The late Italian director Lucio Fulci started working in the Italian film industry as an apprentice to cinema legends like Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini and Mario Bava. Fulci began his own directing career in the 50s making screwball sex comedies and then he slowly began to branch out into other genres of cinema including Spaghetti Westerns, Adventure Films and Thrillers known in Italy as Gialli. In the 70s Fulci directed several classic genre films like the giallo Dont Torture a Duckling (1971), a Spaghetti Western called Four of The Apocalypse (1975) and one of his best giallos entitled Sette Note in Nero (1977) aka The Psychic. These were very well crafted films and Fulci became known for his great style. Fulci had a decline in popularity with studios after the failure of The Psychic, that is until 1978 when George A Romero's zombie film Dawn of The Dead was released. The film caused a huge sensation across the globe and in Italy, there were several studios who wanted to create their own Zombie genre films and cash in on the craze. The great genre director Enzo Castellari was one of the directors asked to direct a Zombie film. Castellari was not really interested in Horror films at the time, he was more of a crime/adventure genre director, but he knew of someone he felt could take the project and turn it into something really special. Castellari directed the studio to his friend Lucio Fulci. The rest is history. Fulci along with his friend Dardano Sacchetti wrote the screenplay for the film and the production of Zombi 2 aka aka Zombie aka Zombie Flesh Eaters aka Woodoo went into production with Il Maestro Lucio Fulci at the helm. An interesting thing about Zombi 2 is that it was primarily made as a low budget subgenre film that was not expected to be a huge hit. Lucio Fulci's talents and his crews work showed that with even on a small budget and with not many resources, Lucio Fulci could make an above average film. One really cool aspect of this film was the fact that Fulci and his film crews didnt even have permits to film the scenes in NYC. They just went for it and made the movie. After its release in 1979, Zombi 2 went on to be a box office smash earning $30 Million worldwide.
The films pre-credit sequence opens in the Carribean island of Matool, where Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson) shoots Dr. Bowles, who has been turned into one of the living dead. After the main credits, we are taken to New York City's harbor on a beautiful sunny day as a lone yacht floats along unmanned. As the camera circles around the boat, we see that police have noticed this and they board the boat to find out what has happened. As the police search the boat they can sense somethings not right. Theres slimy centipedes on a piano, a bloody severed hand on the floor and various other nasty things. You can almost smell the stench as you watch. While one officer stays on the top of the boat, the other looks through the cabins below deck. After opening the wrong closet door, a very large zombie (Captain Haggerty) attacks the officer. While the officer is on the ground, the large zombie bites his neck, ripping the flesh out. In trademark Fulci style, the red blood spurts out all over. The large zombie slowly climbs the steps to the top of the boats deck, when the other officer sees him, he freaks out and tells him to "freeze!". This demonic zombie doesnt wanna listen, he wants to eat, so he shuffles towards the cop. Fulci's great close up on the zombies bloody face is sure to delight gorehounds. The cop fires at the zombie several times and the zombie falls backwards into the water. What an opening!!!
A young woman named Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow) is looking for her estranged father. When she finds out about the boat coming into NYC from the island of Matool where her father is, she realizes she needs to investigate further to see if she can find out if her father was involved. Anne goes aboard the boat to see what has happened, but she still is unaware of the status of her father, like whether hes living or dead. When the press get ahold of the news about the boat, they decide to cover the story. One of their crack reporters is the British Peter West (Ian McCullough). West convinces his boss (played by none other than Il Maestro himself Lucio Fulci), that he needs to check this thing out. His boss gives him the go ahead and later on that night West decides to climb aboard the boat and see what he can find. Little does he know that Anne has the same idea. When they both go aboard the boat, they startle each other. Anne explains she thinks she has clues about what has happened. Peter explains they should both work together on this and try to solve the mystery at hand. But before they can get off the boat without being noticed, a security guard comes aboard. Peter has an idea. When the security guard finds them, they are necking like teenagers to show theyre just an unknowing couple having fun. The next day, they quickly book tickets to St. Martin and Peter has the newspaper pick up the tab. Off they go to the Carribean on their adventure!
Back on the island of Matool, Dr Menard and his wife (Olga Karlatos) are quarreling about the current state of terror spreading across the island. The news is that the residents of the island are being posssesed by a voodoo curse. Dr. Menard doesnt believe the voodoo nonsense, he thinks the people are infected by a strange disease. His wife is very scared and she starts to drink to try to calm herself down. Dr. Menard explains to his wife that he needs to get to the bottom of this problem so he has to leave and travel to a small hospital in the swamps of the island. She freaks out and he slaps her, trying to convince her things will be alright.
