"Zombi 2" Review - Fulci’s Zombie Movie
The biggest trap in which you can fall watching this Italian movie is to really believe that Zombi 2 is a sequel to George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead.
The culprits are the movie producers themselves. Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy under the name of Zombi, and it was an absolute success. Thanks to an Italian copyright law that basically allows any product to be marketed as the sequel to another piece, producer Fabrizio De Angelis decided to ride the Romero wave and take advantage of his movie's success.
All this was done behind director Lucio Fulci's back, who would spend the following years clarifying to everyone that this movie was not a sequel to anything, but his own take on the zombies. Much to Fulci's approval, in some parts of the world such as the United States, Zombi 2 was released with the basic but honest title Zombie or even Zombie Flesh Eaters.
Certainly, it's just absurd that Zombi 2 was marketed as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead. If anything, Zombi 2 completely ignored the social reinterpretation and character design made by Romero and instead sought to bring back the traditional zombies. Writer Dardano Sachetti based the script on old classics like The Walking Dead (1936), I Walked with a Zombie and Voodoo Island in an evident attempt to recover that—honestly, kinda racist—trope in which the undead curse come from the Caribbean Voodoo.
The really interesting thing is that a proposal like this, that should have felt retrograde and unnecessary in the golden age of Romero, actually became a great film that in addition to feeling fresh at that time, ended up being a unique influence on the genre.
The story, basic as the old classics, fulfills its role of moving the plot forward.
A boat drifting in the New York Harbor draws the attention of the authorities, who find a zombie on board, and awkwardly "dispatched" him in the waters near the megacity. The police interrogate Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow), the boat owner's daughter, about her father's whereabouts. Anne has three months without knowing anything about him.
After allying with journalist Peter West (Ian McCulloch), Anne traces her father's whereabouts to the fictional Caribbean island of Matul, which has the reputation of being "cursed". Brian (Al Cliver) and Susan (Auretta Gay), a couple of vacationers who own a small boat, agree to take them to the island in exchange for some cash.
On the island, Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson) leads an experimental medical camp with a small crew and his wife Paola (Olga Karlatos). Menard has witnessed several cases of dead people coming back to life, supposedly thanks to voodoo rites, and he wants to discover the science behind the phenomenon.
Of course, the experiment will get out of control, the island will soon be plagued by zombies hungry for human flesh and our protagonists will fight for survival.
Zombi 2 is, before all, visual candy that opts to favor atmosphere and beautiful cinematography rather than character development and deep story arcs.
What's Your Rating For Zombi 2?
Lucio Fulci didn't earn the title of “Godfather of Gore” for nothing. Zombi 2 has one of the most emulated and influential scenes of shock and horror. The iconic death of Paola, which includes a slow and heavy exposure of an eye being impaled on splintered wood, is still gruesome even for today's standards. It's the Giallo evolving (or devolving, depending on your level of conservatism) to the full-blown gore, using an old-school zombie movie as an excuse.
But that is not, by far, Zombi 2's most memorable scene. That honor corresponds to the sequence in which Susan dives naked and is attacked by both a shark and a zombie. Susan escapes, leaving the undead and the shark in a battle of bites that still looks incredible today.
Without CGI or expensive animatronics, the scene relied on the expertise of the Mexican tiger shark trainer Ramon Bravo (who also plays the underwater zombie, we must add) in controlling the beast, in a mixture of food-giving, behavior skills and sedative drugs that didn't abuse the animal. The result is simply amazing.
And then, of course, is the music of Fabio Brizzi that perfectly encapsulates the film in its time and gives it a unique personality.
Zombi 2 will have taken a step back in terms of the mythos of the zombie origin, but evidently, it was to have a better view of the panorama.
From Italy with love, this work by Maestro Fulci is simply one of the best of the walking dead genre.
Zombie Movie Details
Title: Zombi 2 / Zombie
Release Year: 1979
Director(s): Lucio Fulci
Writer(s): Elisa Briganti
Actors: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, a.o.
Runtime: 1 hour 29 minutes
© 2019 Sam Shepards