When the earth spits out the dead, they will return to tear the flesh of the living
When deciding on which Zombie movie would favour the first review on TCMR; firstly I thought, good grief, we have not actually written one single article surrounding this popular Horror-Universe. Of this particular monster movie manifestation, six horror glories immediately sprung to mind. Do I review still my ultimate favourite of all the zombie kingdoms? Or do I review the later ground-breaking more visceral follow up to my favourite zombie movie? Then for a brief moment I nearly chose to go with a zombie remake that I actually prefer to the ground breaking original? but then I quickly reminded myself of the crap i’ll get for suggesting otherwise and decided in my current delicate state, it was not worth the ramifications – not yet anyway? I then thought okay should I do a review of the original in question based on the fact of it being massively iconic in status – within horror cinemas affirming history? Four of the six movies under consideration I then noted being heavily invested in George A. Romero’s world? Then my mind began to think, should I perhaps start my first zombie quest with a recently (personal) discovered classic movie revelation by director Jorge Grau? After some deep rooted contemplation I felt that I would again do the opposite dictated of convention and go with the one zombie treasure that quietly passed everyone by? “Yeah right?”
Not only does this chosen movie epitomise this directors often unconventional style and credentials, but through being in the right place at the right time and with the infancy of a new opening market of massive cultural change and movie accessibility – and its quickly expanding viewing demographic – home entertainment finally arrived. Such VHS – Betamax good fortune easily deposited this controversial of all this Zombie sub-genres efforts into a place and time that welcomed such a vile and blood spattered world of violent battle and furthermore unlike its UK cinema release in 1980, the subsequent video version was originally released fully uncut until its eventual ban during the 1980’s ‘Video Nasties’ era. What I am about to say in my opening statement regarding this horror movie therefore is strangely tinted with initial caution and careful but honest judgement? If you’re looking for Thespian performances and glorious storytelling then simply do not bother entertaining this or indeed any other of this directors (often) dysfunctional material. This coming despite the two main British actors involved in this production being considered serious actors! What little basis Fulci attains as available storyline to this and his other wealth of movies, though very basic in context, is at best merely a filler that allows the director to expand his craftsmanship in off-loading a visual barrage of monster mayhem and ultra-violence, disturbing nightmare landscapes and occasional bouts of nudity and over-the-top sexual violence. I in particular note his, The New York Ripper (1982) as the perfect example for the latter, though not exclusive. Furthermore if you are a fully paid-up member of the ‘Politically Correct’ brigade then again I am afraid his many titles will definitely offend all social and ethical sensibilities. The simple truth is this movie like that of all of Lucio Fulci’s canon of work is of a certain genre vintage that does not try to tax deep thought or deal in complex issues of the day, nor does it give a shit about its pretensions, for it is by its very essence – just a genre movie and not the historical retelling of the Gettysburg address or the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. What you do get here – in the particular case of this cult classic, is a full and rich hour and half of pure horror entertainment in the form of exploitational cinema with its lashings of full-on zombie violence, which is often accidentally at times? amusing but extremely gory and adventurous nonetheless and also clearly representative of the provocative movie making that was synonymous of its day – with both the movie in UK title inference and this auteur with his often unrelenting visual antagonism, be that deliberate or otherwise, he was always clearly willing to cause great public outrage whenever opportunity arose. He cared little for the opinions of others. He made movies the way he wanted and would not be dictated to by the general establishment of both cinema and the political sway outside his movie world. When Lucio Fulci is the maker of the movie contained within this particular review many will doubtless already understand where I may be journeying with this appraisal? So without further delay you have been warned?
If 1970’s – 80’s exploitive horror cinema is your bag then Fulci easily ticks this particular box of genre infamy – he has to be one of the finest around for providing such an important recipe of horror movie mayhem. No! – scrap that – he is the undoubted king? (opinions may vary) regarding involvement in such notorious cinema. Let me also point out before we proceed, Fulci was by no means the most outrageous director out there? He was simply the most consistent and influential for a time and that is probably why he obtained the tag of controversial – though he clearly was most oftly.
