Written by: Tara Mae Jackson
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson
In this day and age when The Walking Dead has taken over the masses, and we’re hit with one zombie flick after another, each trying to out-do the other I find it a nice time to re-visit films that made a mark in this genre long before the impending zom-pocalypse seemed inevitable. In 1978 George A. Romero stranded a small band of survivors in a mall in Dawn of the Dead, a follow up to his much loved and revered Night of the Living Dead. Dario Argento, a well-known Italian director aided Romero in the working of the script and in return got to release the European cut of the film, which ran under the title Zombi in Italy. In 1979 director Lucio Fulci brought us Zombie Flesh Eaters, which was also sold as Zombi 2, and in America just known as Zombie. Fulci’s vision of a zombie flick was anything but tame, and instead of slow creeping terror we get everything to the extreme, full frontal nudity, eye gouging, flesh tearing, hyper-violence. The censors took note.
Though many would agree that Italian horror was known for pushing the envelope when it came to the taboo, some directors seemed to run with this more than others and really go for the high impact of full out gore, sexuality and brutality, and Zombie fits right into this perfectly. These zombies may not run and leap, but they do seem to break some of the more typical zombie behaviors as we see them submerged underwater and even wrestling a bull shark in one scene as a topless female scuba diver tries to get back to her boat and not become the meal of either one. The stark imagery of some scenes would be artistic if not so drenched in gore, and the atmosphere of the movie begins to turn more claustrophobic as we become secluded on an island in the throes of a zombie epidemic.
As the movie begins, we see someone fire a single shot into the head of person wrapped completely in what appears to be a bed sheet secured in twine, who is beginning to stir, a cryptic “tell them to ready the boat” statement is made, and then making its way to the New York coast is what appears to be an unmanned sail boat. Upon inspection, however, we find the few remaining crew have become zombies, and the mystery of what has happened begins. Deciding to investigate and scoop the story is Peter West, a reporter who has tailed Ann, the daughter of the scientist who owned the boat. The investigation teams them up with a young couple on a sail boat, and they head to the island on which Ann’s father was last seen, to discover a zombie plague that is spiraling out of control.
The frustration of Dr. Menard as he does his work, and the tension with his beautiful and terrified wife create sparks as the wildfire of savagery begins to really get going and we quickly realize that no one is safe from the impending doom. We have the classic scenes of zombies that rise from the ground of unmarked graves along the island, the heart racing flight from the undead that wish to feast on the flesh of the living, and the easy transference of the zombie plague. In with that we are treated with flesh ripped from the bone, an eye popped by being pulled onto a protruding piece of wood, and a zombie feasting on the flesh of a shark while submerged, some quite amazing scenes!
Anyone who loves zombies, zombie flicks, or just over the top brutal flicks full of gore and nudity, should see this film. It’s nestled quite nicely in the Italian gore movies you come to expect from the late 70’s and early 80’s, and is also a rather bold and amusing installment to the zombie genre in general. Fulci is perhaps most known for his films in the zombie category such as The Beyond, and City of the Living Dead, both of which came after Zombie and were excellent examples of how terrifying an assault of the undead could be. My opinion, if you are a zombie nut, visit this classic film with the name that says it all “Zombie Flesh Eaters” you may be grossed out, or you may be enraptured, but you won’t be disappointed!