Monday, October 31, 2016

Zombie

Zombie (1979) is probably Lucio Fulci's most accomplished movie. I can't say that with total certainty. He did direct more than fifty movies in his life, and I haven't seen them all, but this is one horror movie in which Fulci applies a slim, if somewhat more logical narrative than usual to the creepy, nightmarish visuals he conjures up.

Also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters and Zombi 2 (in Italy, it was advertised as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead, which was released as Zombi), Zombie returns the living dead to their Voodoo origins. They still eat people and their bodies are horribly decayed, but they're back in the Caribbean. They may not have Bela Lugosi ordering them around, but they're just as mindless and gory as ever (like a typical Lucio Fulci movie).

Following an incident in New York harbor involving her father's boat, Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow) journeys to an isolated island where her father, a scientist, was last reported to be. Joining her is investigative reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch). They find Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson), who is researching a disease sweeping through the island, and before you can say "George Romero," the entire island is crawling with flesh-hungry zombies.

The plot's thin, the dubbing is awful, and the characters have a horrible tendency to stand still and watch as corpses slowly rise out of the ground to attack them, but as far as Fulci goes, there's nowhere near as much nonsense and baffling gaps in logic as there are in his other movies. Besides, plot and character have never been his strengths; he piles on extreme gore and creates an other worldly atmosphere.

Fulci really gives the film a sense of Hell on Earth, a feeling that world itself is poisoned and decayed. While George Romero's zombie movies have more of a comic-book aesthetic, Fulci's film is darker and nastier. These zombies are rotting, barely held together skeletons with chunks of flesh and maggots crawling all over them. I like how they all lumber with their arms hanging at their sides, as if their limbs are too heavy for them to hold up.

Like I said, the plot's not too important, going from one gory set piece to the next. It's very disgusting when someone gets eaten, on par with the Italian cannibal films of the era. Throats are torn out, and Fulci loves to linger on and zoom in on the nasty bits. One of the movie's most famous scenes involves a woman being pulled eyeball first onto a broken piece of wood, very slowly. One could accuse Fulci of being a sadist for how he makes his audience squirm and feel uncomfortable.

The other famous set piece is the fight between a zombie and a shark. This is a letdown. The shark clearly wants no part of this movie business and tries to swim away while the actor grabs on to it and pretends to wrestle it. Just leave that poor creature alone.

Zombie is blunt, crude, dumb, violent, atmospheric, and bloody. Italian horror of the 70s and 80s is something of an acquired taste, but Fulci knew how to create some unforgettable imagery and include some unintentionally funny nonsense. The final shot of the zombies marching across the bridge into New York would have been one of the coolest images to ever end a horror movie if not for all the passing cars that do not in anyway seem impeded by this impending apocalypse.

No comments:

Post a Comment