanketed the native villages in widespread fear and hysteria.  One physician, Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson), in a delirious fit of scientific curiosity, attempts to study this zombie phenomenon.  But only fools seek to tamper with island superstitions and voodoo rites, and any rational argument of contemporary medicine can only fall upon deafened ears here on Matool.

Bowles' father, we are to learn, has been converted to darkness.  He has joined the dead, yet the dead are not dead.  They walk the earth, recognizing neither former friend nor foe.  The dead are emotionless, impassionate.  They are loyal to but one feeling - hunger, an intense, insatiable hunger!  The impatient undead gnaw greedily upon the flesh of the recently-disposed.  Sometimes, they commence their macabre feast without the courtesy of allowing the main course to die first. 

Zombie saturates the senses with nightmarish images.  Worms of the earth tumble from the soiled eye sockets of gauntly grinning skulls.  Blood spurts from the torn necks of panicked, screaming meat-meals.  Everywhere, there lingers an infestation of flies like greedy guests to a gourmet of carrion.

The survivors, including West, Bowles, and Dr. Menard, eventually cower in terror within the confines of a local church.  Even so, these Christian crosses and religious icons crumple like mottled driftwood before the onslaught of the zombies.  At nightfall, they will attack, and every bloody thing and body is going to die.  Anyone not rotting-dead by the end of Zombie will die anyhow, for where is there to run?

Zombie is not for the weak of stomach or the dainty of constitution.  If you're looking for a high-browed art house film about food, stick with Babette's Feast.  If you're looking for an eat-your-brow horror film about becoming food, Zombie is your meal ticket.

Video ***

There are many versions of Zombie available on disc, but this Blue Underground disc is among the best and boasts a surprisingly solid transfer.  The mostly pristine video quality is sharp and quite detailed.  Image definition is strong with minimal grain or compression artifacts.

Audio ***

One has the option here of listening to stilted Italian dialogue or stilted English dialogue.  The masochistic among us may even choose to listen to the risibly bad dialogue in surround 5.1.  But who watches a horror film for dialogue anyways?  Zombie is at its best when the actors are screaming, not chattering.

Features **

Supposedly, Jacques Tourneur's elegant I Walked with a Zombie was Fulci's unlikely inspiration for this total gore-fest.  Zombie's main menu page is really rather disgusting, too, but who's complaining, really?

Most of the bonus features are publicity-oriented.  The art gallery offers a wide assortment of posters, lobby card, stills, and press kit goodies; there are 140 total entries.  There are two TV spots and four nightmarish radio spots.  Viewers may also opt to watch either an international or U.S. trailer.  The international trailer is violent, and downright gory.  It even throws in a bit of gratuitous nudity, too.  On the other hand, the U.S. trailer politely offers theater patrons barf-bags upon request.

Lastly, a comprehensive Lucio Fulci biography rounds out the extras.  The twenty-three pages of this biography summarize Fulci's entire film career and are supplemented by numerous saucy poster images from his various films.

Summary:

Hardcore!  Zombie delivers enough gas-bloated guts and ghoulish gore to satisfy even the most stalwart of horror fans.  Sickening stuff, all this.  Much so vomit-inducing.  But how absolutely awesome, hey?

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