I have a revolving policy when it comes to movie reviews. Depending on the movie in question, I will adjust my review parameters appropriately. Why do I do this? Because I wouldn’t dream of looking at a subgenre film (such as a Zombies Attack movie) the same way as I would a normal, mainstream film. The two are different beasts, and to judge both with the same criteria is foolish and a mistake. Which brings us to Zombie, a movie in the subgenre of Zombies Attack films The director of Zombie is an Italian director name Lucio Fulci, who I have heard a lot about, but whose movies I have never had the pleasure of watching. In a way, I guess you could call Fulci the Italian George Romero (he of Night of the Living Dead and other Zombies Attack movies fame), in that both men really came into international attention as the director of Zombies Attack films, but eventually branched off into more mainstream fare.
Zombie opens with a seemingly empty yacht appearing in New York Harbor, where it is immediately boarded by the Coast Guard for inspection. Upon boarding the ghost yacht, one cop is killed by what looks like a zombie. The boat, we learn, belongs to a scientist who has disappeared months ago to do some research on a faraway island. The scientist’s daughter, Ann (Tisa Farrow) is determined to find out what happened to her dad. With the help of intrepid reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch), the two sets off for the island, where they encounter another doctor and his wife and a small staff under siege by zombies! Is it voodoo magic that is making the dead walk? Or is it some unnatural scientific experiment? Better yet, does anyone care why there are zombies?
I do not recommend Zombie for anyone who isn’t a fan of Zombies Attack movies. If you think Romero’s Night of the Living Dead does not qualify for “movie classic” status, then you should veer as far away from Zombie as possible, because the only people who will see the genius of this movie are those that can look at Night of the Living Dead and compare it to Citizen Kane. Zombie is a fine film that starts very slow (is even a tad boring), but immediately becomes dangerous, bloody, and the goriest film I’ve seen in a long time once the characters reach the island in question.
Perhaps the thing that impresses me most about Zombie is the make-up. The zombie make-up is incredible, and you can almost smell the disgusting stench of the zombies as they rise up slowly from the ground, their faces infested with worms and gaping wounds. This is not the kind of movie you watch before going to dinner; in fact, you should only watch this movie if you plan on not eating anything for the next 5 hours, because this movie will make you lose your appetite. I have seen too many horror/gore movies to count, but even so I flinched at some of the scenes here, so consider yourself adequately warned.
The acting? What acting? Although I did like the fact that the zombie victims were adults. Those with short movie memory will be surprised to know that before the ’80s and ’90s, horror movies were mostly about adults being terrorized. This might be a shocker to some of the horror fans of the ’90s and the millennium, which are only used to seeing teenyboppers and 20-somethings running from masked slashers and zombies. Yes, Virginia, there was a time when adults were the only ones who were stalked by the undead.
My oh my oh my can Lucio Fulci direct! Despite the constraints of 1979 and what is probably a modest budget, the film looks fantastic (with the New York scenes being somewhat subpar). Not only does Fulci showcase an array of camera angles, but the man has an amazing ability to capture the action with what seems to be spontaneous camera swivels and pans. Not only are the zombie kills spectacular (one in particular involving a woman and a piece of broken, jagged wood), but also Fulci has a great sense of when and when not to use longshots. Oh, and did I mention Zombie features the first-ever zombie vs. shark fight sequence? I kid you not. A zombie actually takes on a shark under the sea — and wins!
Zombie is an extraordinarily good zombie film, and surprised me with its excellent photography, kill scenes, gore, and a music score that is so simple and yet captures the mood perfectly. It’s an all-around good film — with a slow start, a great build-up middle, and an intense Third Act.
Although you should keep in mind that Lucio Film films and dinner do not go together.
Lucio Fulci (director) / Elisa Briganti (screenplay)
CAST: Tisa Farrow …. Ann Bolt
Ian McCulloch …. Peter West
Richard Johnson …. Dr. David Menard