Peter and Anne arrive in St. Martin and decide to charter a boat to Matool. As they drive along in their cab, they inquire if the cabbie knows anyone who could take them where they need to go, but the cabbie explains this time of year its tough to find charter boats because its so busy. Peter and Anne are dropped off at a local harbor where they find a couple who appear to be getting ready to leave the dock. These two are Brian (Al Cliver) and Susan (Auretta Gay). Peter explains that they need to get to Matool and Brian quickly tells him that the island is said to be bad luck by natives of the area. Using his charm, Peter gets Brian to take him and Anne to Matool, even though they arent sure exactly where the island is located. The group set sail onto the deep blue ocean. In one telling shot, we see as the boat passes, a native sees them and blesses himself in an ominous way. The films score at this point is really bouncy and fun to listen to. Its Carribean styled music that sets a free spirited mood. After the gang get out on the high seas, Susan tells Brian she wants to stop for a little while and go scuba diving. When you see Susan remove her clothes and get naked you will forget about zombies for sure!! What a sexy babe!! Susan jumps into the water and begins to look around under the surface. She swims along until something tells her shes not alone. She looks behind her and sees its a huge shark! Susan immediately tries to evade the shark and she swims to the surface and screams to the others that theres a shark after her. As the shark swims towards the boat, Brian takes out his rifle and tries to shoot the shark several times, but misses. Susan tries to go back down and hide under the water in a patch of coral and plankton. As the shark floats above her menacingly, suddenly a decaying hand grabs Susans shoulder. Its a underwater ZOMBIE!! The zombie clutches to Susan and wont let her go, but Susan manages to poke the zombie in the face with some coral and she gets free. What follows is one of the most surreal and cinematically cool sequences in the history of horror cinema. Since the zombie can't eat Susan, he goes after the next best thing: The shark! Its the famous shark vs. zombie battle! The zombie grabs the shark and tries to bite him after wrestling with it awhile, he manages a mouthful. Only, one chunk of shark flesh isnt enough for this zombie! Hes hungry! This scene is just one of the best ever. After they fight it out, the shark finally bites the zombies arm off, spreading blood through the water. Susan then emerges from the water and she cant talk. Shes in true shock now. She tells the others there was a man underwater. They cannt believe what shes saying.
On Matool, we can see the zombies are beginning to spread out across the island. Fulci creates an atmosphere on the island that is completely captivating and chilling. Dr Menard is trying to save the dying natives, but its not working. The only thing he can do is wrap them up in sheets and tie them down. Each one of the dead begin to move, so he has to shoot them, he somehow knows that hitting them in the head is the way to go. Back at his house, his wife is taking a shower, trying to relax. As the camera watches her like a voyeur from outside the house, we see a dead hand pressing on the window. This entire sequence is directed brilliantly by Fulci and its just shocking. As she dries off, she hears noises in the house, shes not alone. She runs into the bathroom and tries to shut the door, but somethings not letting her. The tension rises as she keeps trying to push the door closed. We never see the zombies face or body, just shadows of the door with the decayed hand in the door jam. She finally crushes the zombies hand, and we hear the knuckles crunching and we see blood spurt out. Quickly, she tries to push a dresser against the door to hold it closed. As she tries in anguish to keep it closed, the zombie outside pounds and begins to crack the door apart. With a big crash the zombie grabs her through the hole its punched and pulls her hair with force. She tries to fight it, but slowly the zombie wrenches her face closer and closer to a huge wooden splinter in the door thats sticking out right inline with her eye. As the camera zooms in, the splinter meets eye and in true Fulci style, it punctures it, squishing it. This scene is pure Fulci occular terror!!
