“Zombi 2″ (1979)
Studio: Variety Film Production
Starring: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay, Olga Karlatos
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Running Time: 91 min.
Synopsis: A group of Americans fight off zombies on a tropical island.
Next to Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 is one of the best zombie films and one of the best horror movies ever. To American audiences the film is simply called Zombie, but it’s originally title in Italy is Zombi 2. The studios or producers wanted to give it that title to make the film appear that it was the sequel to Dawn of the Dead, which was called just Zombi in Italy, but the two films have nothing to do with each other. The only thing they have in common are flesh-eating zombies, but Zombi 2 is a film that can stand on its own.
The film starts off with a ship in the New York harbor that appears to be abandoned, but when two cops check it out they find a zombie that takes a chunk out of one of the policeman. The zombie is shot and falls over board. Later, we find out that the boat belongs to a doctor who has been on a Caribbean island for the last year. His daughter, Ann (Tisa Farrow) is notified about the boat, but she has no idea why and how it got all the way to New York. With the help of a newspaper reporter, Peter (Ian McCulloch), the two figure out that something has happened to Ann’s father. Some notes they find suggested that he had caught some virus on the island and might be dead. The two take a plane to the Caribbean in search for the island that he was on called Matool.
When they arrive, Peter and Ann meet two Americans, Brian (Al Cliver) and Susan (Auretta Gay) who have a boat. The two ask them for ride to Matool. Brian agrees, but warns them that the islanders say the place is cursed. When the four of them finally make it to the island they met up with Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson) who was friends with Ann’s father. He tells them a wild story about the dead coming back to life. Ann’s father was a victim to this and was destroyed just as he came back from the dead. The doctor says he’s trying to find a logic reason why this is happening and assures them that it’s under control. Unaware to the doctor, the dead are growing in numbers and heading to the village where he has his hospital. Now the rest of them have to figure out how to fight off all the zombies and get off the island.
I first saw this film in 1994, but heard about it for years before I’d seen it. It delivered in so many ways when I finally saw it. An excellent film all around that has a great story, likeable characters, good scares, and a creepy vibe throughout. This would have to be my favorite Fulci film and one of the best zombie films ever made. From interviews I read I know that Fulci did not want to copy Dawn of the Dead and wanted to make a zombie film he can call his own. Even though the traits of the zombie are the same as the ones in Romero’s (zombies eating the flesh of the living and being shot in the head to kill them), the film had its own identity. Fulci did a good mix of the real legend of zombies that comes from the islands and has to do with voodoo and the Romero style where they eat human flesh and also he mixes a touch of the Fulci style.
The first thing I want to point out is the music score by Fabio Frizzi, Giorgio Cascio, Adrianno Giordanella, and Mauirizio Guarini. Without this excellent score the movie wouldn’t be the same. The music captures the mood of the film throughout. During intense moments when the zombies are attacking the music is very fast paced, when the part is suspenseful it is very slow and dark, and even when Peter and Ann first go to the Caribbean the music is very tropical and has an islander feel. The music even is connected with the editing, such as in one scene where they show a series of close-ups to the zombies. Each time they cut to a new zombie the beats on the music change. It’s a very good score and one of the top ten musical scores in a horror film and perhaps any film genre.
Of course when anyone mentions this film they talk about two scenes, which are the zombie vs. shark scene and the eye scene. Sometimes talked about scenes in movies are often overrated, but these two are not. In the zombie vs. shark scene, Susan played by the lovely Auretta Gay, goes scuba diving when the boat has stopped for a moment on the way to Matool. No wet suit for her though. She goes topless wearing just a bathing cap, her scuba tank, and a g-string, and she looks very luscious. As she’s underwater she spots a shark getting closer to her. She tries to hide from it by some rocks, but discovers a zombie deep in the water. She manages to escape unharmed from both the shark and the zombie. Now the undead and Jaws do battle. It’s a great scene and it beats anything from Jaws or any of its sequels. The guy playing the zombie (who is the shark trainer) actually wrestles with the tiger shark. It’s an amazing scene and one of the best in the film.
The other is the eye scene. This is one I remember reading about before I saw the film. It happens when Dr. Menard’s wife, Paola (Olga Karlatos) is home alone and trying to keep the zombies from breaking in her house. One of the zombies breaks through a wooden door and grabs a hold of Paola hair and begins to pull her towards them. As they are pulling her there is a splinted piece of wood that is lined up to her eye and as they pull her closer the piece of wood goes right into her eye. The scene is very suspenseful even before they grab her. Towards the beginning of the film, the zombies are not really seen and there are a few points of view shots. This makes them a lot scarier. When Paola is trying to shut her door we just see a hand from one of the zombies trying to keep it open. Then she slams the door on their hand and finally gets it shut. Then when she is being pulled toward the piece of wood it goes back and forth from her reaction to her point of view of the sharp piece of wood getting closer to her.
Point of view is another great tool that is used effectively in the film. Especially during a scene where Susan is sitting in a graveyard on the island and one of the corpses rises from the ground. The camera is on the zombie’s point of view as we see dirt clear off the lens. It then goes to Susan’s point of view as she starts to see the head coming out of the ground. The scene goes back and forth with their point of views until the zombie is out of the ground and lunges right into the camera as he takes a chunk out of her neck. This is also the famous zombie that is on the poster to the movie. It is the one with a bunch of worms coming out of his eye socket, which has become iconic image in the world of horror.
Another thing I want to mention is the film’s opening, which starts off with a gun begin pointed at the camera and then a body wrapped in sheets head to toe, begin to rise up. The gun fires and the body is shot in the head. We then hear a voice say, “The boat can leave now, tell the crew.” After the opening credits the scene cuts to New York where we find that boat in New York harbor. There are some great shots here from the nice aerials of the boat in the water with the New York backdrop, but another is the shot of the boat itself. There are a few scenes shown where we see an empty boat with just tons of junk around it. The boat feels like a ghost town and it gives off this feeling of isolation. Then it gets really thrilling when the cops come aboard and start looking around especially when one of them goes down in the ships deck and the place is disgusting. You are waiting for something to happen, but you just don’t know when it will.
As I mentioned before Zombi 2 is an awesome zombie film and an excellent horror movie. It is Fulci at his best and it re-launched his career in Italy. After Zombi 2 he gave us other good horror films like City of the Walking Dead, The Beyond, and The New York Ripper. Also some not so great ones like House by the Cemetery and Manhattan Baby. For me he’ll always be remembered for Zombi 2, which is a horror classic.