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Any true Zombie movie fan will tell you that there are two men who have become synonymous with the genre. Of course, there's the American master of the Living Dead, Mr. George Romero. But Italy's favorite son in the world of Zombies is the one and only Lucio Fulci.
Fulci has created his own series of Zombie movies, the first of which has been known to us in the states as simply Zombie. However, there's more to it than that. Zombie's name in Italy was Zombi 2, which would insinuate that it was a sequel to some movie called Zombie. But the film that was known as Zombi in Italy was George Romero's own Dawn Of The Dead. So, instead of a proper sequel, Zombi 2 is really just a marketing gimmick used to ride on the good name of Mr. Romero.
Of course, that didn't stop them from releasing a Zombi 3 and Zombi 4, released as such both in Europe and the United States. To the average American moviegoer, there seems to be a part two missing somewhere, but in essence, the Zombie/Zombi series is simply a trilogy.
Now that we've got that out of the way, we'll get on to the film classic that is Zombie. In yet another attempt to cash in on Dawn of the Dead, the film starts off in New York, where an abandoned boat has caught the attention of harbor police. Upon investigation, the cops discover that the boat is inhabited by a flesh-eater that seems to resemble George "The Animal" Steele. It turns out the boat was owned by some famous scientist dude, whose daughter heads down to the Antilles with a journalist to find him. Once they arrive at the island, they discover that it's infested with big scary zombies who aim to make them their lunch.
Plot, of course, is not very important. What matters here is the mass quantity of zombies and the wondrous methods that they will employ to put away their victims. And trust me, Zombie does not fail to disappoint when it comes to good old fashioned carnage.
First off, the zombies look good. While the Romero zombies are good in their own right with their discoloration and all, the Fulci zombies look like they're half-decayed. They also follow the first rule of Zombie Motion: basic motor functions and an instinct to feed. These aren't sprinting zombies, and they don't seem to have the capacity for deep thinking. They plod along slowly and use their viselike grips to latch on to their victims before satisfying their need for flesh. The only flaw with this was the scene at the end where the zombies start climbing, but I didn't have much of a problem with this.
The scenes of mutilation are something to behold, too. The gore does not disappoint. A zombie biting into the neck of a victim is bound to cause some jugular spurting, with plenty of sinewy goodness being pulled from the unfortunate prey. We even get to see a victim have her eye impaled in a pretty graphic moment. And of course, we get to see a zombie battle a shark.
Yes, you read that right: a zombie fights a shark!
In perhaps the most amazing sequence in all of zombie cinema, a flesh-eater who has sunk to the bottom of the ocean is thwarted in his plans to make a meal out of one of our protagonists, and instead must deal with a much larger foe: a 20-foot long predator of the deep. The zombie loses an arm, but manages to take a big ol' bite out of the shark before it's all said and done. Yes, this is real footage of a shark fighting an actor in zombie make-up. This is long before CGI and the like made this scene easy to film. However, despite the fact that the shark does feel the wrath of zombie teeth, we are not fortunate enough to witness the birth of zombie sharks, which would have easily pushed this film into contention for the title of best zombie film ever..
If I had my druthers, I'd make a seperate spin-off sequel to Zombie where the infected shark spreads his zombiedom to other sharks and they eventually begin to invade the surface (if human-based zombies can function underwater without air, then why can't a zombie shark function on land?) and go around on a killing spree. Maybe they would even start to walk upright and could go from door to door saying things like "candygram" to unsuspecting housewives. Or, like, maybe not.
We don't ever really find out why the zombies are actually happening, unfortunately. We don't know if this is some tropical virus or a government experiment gone awry or some plague from outer space. The local doctor and the other cast members hypothesize a bit, but it's never firmly decided why the dead are rising. Of course, it's not as if the dead need to expend a lot of effort to ise to begin with -- it would appear that whoever was in charge of grave-digging on this island didn't think to bury any of the dead any deeper than a few inches.
Best of all, this film doesn't try to preach to us. There is a refreshing lack of social commentary, which is especially surprising considering how much this film borrows from Dawn of the Dead. On top of all this, the film has one of the best tag lines in cinema history: We are going to eat you! The tag line is not only brilliant on its own, it has a special meaning for yours truly, who used to really dig a band that used that tag line as their name.
To put it all to a tee, Zombie isn't the most satisfying film in the genre, but it's certainly in the upper echelon as far as good old fashioned living dead movies go. Certainly a must-see for any self-respecting zombie fan, and not one that will weigh too heavy on your conscience or anything.
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