When Peter, Anne, Brian and Susan see an island in the distance, they realize it must be Matool. They make their way towards it. When they get close, the boat breaks down, so they shoot off some flares off so someone will see it and help them out. Dr. Menards sidekick Lucas (Dakar) tells him hes seen the flares and they need to check it out. When Dr Menard picks the group up, they talk about whats been happening on the island. While Dr Menard explains the natives say its voodoo, he still thinks it has to be something medical that can be cured, like a disease. Menard takes them to his defunct church being used as a hospital for the "diseased natives". When they arrive, they see the sick patients. They can smell the death. Dr Menard then asks them if they would do him a favor and go check on his wife. The group agrees and they hop in his jeep and set off to find his house. When they arrive, things are quiet, but after they enter the house, they realize sometimes surroundings that are quiet means somethings very wrong. They discover there is a dinner party going on, only its no regular dinner party. Its a group of zombies feasting on Dr Menards dead wife! If this scene doesnt make you go crazy from the gory smorgasboard of flesh, then nothing will. Unlike Romero's zombies, these undead are scary and when they eat people, they EAT them! Peter and the gang are in total shock but they know they need to get out of there. As they turn to run outside, 2 more zombies slowly shuffle towards them. Brian bashes them both with his rifle butt and the gang tares out of there!!
They make their way down the dirt road heading back to the hospital. One lone zombie just walks out from the woods and instead of hitting him, Brian swerves off the road and crashes into a tree! Now they're really in trouble! Not only is the jeep messed up, Peter's ankle is broken from the crash. They know they need to get back to the hospital as fast as they can. After walking awhile, Peter tells them hes in pain and he needs to stop and rest. They know they cant stay long because the undead are coming closer. They decide to stop for a minute and lay down on the ground. They really picked the wrong place to stop because Brian finds an old spanish conquistadors helmet in the dirt. They see that they are in fact resting on top of a Spanish sailor cemetary. As Peter and Anne talk for a minute, then, up through the ground, a dead hand grab Annes hair and another hand clutches Peters broken ankle. They are trapped! Brian tries to help them, leaving Susan alone, but shes actually not alone. Slowly, out of the dirt, a zombie begins to rise up. This aint no Romero-blue faced-wimp zombie, this is an evil, decayed, crusty, menacing, flesh hungry, maggot infested FULCI ZOMBIE!! In a flash the zombie goes for Susans tender throat, tearing a big ol chunk of rubbery flesh from her neck as red blood spurts out like a fountain. Shes zombie dinner now!! Brian quickly shoots the zombie, then mashes his head apart. He tries to hold Susan, but shes torn apart.
The gang finally make it back to the hospital, its now nighttime and we can see the undead numbers are growing. Zombies shuffle slowly through the sandstorm filled darkness, and Fulci shows their decaying faces in extreme close ups. Peter, Anne and Brian get into the hospital to hold up against the zombie hordes that are filling the island. Once inside, they begin to lock all the doors and windows shut. The only problem is, the undead are inside as well as outside! Dr. Menard's friend Lucas has changed into a zombie and tries to attack them as well. As they try to find every last window and close it, several zombies are climbing into the hospital-church. Brian finds one, shoots it, while another one tries getting in to the window. He bashes its face with a shovel and opens its skull up like a melon. The undead are everywhere now and the gang try to keep them at bay. The only way they can think to defend themselves is with fire. They make molotov cocktails and begin to toss them at the undead army that has crashed through the front doors. They set the entire place on fire, zombies burn and body parts fall off. Its an incredible siege of humans vs the undead zombie flesheaters! The fight is on!!
The next morning, after the firey destruction, Peter and Anne get back on the boat with Brian who was bitten by his girlfriend turned Zombie Susan in the woods the night before. They both know he may turn into a zombie soon so they lock him in one of the cabins below. As they float along, Peter decides to turn on the radio to try to change the terrifying mood. They listen to the news and they hear that New York City has been overrun with zombies. Peter and Anne are in terror once again. Now they know things will never be the same. In the awesome closing shot of the film, we see legions of the undead slowly making their way towards the city on the George Washington Bridge. What else can I say? This film is a masterpiece!!!
I personally like Lucio Fulci's Zombie films more than George Romero's Dead films. Fulci made his zombies more terrifying, brutal and cinematic. I also think Fulci was a better visual storyteller than Romero. Fulci really had a knack for creating mood, shocking moments and atmopheres that were uniquely his own. "Absolute film" was what Fulci called his Horror works. The term "Absolute Film" meaning cinema that wasn't just about story and dialogue but based around the audio-visual aspects. After being a Fulci fan for several years now, I've found the real mastery with Fulci was the precise, amazing direction. Another very impressive thing in films like Fulci's Zombi 2 is the incredible artistry the Italian crews brought with them. They were all technical artisans and could create great FX from scratch and use what they had (which was usually not alot) to make something unique. Zombi 2 delivers folks. It delivers big time.
- This review is dedicated to the memory of Lucio Fulci -
Reviewed by Popeye Pete - 5/26/07