Zombie (1979)

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*. The different titles this movie was released under testify to its attempt to ride on the coattails of Romero’s zombie franchise. When Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy as Zombi, the title of this movie was changed to Zombi 2, though it was in no way a sequel to that film (or, indeed, any other zombie flick). Now that’s marketing! Or a rip-off. Or both, really.
*. The opening and closing scenes, set in New York City, were also added post-Dawn of the Dead to tie it in to that film’s zombie apocalypse. Which may be why there’s no explanation given for why a boat was sailing from zombie island to NYC in the first place. Who is holding the gun in that opening shot? Who is he addressing?
*. The zombies in this movie are old-fashioned, or at least more traditional, being the product of Caribbean black magic. They are not Romero-esque living dead, whose ultimate origin is uncertain.
*. Like Romero’s zombies, however, they are slow-moving flesh eaters who infect their victims with their undead condition (at least the ones that, for whatever reason, they choose not to devour). And when I say “slow moving” I mean really, really slow moving. These are some of the most lethargic undead I’ve ever seen. They seem scarcely able to move. I wonder if the layers of makeup they had to wear blinded them, making them afraid of bumping into things.
*. But they can’t really be blind. This is one of the only zombie movies I know of that actually gives you shots from the zombies’ point of view. Even crawling out of the ground, with dirt falling from the camera’s lens. I found this quite disconcerting. I can relate to a psycho-slasher’s POV, but a zombie’s?
*. By the way, sticking with slow moving and sightless undead, if you think the resurrected Templars from the Tombs of the Blind Dead movies are even slower, that’s true. But that’s because they’re filmed in slow motion, not because they’re really slow.
*. The opening here, with the death ship sailing into New York harbour must have been meant to recall the arrival of Dracula’s plague ship full of rats in Nosferatu (or other iterations of that story).
*. The plot here isn’t that strong, and there are a lot of silly moments thrown in just to move things along, but that’s really not the point. This is a movie based around a handful of set-piece scenes that are actually quite impressive.
*. The two best scenes are the zombie vs. shark fight and the splinter in the eyeball. Once seen, they cannot be forgotten.

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*. How dangerous was the shark stunt? I don’t know. When I first saw it I was amazed. How did they do that? Since then I’ve read that the shark was apparently a harmless type, and heavily tranquilized for good measure. It probably just wanted the zombie to go away.

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*. The splinter in the eye shot looks great, but it makes no sense. Why wouldn’t Paola just turn her head slightly to one side, or use her hands to break off the splinter?
*. Kudos to Brian for his proto-hipster look, complete with shaggy beard and ironic Daily Planet t-shirt. He even gets to deliver authentic-sounding Dude lines like informing Peter and Anne that Matul’s “not a cool place to hit. The natives claim it’s cursed.” True that.
*. It’s kind of hard to miss the racist overtones, what with our gang of white heroes (they’re even mostly dressed in white) besieged by rebellious natives. Though I suppose the conquistadore zombies help mollify this a bit, as well as the idea that the third world is somehow biting back at its colonial exploiters.

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*. I’ve seen Dr. Menard being criticized for missing the revived Lucas at such close range, but I think this is realistic. Just because you’re in a zombie movie doesn’t mean that every time you shoot your gun you’re going to get a spectacular kill shot to the head. Sometimes you miss!
*. Fulci does like his worms, doesn’t he? I wonder if he was genuinely drawn to them or if they were just a cheap and easy gross-out effect. I think he was drawn to them, for whatever reason.
*. I prefer this to most of Fulci’s movie because at least I have a pretty good idea of what is going on. There’s no bizarre nonsense about a gateway being opened to another dimension. It also has a handful of great scenes (the opening sequence of the ship entering New York, the shark fight, the eye gouge, and the final shot of the zombies crossing the Brooklyn Bridge). That said . . .

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*. It’s not a great movie, or even a great zombie movie. Aside from the eye poke, the gore effects are pretty poor. The zombies are just people with layers of crap thrown on their faces (Fulci thought of them as potted plants). And the action sequences are quite dull. Because the zombies move so slowly their victims often have to patiently stand in front of them, waiting to be attacked. Then, since their zombie masks don’t seem to function that well, we never see them chewing or eating the flesh they bite off. Finally, the climactic battle in the church is a yawn, with the zombies seeming not to advance at all and the same shot of the molotov cocktails exploding repeated over and over.

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