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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Zombie (1979)




A body rises covered in a canvas bag. A scruffy faced man brings a revolver up and shoots it in the head. Then says the line, “The boat can leave now. Tell the crew.” Which itself is followed by the iconic horror movie score that is instantly recognizable by genre fans. That is how one of the classic zombie movies ever made starts off. Yeah it is time for some Fulci in the marathon!

After the credits the action moves to New York City where an abandoned sailboat is a menace to the busy port. A police boat is sent out to investigate and runs smack into a zombie. This gets the attention of a reporter, Peter West, who heads down to the dock to investigate. There he runs into Ann, the daughter of the owner. She is worried because he is missing. Finding a letter that ties back into the man shooting the body in the beginning the pair head off to a tropical island to investigate. Though not before we get a scene where the police officer killed by the zombie on the boat twitches on the coroner’s examination table. This will be important later.

Peter and Ann end up catching a ride on the boat of another couple of Americans, Brian and Susan. The four head towards the “cursed” island, as Brian calls it. Along the way they meet up with a shark and an aquatic zombie that have a throw down with one another. During the fracas the shark damages the boat, specifically bending the drive shaft. They are barely able to get the crippled boat to the island. When they arrive, they find out that the man from earlier in the movie is a doctor and friend of Ann’s father. Her Dad had caught the virus going around and died, only to rise as a zombie! It was he who was shot in the opening moments of the movie. More zombies start to shuffle around, and our heroes are forced to battle the undead. Some of them make it and some don’t. The movie ends with them hearing a news report that New York City is under siege and we see zombies walking across a bridge towards the city. Remember the zombie on the coroner’s table?

She is about to have a bad day...
Has anyone not already seen this movie? Zombie is a classic of the subgenre and while it was made to cash in on the success of Dawn of the Dead it doesn’t feel like anyone is ripping Romero off. Before I continue, I should clear up one thing that confuses casual fans. Dawn of the Dead is known as Zombie in Europe, so this movie is called Zombie 2 over there. But since there isn’t a Zombie 1 in the states that means it is just called Zombie. Clearly, they really were trying to cash in, at least in the European market. That also means you will find this movie under both the titles Zombie and Zombie 2 depending on what region it is coming from. Now that the title confusion is out of the way let’s get back to the fun stuff.

The movie plays by its own rules with the idea that voodoo might be involved in the dead rising. Sure, if you get bit you turn, but we also have long dead bodies crawling out of the ground so something else is at play as well. Romero’s movies never had that supernatural component to the zombies so Fulci manages to do his own thing. Though don’t worry because he knows that gore was
...a really bad day
one of the big selling points for Romero’s flick and dumps buckets of blood on the screen. We get necks shredded, skin peeled off, fingers snapping, leg eating, guts being munched, faces getting ripped off, heads exploding, and eyeball popping. That last death with the eye meeting a splinter of wood is iconic and has made more than one person sick. The way that Fulci lets it play out slowly and inevitably allowing the audience to anticipate what they are about to see is genius. Plus, the effect work itself is pulled off perfectly.

The zombies are of the “clay” faced variety with most of them looking similar to each other. Though there are a few highlights when our characters stumble into an old graveyard in time to meet up with some long dead conquistadors. If you have ever seen the cover of the DVD or movie poster this is where that zombie comes from. The look of the zombie and the sequence of it clawing out of the ground is perfect.

Okay I realize that I’m preaching to the choir with this one, so I won’t linger. The music is excellent and immediately recognizable by any horror fan, as I’ve already mentioned. The cast does a good job but are hamstrung a bit with the dubbing. Pacing is perfect as Fulci spreads the gore out evenly and never lets the movie slow down. Zombie is entertaining from the opening scene to the last. If you have somehow never seen this one, then shame on you! Go out and purchase a copy immediately.


© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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