Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring…a bunch of badly-dubbed Italian people
Lucio Fulci’s 1979 cheapie zombie flick, titled simply Zombie, is a typical “Grindhouse”-style exploitation film from the 1970′s. The majority of the movie is dull and tedious, with wooden characters and terrible acting, and yet there are a handful of impressive scenes that work despite the lame plot. The movie delivers plenty of blood, guts, and boobs (aka “The Holy Horror Trinity”), but it fails to be a truly memorable entry in the zombie genre, especially when compared to its more famous counterparts.
The paper-thin plot of Zombie revolves around a young girl and a New York City reporter (yeah, right) who hitch a ride with a seafaring couple to a remote, uncharted island to find out what happened to the girl’s father, whose abandoned boat washed up in New York harbor with a zombie in tow. The trip to the island takes up the majority of the first half of the film, which gives Fulci enough time to throw in some unnecessarily gratiutous female nudity (Ah, the Seventies…) and an original but puzzling scene in which a zombie battles a shark underwater. This is the most famous scene in the movie, and while it sounds awesome on paper, the actual execution is flawed at best.
The stuntman in this scene should be commended for actually engaging in hand-to-fin combat with the shark, but the entire sequence makes no sense within the confines of the story. For starters, the zombie moves much faster underwater than any of his undead brethren do on land. I understand how hard it is to commit to one’s character when you have a large man-eating fish heading towards you, but as impressive an image this is, the actor’s sudden non-Zombiness took me completely out of the movie. Secondly, once the scene is over, and both combatants have taken a bite out of one another, following the rest of the movie seems rather futile. We’re forced to follow these bozos as they make their way to “Zed-Word Island”, when what we really want to see now is “Zombie Jaws.” Alas, Fulci never revisited this concept, which is a shame, because that would have been a lot more entertaining than anything shown in this flick.
Reporter Guy, Mousy Lady, Sailor Dude, and Naked Chick finally make it to the island, where they meet a scientist who worked with Mousy Lady’s father. He explains to them his half-witted scheme to try to come up with a scientific explanation for the zombie outbreak on the island while at the same time acting as the local hospital’s executioner, shooting all of the newly deceased in the head before they rise again. Everyone seems to take this news rather nonchalantly, as does the scientist when he finds out that his lovely but high-strung wife has become a buffet for a small group of zombies. The movie ends with the undead taking over the island, with countless bodies rising from surprisingly very shallow graves to join in on the fun. People die in gruesome ways, and our two heroes manage to escape, only to receive some shocking news from the mainland.
Look, I know this ain’t Shakespeare. These types of movies are only made to show gruesome deaths and hot ladies, and budget constraints can sometimes force the filmmakers to pad them out with bad dialogue in order to get it to feature length. I also know it’s not fair to compare this movie to later ones, made with bigger budgets and better production values, but…tough shit, I’m doing it anyway. Aside from the shark scene, Zombie does one original thing in that it attributes the zombie outbreak on the island to the native’s practice of voodoo, but it never really gets any deeper into how the dead come back to life. Anytime someone asks how this could be possible, a character just shrugs his or her shoulders and says “It’s voodoo.” Joe Quesada must have seen this movie and taken notes.
I don’t mind turning my brain off and enjoying a good zombie flick, but my only demand in return is that the flick be fun, and sadly, Zombie is just too slow, poorly dubbed, and badly acted to be much of a good time, unless you watch it in a group, Mystery Science Theater 3000 style. It lacks the social subtext of Romero’s Living Dead movies or the sly humor of Return of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead. While it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a standard zombie movie, it’s a shame it didn’t at least try to give us a little more. I give this movie 2.5 out of 5 pierced eyeballs.