Ingredients: Take bad, (often badly dubbed) dialogue, then add bouts of amateurish acting and plot holes the size of moon craters, (in large part) but not always. Create an out of control, often daft, script which makes little sense nor coherence. We then have the added addition of large glaring doses of often misogynistic overtures as part of the directors legendary template. The women most often act subservient and suffer with considerable overbearing neurosis. (More on that later?) Add to this cocktail by making available an ambivalent, often over confident but seemingly incompetent male contingent attempting to become the heroes of the hour – but often failing miserably. You then join these two conspiring physical forces into the disjointed mix – as counterparts, thus making their combination become often; whiny, terrified, incredulous and uncontainable under severe pressure, (again in large part). Have your victims often double-take or simply freeze on the spot and scream with fright when faced with adversity, rather than run like your life depended on it, which in this case is often. (Wry smile?) Have many of the characters so typecast and one dimensional that it physically hurts to watch their unravelling – metaphorically speaking of course? The final result of all this discombobulation will be a movie that was not just controversial, violent, unrelenting, and extremely gory, but as an individual genre movie, it delights in offering you some undoubted stunning horror set pieces unsurpassed and also gifts some reasonable ideas that amongst the ensuing chaos, actually do begin to immerse its audience into an alternative and often fascinating horror universe that breaks with convention and messes with the normal – and is often highly offensive. What shouldn’t work, accidentally or by design, put into the capable hands of Fulci’s genius visual splendour – simply does work. Let us also not forget that this is a movie that is stunning beyond doubt regarding its epic cinematography and lavish backdrop locations, all of which emit and inspire the audience to dip their toes in to and enjoy the feel of playful but frightening adventure in all its bizarre forthcoming output and expansive settings. With the masterful director of cinematography Sergio Salvati by his side, Fulci here splendidly capitalises on the 1970’s New York backdrop in the opening segment of the movies tale which clearly defines this vast cinematic canvas. Fulci, cast and crew often worked on locations without special permission, often breaking local and district working permit laws (visa) and codes. The opening harbour scenes set beside the distant but massive New York skyline is genuinely breathtaking. The Manhattan landscape as it famously was – including the two World Trade Center towers, grand stand beyond all and give an incredible captured scale and visual depth to proceedings. The Brooklyn Bridge also plays a major visual presence in not just the early scenes of the film but again manage to become the terrifying reference point of contact with the movies apocalyptic nightmare verbal (radio announcement) and the final zombie walk, with its disparaging doom laden ending? All of this a glaring reminder of a different world and backdrop which would one day actually live through a period of true horror on a real and unparalleled level.
We will finally enter Fulci’s strange and twisted other world as it begins its undead overthrow of mankind as we know it? We will be introduced to a place were the human race face being over-run by a zombie plague of (eventual) biblical proportions, a place constructed in the madness of Fulci’s splatter filled fantastical end vision. This movie amongst his many genre achievements remains my own personal favourite of his notable genre work. Many will suggest it was his output directly after this effort, which included his celebrated “Gates of Hell trilogy” – ‘City of the Living Dead’ (1980) followed up by his double (1981) classic entries, ‘The Beyond’ and ‘The House by the Cemetery’. Again it has to be a close run contest but ‘Zombi 2’ for me… just about steals the Fulci crown. The movie must also be noted for containing one of the most epic cinematic moments you will ever witness. Even in the vast plethora of Fulci infamous – famous set-pieces, this has to be his finest moment? (No I am not talking about that now legendary ‘Banned’ horror cinema moment featuring Olga Karlatos. We’ll get to that soon?) The scene of which I am referring is of such surreality that for those unfamiliar with this film, you will be genuinely left thinking… “how did they ever manage to film that – and furthermore whose brilliant idea was it?” It is an incredible moment and to my knowledge I have never seen its like in any other movie to date. The “Tomb of the Sea” scene: Tiger shark attack featuring actress Auretta Gay – Susan Barrett and a strange underwater presence (get this), a zombie intent on attacking whatever moves beneath the waves – is incredible. If for no other reason for watching this movie; then this cinematic gift at 31:21 minutes in, alone – is worthy of viewable delectation. It is simply unbelievable to the point of cinematic disbelief and visual genius by its conclusion and Gay finally struggles out of the water at 37:46. This breathtaking underwater scene of photography submergence comes at you via Ramón Bravo and Paolo Curfo. It is also Ramón Bravo who plays the rabid underwater zombie in question. He was an Olympic swimmer who competed for Mexico in the London 1948 event. Bravo by name, Bravo by nature… how apt!
Ramón Bravo as the zombie
Despite all the furore from another four lifetimes ago, this movie has many redeeming qualities that give it a status, rightly or wrongly of both a notoriety and more importantly (for me) the respect, it undoubtedly deserves as historical genre material. Lucio Fulci fans in particular still love this as every detailed and controversial: graphic eyeball skewing, throat ripping, limb tearing, disembowelment is placed inside Zombi 2’s (now available uncut) over laden locker. This film has zombies despatching victims left, right and indeed centre and those fighting against this plague return favour in viscera exchanges of eventual unchained retribution. In describing that obvious fact it is quite unrelenting at times in shock value and brims over with a tasteless but fabulous blood-letting that may or may not offend most quarters. This is a zombie movie folks – what was you expecting other than a vulgar display of violence, a vast death count and the inclusion of much smearing of blood, guts and brains on a visual grand scale… it’s Lucio Fulci for f**k sake.
