The third entry in our Week of Horror series is Zombie, a 1979 Italian film directed by the legendary Lucio Fulci.
Note: This review covers the Anchor Bay 2002 release. Some images inside NSFW.
Released in Italy on August 25th, 1979 and in the United States in July of 1980, Zombie is in my opinion the best zombie movie ever made. Originally titled Zombi 2 in an attempt to ride the coat tails of the European release of Dawn of the Dead entitled Zombi, Zombie has nothing in common with Dawn of the Dead other then the fact that there are zombies in both. Besides Zombie and Zombi 2, this film is also known as Island of the Living Dead, Zombie Island, Zombie Flesh Eaters, and Woodoo.
Far from Fulci’s first film, Zombie is arguably his magnum opus. Fulci managed to get his actors to portray truly “realistic” zombies, whose slow shambling and dead stares beneath pounds of makeup are some of the most convincing ever seen on screen. The earthy and organic look the zombies are given adds to their convincing presentation, making it appear that they were fresh out of the ground. They may have been slow, but they were absolute tanks; their lumbering gait made them appear immune to any form of punishment.
Despite the nasty visuals awaiting you around every turn, most of the attention seems to have been paid to the zombies rather than their victims. Wounds and imperfections on the rapidly decaying zombies are far more well done than the injuries they inflict, and most of the blood shown is a bit watery. While not the goriest zombie film out there, there is still some stomach churning stuff in this movie….especially the super-famous eye impaling scene. Other moments, such as the upper remains of a person that a group of zombies feasts upon, will impress you with how gruesome the scene appears, but how little you actually are seeing. Fulci’s ability to trick you into thinking you are seeing more gore than you actually are is impressive, to say the least.
The picture quality in the 2002 Anchor Bay release is a bit grainy and a little fuzzy, but it fits the overall feel of the film well. There is a decent Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, with zombie moans coming from all speakers. Camera angles in this movie are experimental in nature, with some odd close-up choices and zoomed in establishment shots. Fulci manages to make you feel confined, despite the open space of the island the movie takes place on, adding to the tension. The best camera work comes in when Fulci frames a gore shot; you see just enough of what is happening to someone for just a long enough amount of time to satisfy the gorehounds without being excessive. While 15 minutes or so could have been lopped off from this movie, the pacing is still decent. I personally find this a good one to watch either late at night, or during a lazy weekend afternoon.
Zombie is a classic in the genre. If you enjoy zombie movies or just want to see a piece of cinematic horror history, you need a copy of this movie to go on your shelf. I myself prefer the grainy picture of the 2002 release over the 25th anniversery edition, as the picture is a little bit too clear in that version. The 98-minute documentary that comes with it is worth the price of admission alone, however…so you might want to try to get your hands on a copy of both.