ZOMBIE (1979)

ZOMBIE (1979)

Jan 1, 2019

IMDb: Zombie (1979)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Stars: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson

Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, also known as Zombi 2 and Zombie Flesh Eaters, was the film that revived Fulci’s career and helped launch his place in cinematic history. After decades of never reaching true success, Fulci was given the chance to direct the script written by Dardano Sacchetti, possibly the most important screenwriter in terms of 1970s and 1980s Italian horror. Zombie ended up being a smash hit, catapulting Fulci into the title of the Godfather of Gore and it would mark the beginning of a violent and graphic run through cinema that would carry him for years.

With an opening scene of a body wrapped in a sheet, slowly raising its head up only to be cut off by a gun painting a huge hole in it, Fulci shows you his hand and prepares you for a violent journey, something you haven’t seen to this degree. After the credits wrap, we come to a boat coasting along the New York harbor. When two police officers climb aboard to investigate, they are greeted by a flesh eating ghoul that attacks them. After discovering the owner of the boat, Peter West, a journalist, travels to the Antilles with Ann, the daughter of the scientist who owned the boat, in an attempt to unravel his fate. When they arrive on Matul, they discover Dr. Menard, and a horde of cannibalistic zombies brought on by a disease. Ann, Peter, and Dr. Menard are then pitted in a game of survival as they try to escape the reanimated corpses and return to New York.

Sacchetti’s script served as a sequel to George Romero’s 1978 horror classic Dawn of the Dead, which received the title of Zombi when it was released in Italy. Dario Argento sought legal action as he was the foreign rights holder but lost the case due to the broad usage of the word zombie. Even though the film serves as a sequel, there is very little in common between the two films. People often mistake Zombi 2/Zombie as a ripoff of the aforementioned Romero film but that is an ignorant claim to make. While Romero focused on social and political issues, to which most of that comes from people projecting and not so much from intent of the filmmakers, Fulci and Sacchetti sought to bring a more traditional sense of the zombie by bringing it back to its voodoo roots. And as much as I love Dawn of the Dead, the zombies, their makeup, and the violence that takes place is far more cartoonish than the monstrous nightmares that Fulci delivered, completely devoid of any humor. To put it bluntly, the gore is better and the zombies are far more menacing.

Fulci’s zombies would go on to kickstart a style of rot and decay that was missing beforehand. The shot of the Worm Eyed Zombie rising from its grave is one of the most frightening and visually stunning moments in zombie cinema. This style of gritty, emaciated zombie would even come to be used by Romero in Day of the Dead after ditching the blue faced, smurf look of Dawn. The overall approach to graphic violence in this film would go on to become the calling card of Fulci’s work. Always wanting to eviscerate an eyeball or two, this film presents one of the best eyeball puncturing scenes in any film. And who could forget the zombie versus shark sequence? It is a scene that has yet to be duplicated, for obvious reasons, making it one of the most memorable moments in any zombie film.

Despite my growing disdain for the zombie culture phenomenon of the past decade, Fulci’s zombie films will always entertain and excite me. In an era of people dipping social commentary into their films, Fulci just wanted to scare the piss out of people and reveal monsters that would haunt your sleepless nights. Graphic in both violence and nudity, his films are the ultimate representation of shocking cinema. Zombie is the perfect introduction to his work and sets you up nicely for the wonderful Gates of Hell Trilogy which I will be covering in upcoming reviews. A classic entry in the zombie mythos, this is easily one of the best, only to be overshadowed by the film that started it all, Night of the Living Dead and Fulci’s masterpiece, The Beyond.

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Originally posted: February 10th 2016
Reviewer: David Sharp