The zombie rises
We are not into double figures – within mere seconds – when Fulci opens his horror salvo with a musical jungle drum rhythm playing like background elevator muzak, brutally advertising that this characters immersion is somehow located in a place that may represent an exaggerated tropical – voodoo presence and culture? Richard Johnson – Dr David Menard. One of two TCMR favourite nay legendary actors that star in this movie. Amongst Johnson’s Highlights – Robert Wise’s astounding, The Haunting (1963). In between movies he worked heavily in television including the notable TCMR genre orientated; Thriller (1973) Space 1999 (1975) Other movie and TV work included Screamers (1979) The Monster Club (1981) The Crucifier of Blood (1991), in which he plays Dr John Watson opposite Charlton Heston as Sherlock Holmes. He also featured in an episode of the dark comedy series, Murder Most Horrid (1996). His other notable delve into TCMR territory includes his appearance in the television series of – Tale of the Crypt (1996). He is also a member of both the ‘Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London’ and the ‘Royal Shakespeare Company’. Richard Johnson also served in the Navy during World War II. His character Menard is in the process of executing the body of someone who has risen-up from its bed, fully bound in a white sheet and restrained with rope. The doctor raises up his revolver and we note the legendary ‘bullet to the head’ – the famous zombie method of despatch which is shown in full bloody and splintered skull trauma graphicness. “The boat can leave now – tell the crew?” the unfazed doctor announces, (non-specific?)
Richard Johnson as Dr. Menard
Fabio Frizzi and Giorgio Tucci’s – Cascio! famous soundtrack kicks in. A drum machine heartbeat ‘Bump-bump-bump-bump!’ is then followed by the legendary electronica discharge which fantastically overwrought’s in quick succession. Fabio Frizzi worked with Fulci before and on many occasions after Zombi 2. Working on the soundtrack to many of Fulci’s hit movies. His Co writing credits also featured in Quentin Tarantino’s – Kill Bill Vol. I. (2003). “Seven Notes in Black”.
ZOMBIE is emblazoned in distinct white lettering on black background. The cast and crew details follow as the sound of synthesisers train-track through the credits like a distant and distinct syncopated version of Kraftwerk’s – Trans Europe Express. Again like many genre movie soundtracks, the theme often stays with its intended audience long after final credits. Frizzi – Tucci’s effort defining that very fact and its now legendary status as one of the definitive horror movie themes.
The New York coast guard are alerted to a ship that seems to be unmanned – ‘The Demeter’ like? It passes the Statue of Liberty and then precariously enters the busy shipping lanes of the East River – tidal strait. The Staten Island Ferry blows its horns in protest and also to warn the Morning Lady II of its dangerously close collision course. Chopper-One makes a fly-by and indicates the vessel may be minus a crew? A patrol boat bearing the tricalor of the State of New York blows in the strong harbour wind as two of New York’s finest: one, harbour patrol, the other N.Y.P.D. (note badges?) go to investigate. They eventually close down and then board the alleged abandoned boat. Their initial search eventually leads them to the conclusion that the boat has indeed been left unmanned? In the galley the first cop glances in and finds no sign of life just an amass of litter, strewn newspaper pages, empty tins, plates covered in spoiled – uneaten food and a bed – dishevelled and dirty? Just as he is about to investigate further the second officer – on deck – has a mishap and begins to complain about a broken winch that falls down on top of the retreating officer. After swapping tasks the second man goes into the galley, the rank smell immediately hits his senses. He notices a small keyboard, upon it large blood-worms dance across the keys, like escaped members of Jeff Lieberman’s Squirm (1976). The cop pulls back a loosened sheet, it falls to the floor. Inside he finds a dismembered – finger gnawed right hand. From the engine room into the galley, a large built – bloodstained bald zombie smashes through the door and rugby tackles the police officer to the floor. This famous zombie icon is one Arthur J. Haggerty aka Captain Haggerty. With torn zombie flesh revealed and the cop dispatched by a graphic bite to the neck, we note one of Fulci’s descript trademark horror haemorrhages in all its blood-curdling glory. The final screams of the now bitten cop alert officer on deck number two. He turns from the bow of the boat. The now iconic zombie rising from the galley up to the deck not only reveals the great size and physique of Captain Haggerty but viewing the New York skyline and the shimmering glazed East river adds to the amazing concept of this scene which ends when cop (badge number 8171) unloads his pistol into the on-coming zombie fiend. He eventually – bullet riddled, falls into the river. ‘No bullet to the head?’ This famous scene is just one of many that light up this movie like a beacon that navigates you into the whole adventurous premise of things to come. Again Haggerty’s brief but memorable appearance lives-on decades after his final splash down into the Tidal-strait. Fabulous stuff! Also if you have not already seen “Food for the Worms”, a mini-documentary on Captain Haggerty, then I recommend you do so, it’s very interesting.
