Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
You may know this movie as Zombie, or you may know it as Zombi 2. I know it as awesome, perhaps the best Italian zombie flick ever, and one that can make the Top 5 Zombie Films List regardless of nationality. I love this movie, always have. Not only was it the film that introduced me to the gloriously gory world of director Lucio Fulci, but it has great memorable scenes aplenty and dares to do things that other flesh eater flicks would never try in a hundred years. But lest this review descend into fanboy hyperbole I guess I should get started with a bit of history on this movie and why it is known in its native land as ZOMBI 2, which has just been release by Blue Underground in a brand new, three disc, 40th anniversary edition with a brand new 4K transfer. Okay, let’s get to it.
When the high lord of zombie films, George Romero, made his undead opus, Dawn of the Dead, famous Italian filmmaker Dario Argento was a big help to him in many ways, not the least of which was bringing the movie to Italy in an extended cut called Zombi. This version of the film was a big hit in the land of Lamborghinis and lasagna, so naturally they wanted a sequel. However, both Romero and Argento had no interest in doing one, at least not yet. Enter Lucio Fulci, a man with a growing name for his giallo murder mysteries. He had an idea for a zombie flick, and if he had to call it an in-name-only (read as: having nothing to do with the original) sequel to get it made, well that’s what he would do.
Now I know this sounds like the typical setup for a truly dreadful rip-off flick that we horror fans are all too familiar with. Yes I’m looking at you Day of the Dead 2: Contagium, Creepshow 3, Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave, and damn but I could go on and on. However Fulci did something that all those other not-really-sequels never even attempted: he made his own movie, with an original story, and with style, skill, and some of the most truly horrifying and memorable moments ever committed to film. Gee, see how a little bit of actual talent and giving a damn can make a huge difference? Anyway, that’s why Zombi 2 is not really a sequel to anything and why it is now usually just called Zombie. So history class is over, on with the movie.
One day in New York City a boat comes into harbor, and much like the sailing ship in Dracula, it is a vessel suitable for the dead and undead only. After a fun bit of zombie action, it is discovered that the boat belongs to a somewhat famous scientist who is not among the dead, walking or otherwise. So an investigative reporter and the scientist’s daughter team up to find out what’s going on. They charter another boat to take them to the tropical island where daddy doctor was doing some sort of secretive research.
Cue one of the coolest and craziest scenes in any zombie flick.
Right before arriving at the island, a woman decides to do some shirtless scuba diving for fun. Yep, gratuitous nudity for the win! Once under the waves the pretty lady runs into a hungry shark! As if things could not get any worse, she then runs into a hungry zombie! Yeah, said undead just so happens to have been walking along the ocean floor. Luckily for the lady, something awesome happens; the shark and the zombie start to fight! Yes, you heard that correctly; a zombie and a shark take turns biting each other until only one is left. I won’t tell you which set of gnashing jaws wins the day, but I will say the throw down is every bit as cool as you think it would be.
Now on the island, the visitors soon realize that bad things are afoot. Their first tiny inkling of this, other than the underwater zombie, happens when one of the ladies is taking a shower (thank you again, Mr. Fulci) and gets attacked by a wandering zombie. In one of the most grueling, gut-wrenching, amazing makeup effects ever, we are treated to a scene of the woman getting a large splinter of wood slowly driven into her eye. Yeah, it’s as good as it sounds. Gorehounds have bayed about this scene for years and rightfully so. If you’re into the blood and guts thing, then it rarely gets better than this. If this is not your cup o’ tea then this is probably not the movie for you, as the red stuff is just getting started.
Soon the dead all over the island start getting up to eat the living, and even this simple fact is handled in a neat and unique way. Sure these zombies are the slow, shuffling kind right out of the Romero playbook, but most of them walk around with their eyes closed, or in some cases missing. Why? Because they are dead, and why should their eyes work any better than their rotted or missing internal organs? And yet even without their peepers, these ghouls can still “see” their prey. I always liked this little touch and thought it made these flesh eaters extra creepy. They also don’t seem to open doors so much as they just push their way through them with their bodies. They are the ultimate example of motorized, yet mindless, eating machines. The only thing human about them is their general shape.
The film ends with a wonderful Alamo-style standoff at a crude, one-room hospital with guns, firebombs, and ghouls advancing from all sides. Yeah, there’s a bit of an unnecessary coda showing a much wider undead threat, but I never much cared for it. For me, this last, desperate battle is where the movie should have ended. It’s great stuff.
Regardless of the extra tacked-on bit at the end, Zombie is first-rate horror entertainment. It is the first of Fulci’s truly goretastic flicks and has his trademark look and style all over it. It is one of my favorite films from the horror maestro, and that’s high praise when you consider how many great fright flicks the man gave to the world.
On to the extras that Blue Underground has given us in this new 4K, 40th anniversary edition. First, it’s a gimmick but I love it: there are four different lenticular 3D covers to choose from. Yeah, that’s silly but I do love it so. There there are three discs, one of those being the amazing score to this movie by Fabio Frizzi on CD. One disc is, of course, the movie and that leaves the third as nothing but extras and special features. So buckle up, this is going to be a hell of a ride. First it can’t be overstated just how beautiful this 40-year-old movie looks with its new 4K transfer. That alone is worth the price of admission, but as they say on TV: wait, there’s more. You get both an English and Italian audio track, each bumped up to an impressive 7.1 DTS-HD. The feature has an optional introduction by Guillermo Del Toro. There are two audio commentaries on here. One is with an author of a book all about Fulci, Troy Howarth. The other is with star Ian McCulloch. There is a 33-minute interview with another author keen on Fulci, Stephen Thrower. And then there are the usual trailers, TV spots, radio spots, and a poster and still photo gallery, and that’s just what’s on the feature disc. On the true extras disc there is a 22-minute interview with stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, and actor/stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua. There is a 10-minute interview with co-producer Fabrizio De Angelis. There is an interview with writers Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti that is 14 minutes long. There is yet another set of interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati and production and custom designer Walter Patriarca and that goes on for 14 minutes. Another interview is with special make-up effects artists Gianetto De Rossi, Maurizio Trani, and Gino De Rossi that lasts for 17 minutes. There is a short, seven-minute talk with composer Fabio Frizzi. There is another short, six-minute conversation with Antonella Fulci. Lastly, there is a special talk with Guillermo Del Toro about his love of the film. So yeah, that’s a lot of love for Zombie collected for this package.
Zombie is a truly great movie, a must-have for any horror fan’s library. If you already have it on DVD or previously on Blu-ray, this new 4K Blu-ray is a definite upgrade in all ways. If you have yet to get this movie, then wait no more; this is THE version to have. Consider this one highly recommended and then some.