The introduction of Ian McCulloch; horror/Sci-Fi genre (Legend) immediately adds greater kudos to proceedings. I could list his achievements but those regular to TCMR site will need no such reminder of his iconic standing? “Oh!… Okay then?” He was Greg Preston in the legendary BBC television series Survivors (1975 – 1977). Epic television on every ground-breaking and terrifying level. It also scared the crap out of me as a child – it really did. He also appeared in many other British TV programmes from an episode of Secret Army (1977). The Return of the Saint (1978). Ladykillers (1980) to my all time favourite The Professionals (1980). He also appeared in Hammer House of Horror, episode “Witching Time”. (1980). He was also present in the Peter Davison time-lord version of Doctor Who – “Warriors of the Deep” (1984). “Not bad… heh!” His horror cinematic bows beside this movie come in the Peter Cushing led The Ghoul (1975). He then went on to star in Marino Girolami’s, not to dissimilar to Flesh Eaters – Zombie Holocaust (1980). Also starring in this was Fulci future favourite, the stunning, Alexandra Delli Colli – The New York Ripper (1982). McCulloch also starred in alleged Alien/The Crazies rip-off, Luigi Cozzi’s, Contamination (1980). Did we mention he was also officially a member of the prestigious ‘Royal Shakespeare Company’ along with Zombi 2 actor Richard Johnson. Listen, with that kind of a CV, “enough said – I think!” In ‘Flesh Eaters’ – UK title, McCulloch plays journalist Peter West. West is called into his news editors office – Lucio Fulci. Fulci around the time of his more successful period appeared in some of his movies in cameo roles. (Alfred Hitchcock anybody?) The editor gives West a possible scoop, a cop killing on the East river and sends his man off to investigate matters.
Back at the harbour three plain clothed detectives take it in turn to grill a puppy-eyed, confused women. Who is she? This is Anne Bowles – Tisa Farrow, (sister of someone famous apparently?) The Morning Lady II is the property of Dr Bowles, estranged father of Anne. Clearly aggravated at the interrogation, she takes on more questions, than can offer up to the law any concrete answers. The only thing she can actually reveal is that she last spoke to her father three month ago, just before he set sail for the Antilles to see friends? She like the police, is largely clueless has to how the boat as ended up in New York? More to the point, what has happened to Dr Bowles?
We are now transported to the City of New York, offices of the Chief Medical Examiner, (CME). The reason we are here, is for the autopsy being carried out upon the recently deceased harbour patrol officer. With discussions stretching from the District Attorneys Office (DAO) insistence and importance on this matter. To the subsequent hypothesis on official death of said officer and the importance of having the rightly prepared tools for the job of post-mortem. The words bite and haemorrhage are also left echoing in the ears at this time as the trauma of events are displayed in full Fulci fashion, care of (highly nominated Special Effects and Make-Up Supervisor Giannetto De Rossi. De Rossi worked on a number of Fulci movies. His work beyond his other Fulci productions becomes a ‘whose – who’ of top billed cinema employment). What is also noted in this scene is the moment the alleged dead cadaver begins to ominously move beneath the white sheet? clearly signposting the obvious.
Night time falls. We are transferred back to the mooring where the Morning Lady II is being held in quarantine and guarded by an on duty NYPD cop. Anne Bowles is currently using darkness to clandestinely take the opportunity to board her fathers boat. She has returned to the scene of the crime in order to perhaps find some possible clue that the police officers may have missed. The coming together of Peter West and Anna, comes as a result of he being present, having reached the same conclusion. After verbal and hesitant exchanges between the two strangers in the dark in which there is discovery of a note left by Anne’s father, it is also the moment in which the on duty cop finds the two interlopers on board the boat. After using the pretence of being luckless lovers being caught in the act – so to speak! the cop expels the two alleged (lovers) from the boat and sends them on their way. With the found letter from Dr Bowles being in the hands of the journalist and with Anne Bowles now in tow, West in a phone call recites the found note to his editor. In its content it reveals;
“To my daughter Anne, in case anything should happen to me. Due to my morbid curiosity, I have managed to contract a strange disease. They are taking care of me as if I were some sort of guinea pig, but I know i’ll never leave this island again, at least not alive. I haven’t been a good father, but I have always loved you. One last kiss from dad. Matool”. It’s dated 15 September.
The status of Anne’s father is still unclear but judging by the note, things seem desperate. With the incident regarding the Morning Lady II extending the mystery along with the violent death of the coast guard officer from the resulting frenzied attack by an unknown assailant, it seems all obvious clues lie in Matool, one of the islands off Saint Thomas – U.S. Virgin Islands. After convincing his editor of the necessity to investigate further, with permission granted and two tickets made available both West and Anne make their way to JFK airport. They catch TWA flight 782 for St. Thomas.
After arriving on the island of St. Thomas the odd couple go in search of hiring a boat that may take them to the destination of Matool. After hearsay and eventually tracking down two American tourists that are about to cruise the islands with their boat, the journalist asks the couple if they would be willing to offer their services by taking them to Matool, while the boating couple perhaps pass-by on their tour. The very mention of Matool is returned by Susan Barrett (mentioned earlier) and Brian Hull – Al Cliver, offering cautionary glances toward one another, Hull becoming even more cautious in his warning regarding his acknowledgement of local superstitions? “That’s not a cool place to hit. The natives claim it’s cursed. They avoid it like the plague”. Undeterred, West announces “We have to go there anyway”.
Eventually, after some cautious negotiation the boating couple are willing to take on board both the journalist and Anne on their vacational journey of the islands. After the deal is finally struck and the four prepare for the trip; not before Hull adds a personal caveat. “I’ll warn you right now, don’t expect us to come sightseeing once we get there (Matool). I found that it never pays to ignore native superstitions”.
Al Cliver worked soon after on several future Fulci projects in mainly not exclusive (bit-parts), his part as Brian Hull his one major Fulci highlight.
Al Cliver – hall of fame: The Black Cat (1981). The Beyond (1981). Murder Rock: Dancing Death (1984). New Gladiators (1984). Touch of Death (1988). The Ghost of Sodom (1988). The House of Clocks (1989). Demonia (1990) He also went on to work with TCMR favoured directors – The earlier mentioned Marino Girolami in Flying Sex (1980). He also worked with the legend that was Jesús (Jess) Franco or (Pseudonym) on White Cannibal Queen (1980). and Devil Hunter (1980). He also starred in Joe D’Amato, (again Pseudonym). 2020 freedom fighters (1982). Cliver also became the lead name in Endgame – Bronx Lotta Finale (1983), a Mad Max inspired concept. And featured in both D’Amato’s Alcove (1985) and, A Lustful Mind (1986). Joe D’Amato’s most appreciated work at TCMR is his – ‘Death Smiles on a Murderer’ – ‘La morte ha sorriso all’assassino’ (1973), starring Klaus Kinski. Again Cliver’s working CV in the genre is pretty comprehensive.
Back on Matool, Dr Menard is attempting to make contact with neighbouring Island Guadalupe, by attempting communication on a WWII radio transmitter, (it seems to be the only available communication system on the island in which to contact the outside world?) He makes no contact with ‘Guadalupa One’. This failure only tempers Menard’s wife Paola – Olga Karlatos who is becoming steadily frantic and hysterical and rightly so, for she knows precisely what is currently happening in Matool? She, like her husband, the native islanders and associates have seemingly become prisoners, stuck on the island, or is that deliberately quarantined? An argument between the Menard’s erupts in both verbal tirades and an eventual violent exchange which reveals all regarding Dr Menard’s relationship (or lack of) with his wife and the provoked subject matter regarding his failing research into the illness spreading across the island in epidemic proportions, a point Paola immediately begins to poke fun at by making comparable his own work with that of the local witch doctor. She implying that he his fooling with superstition, voodoo and she even dare mention of the Z-word. He attempts to reassure her of the importance of understanding the fight against this island phenomena and why he must pursue his study. Menard heads for the island hospital, leaving behind (almost callously) his depressed and despairing wife, whom has now reached her own crisis point and is also unconvinced by her husbands commitment to their failing relationship, she clearly in the midst of a deep and obvious mental breakdown, spared on by hints toward increased alcohol abuse. (Well would you not, having such thoughts on your mind?) After a flippant word with Miguel the gardener, a man now initiated by the doctor (not through choice?) becomes guard of honour and is asked to ‘keep an eye’ on both the residence and Menard’s insecurely wired wife. Menard drives away in his Land Rover!
The next few moments of Fulci’s film offers up a character crossroads. The first point of reference is the scene which highlights a local by the bay crossing himself as the cruise boat containing Peter, Anne, Susan and Brian leaves for its island jaunt. We also preview Menard studying blood samples and then doing a little mix and match with his own freshly syringed blood sample. We assume he is mixing the blood to see if under the microscope he will witness a reaction?
On the cruiser the guests along with Hull discuss Island’s passed but clearly unmapped, something that West quickly notes and points out, as they don’t appear on the current available sea charts. Hull explains that many of the islands are still unmapped because of their vast spread, he even alerts the couple of their remote chance of finding Matool. While West, Anne and Hull discuss further matters, Susan request that she be allowed to do some underwater diving and take some photographs. Susan kits up and goes (famously) topless – a moment noted by the guests in particular. Susan’s splashdown into the Caribbean ocean notes what will be the movies finest and most spectacular several breathtaking moments. The shark attack, zombie collision mentioned earlier is very special indeed. Not only do the underwater events highlight ‘Flesh Eaters’ as a genre pot of gold, but this fantastic moment also quickly reminds us of how the clumsiness of script dictation and event dichotomy in the aftermath of the shark attack scenes will sadly and messily clump things together in a rushed and unsubtle effort in order for the film to lurch forward. It will offer (by-coincidence) a segway of noting the island of Matool off in the distance, (what are the chances?) and the major disabling of the now stricken boat by mere shark menacing conspiracy. The placement of these moments make the superb shark and zombie presence that little more awkward and harder to entertain after Susan is finally recovered from the water and into the safety of the boat. It’s nothing major, but seems a little galling considering the massive effort of making this epic scene so worthy in the first place. Despite this, it all fits into Fulci’s grand vision “I suppose?” and does at least allow this turn of events to move on from the spectacular undersea adventure of NOTE: the calm and cool Susan Barrett, a moment that at last gift hope for a feisty female character unlike Anne Bowles or the self pity character overtures of Paola Menard!
it seems this incident highlights that Susan Barrett of all the female cast is made of sterner stuff! Something that unfortunately completely disappears in the latter stages of the film. Sad really? Susan still somewhat confused and startled notifies everyone that it was not just the shark that was the problem during her terrifying ordeal beneath the waves, as she is quick to explain? “There was a man down there”… Yeah right! No seriously guys she’s not lying – we saw it also… honestly?
The ramshackle island chapel of Matool has become a makeshift hospital. Inside we see many beds occupied with people tied down on top of them. Menard and his loyal Nurse, Stefania D’Amario of Umberto Lenzi’s, Nightmare City (1980). (Hugo Stiglitz… anyone?) Both are in deep conflab regarding the obvious condition of those present, whom are now suffering with this alleged terrible pathogen? Many of the locals being held in the hospital are showing symptoms of rabid like behaviour and obvious signs of serious infection and additional ranting delirium.
With many of these haggled patients seemingly knocking on deaths door the conversation of the two turns to the subject of the increasing zombified state of those present but seem luckless in what to really do other than provide the best care possible under the circumstance and also make sure they remain securely tied down. Local assistant Lucas – Dakar, (also featured in Marino Girolami’s, Zombie Holocaust (1980) as Molotto in an almost identical typecast role and opposite Ian McCulloch, he to in an almost identical role and movie?) enters the hospital. He seems nervous and brings news of people leaving the island because of sudden unrest.
Lucas explains. “Fear in the village. There’s great trouble and commotion. It’s the Juju man? the new one? It’s big and plenty. They seem possessed by all the devils in hell”. After a rebuke by Menard the local continues. “The natives are going crazy. They run all over the village. They pick up their possessions and disappear”. “Where do they go?” enquires the doctor. “They go inland. They’re making voodoo, I think”. A second angry rebuke by the doctor follows. “Voodoo – Voodoo won’t solve anything”. Lucas continues. “Doctor, they’re afraid. Very much afraid, these people”. Menard also notes the fear in Lucas. “You too. You’re afraid, aren’t you Lucas?” Lucas’s silence becomes deafening. The wind begins to rise on the island as Menard and Lucas take a stroll down the beach. In the trees a presence unknown seems to be observing the two men?
The next several moments of Fulci’s movie concentrate on that now legendary cinematic horror impulse that became synonymous with ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’ reputation. Remember the verbal and physical cast aside of Paola Menard by her husband? This saddened character is seen taking a shower. Her cleansing all seems very melodramatic as thoughts and disparity pass through her head just like the running water. Unbeknownst to Paola, someone – something is observing her from the bathroom window. Fingers press against the glass. Is this voyeur watching on lustfully like Fulci’s audience or is this unidentified character thinking more along the lines of zombie nosh? “grub-up!” Paola leaves the shower, pours herself an alcoholic beverage and then puts on her gown. Is she getting slightly jittery? Is she now thinking she’s hearing noises or is she just fuelled with alcohol enhanced paranoia? The next few moments unveil her true terrors when the unidentified lurker breaks cover and finally enters Paola’s room, she in response locks herself back in the bathroom from the intruder. As she begins to retreat, a hand grabs at the door and attempts to push it back open. This sudden battle results in a crunching, zombie amputation of fingers. With this particular battle temporarily won and Paola having obtained the brief spoils of repelling the home invader, it is not to long before she is reminded of this things unrelenting persistence? The slitted door to the bathroom suddenly begins to get a fist pummelling, the wood begins to creek then crack and splinter. Paola in desperation begins her latest attempt to repel by pushing a bathroom cabinet toward the door. With great endeavour she presses the cabinet and her body against the failing door. Exhausted from her efforts she quickly attempts to take breath. A blistered grey fleshed hand eventually punches through the slit panels and manages to grab a handful of Paola’s hair. She begins to scream as she now makes attempts to free herself from the zombies clutches. Fighting in vein against the monsters pull she suddenly notes a shard of the broken louvre door advancing toward her forcible guided head.
This infamous scene reaches its climax only when our relentless zombie finally impales the distraught Paola Menard to the protruding broken wood panel. The eyeball skewing scene is now so legendary that not only did it go on to cause political debate throughout most of the world, but that scene came to represent a movie culture now steeped in a new and twisted mood in horror cinema. There’s other famous movies and scenes that also courted the infamous tag, but the dispatch of the beautiful Olga Karlatos in Fulci’s zombie epic is one of the defining moments that many still talk about even 36 years after its original genre recognition and infamy. My own personal opinion on this scene? Watching it now it still packs an undoubted punch and though slightly dated (?) it still is quite brutal and unrelenting. What it does state in its intent is to say this was a director in a field of genre cinema expanding the boundaries of mood and absurdity of act. Not only was it clear to those around at the time who viewed this explicit depiction of horror violence, but what it did do – was cast the many stones that rippled through a turning tide of staleness and indeed pepped things up [just] a touch. It gave a new spirit to an already changing outlook of horror cinema and did so with great aplomb. It was one of the prominent game changers, no doubting that! This famous home invasion scene became massive in context of its representation of what became the UK’s 1980’s Nasties period.
A few hours of perceived self pity and alcohol is quickly noted when Menard’s nurse informs him of the death of his friend Matthias, A moment that will eventually see the doctor dispatch his friend in his zombified reincarnation, as in previous incidents the revolver will be required once again. This incident coincides with the now laboured engine of Susan and Brian’s boat which suffered from the earlier clash with the shark. It seems the finned-one has managed to damage the drive-shaft. This prognosis coming via an investigation by the boat owners who dive beneath the boat to access the stricken vessel. Hull explains the situation. “Well we have two possibilities? Either we go ashore and walk around until we come to the local repair shop – or we remain here, fire off some flares and hope that somebody will help us. We’ll have a tough time making it to the next island if we don’t get that shaft fixed”. Dilemmas, dilemmas!
On the beach Menard, his trusty nurse and Lucas are now burying the stacked-up dead bodies in what is a makeshift mass grave. Lucas informs the doctor that he has seen ‘rockets?’ He referring to the flares being fired from the stricken boat by Hull. Lucas indicates that they are coming from Catfish Bay. As Lucas and the nurse finish placing the corpses of this plague into the ditch, all by this time having received bullet wounds to the head beforehand. Menard goes to investigate who may be at the bay in question. A brief descript segway becomes a blatant reminder of dread, death and the continued suffering of the island folk, when Fulci spookily highlights the mumblings of a bedridden local woman in a vile delusional state and condition as she begins to hauntingly speak of her dead father returning to walk again. This lament is then further extended when a row of wood shacks belonging to the islanders are noted for their empty and storm laden placement. A tethered donkey and free roaming goats along with a rather large crab are noted going about their business in the now (horror effect) wind swept alley. At the far end of this sandy street corridor, we note a thin and cumbersome looking figure walking aimlessly down the abandoned street, what else – zombie like?
Menard has reached and picked up the stranded crew members of the stricken boat. On their journey back to the hospital the doctor offers us – care of a visual reminisce, matters regarding and concerning Anne’s father. The mystery is finally unravelled and we also get the eventual promise made by Menard to Anne’s father on his death bed, a decree that he, Bowles – will not be allowed to come back as one of the living dead. “Make sure my soul rests in everlasting peace”. Dr Bowles will ask of Menard just before he passes away. Menard also confirms the resulting execution of Dr Bowles. This confession also extends on the movies opening onslaught and elaborates on the situation regarding Dr Bowles and the continued situation regarding the islands fall to the increasing plague. During the journey the group start to ask for more answers; what illness actually caused Anne’s father to succumb to his eventual death. More puzzling, why were a crew sent from the island in the first place, what happened to the crew on board the Morning Lady II but more importantly, what of this talk about the dead coming back to life. During this debate the doctor talks about voodoo despite still renouncing the associated local superstitions now gripping the islands inhabitants. We also get a concise, if slightly bemused commentary from Hull regarding the islands past history, which includes a synopsis.
“Doctor you gotta be joking. That’s kids stuff”. Note earlier how Hull reacted regarding local superstition? He continues.
“I mean, voodoo’s just plain superstitious horse shit? Basically it’s a mixture of two religions. One – Catholicism, brought here by the Spanish Conquistadores and two – African tribal rites that were brought here by the slave trade”.
The group are initially flippant regarding the doctors overriding ranting but again Menard is not agreeing with the voodoo scenario, merely stating what he has seen with his own eyes, he immediately suggesting that there must be some natural phenomenon in explaining events, he repeating his determination to find out. When the group finally reach the hospital Menard is met by Lucas who has some news regarding Fritz? He one of Menard’s last remaining close friends living on the island. Menard uses pretence regarding the problem with his friend – in order to divert his guests from prying and becoming involved, even aware of matters? (Despite his revelations during the journey back to this point). Menard asks his guests if it would be possible for them to check on his wife as she’s alone in the cottage? The group oblige the doctor and set off on their journey using the doctors vehicle. With the rescued finally sent on an errand, Menard begins to interrogate his stricken friend who it seems at some point has been bitten by someone? Fritz informs the doctor that this incident occurred in the village. This information clearly denotes to the doctor that the zombie plague is now on this side of the island and closer than ever before. In response the doctor informs his nurse to have Lucas lock up the building. The ominous comments of the fading Fritz announces to Menard in a doom laden tone, “It’s no use. It’s a waste of time to lock the doors. They’ll be here soon, to destroy us all”.
The visit to the Menard residence by the stranded group is pretty spectacular. What greets them when they finally step inside the house is quite a gruesome scene. The lifeless carcass of a disembowelled Paola Menard lies across the living room floor. Bits of her anatomy are missing, torn off or currently being eaten away by several zombies. The scarlet meat market of what was the former Mrs Menard in life is wonderfully constructed and though repellent for the onlooking group, for Fulci fans, they will quickly appreciate this scene of visceral barbarity. This scene really does still stand-up very well and is still much more compatible and in keeping with this extreme death scene and is genuinely much more effective than many of Fulci’s later works I have to suggest. It really typifies the gruesomeness of zombie culture as typified by this director and again has to be recognised as one of the more resilient movie scenes ever placed into the genres industrious visual aspects of ever progressive storytelling, this despite often great objection by those unaware of horror movies as an undoubted art form of riches and its generally excepted extension as an adult only premise. The slow visual retreat of the group is further extended in their escape. Suddenly two zombies block their exit. With wall mounted antelope horns and a tribal spear at hand, they will soon be used as makeshift weapons. The group finally battle their way past the two monsters, finally making it back to the vehicle and quickly flee the horrific scene that greeted them. During there speedy journey back to the hospital the Land Rover knocks down a person or is that a zombie? Whoever it was who walked in front of them, it causes Hull to lose control of the vehicle and he veers into a tree-line. The vehicle is halted only after hitting a large tree head-on. During the crash West sustains an injury to his ankle. With the vehicle wrecked they must now continue their journey on foot, this despite the journalist’s – open wound. The group retrieve baggage and Hull’s rifle, the one used earlier for shooting at the shark. They will attempt to now get to the hospital before darkness falls.
Remember earlier when I mentioned Susan Barrett’s stoical behaviour during the shark – zombie incident, well during the slow progress toward the hospital, we are now made aware of rumbling jungle drums as they begin to beat a way in the background. This indicator suggests the natives have become restless and the Juju man or local ‘witch doctor’ is now summoning up the islands supernatural forces. Again the old traditional transient stereotypical approach of this cultural mysticism is present only in its musical narrative, we are never exposed to the ‘witch doctor’ himself. These events simply reinforce our acceptence of this fact including Lucas’s earlier commentary and based on the notion regarding the stricken islands population or in this case the clear lack of? Susan has now become an uncontrollable mess in her awkward social collapse. Hull then verbally extends the voodoo premise by suggesting – “They’re doing a little voodoo on us?” Dialogue withstanding the group move-on, though this is brief because of West’s injury, his condition finally halting progress which allows the group to briefly take a break. While Peter rests and Anne stays with him, Brian and Susan suggest that they’ll take a look up ahead. It is not long before the scouting couple stumble upon a cemetery that was obviously a burial ground for the earlier mentioned Spanish Conquistadores. The glaring signposting of this find culminates in the discovery of a soldiers helmet and clearly identifiable grave stones with Spanish deceased names emblazoned upon them, confirming the bleedin’ obvious.
Anne and Peter are resting up. After apologising to one another for getting involved in matters regarding The original events that had drawn them together and with a promise that they will make it back to New York the two of them begin to make-out and this time not to deceive a officer of the law! Sadly the two wannabe lovers cannot seem to catch a break because they are suddenly interrupted by the rising dead. ‘what are the chances heh!’ By the side of Anne lays a mound of earth which suddenly begins to move? From the soiled disturbance a rotted hand suddenly raises up and grabs Anne’s hair. At the same time as this zombie rises, a second zombie suddenly makes a grab for Peter’s badly injured ankle and proceeds to violently twist and turn the bloodied leg of the journalist. Brian and Susan it seems have not journeyed to far away from the resting couple has West’s screams are clearly heard and Hull immediately responds by heading back in the direction of the two straddlers, strangely leaving Susan all alone. While hearing the continued screams and cries of Bowles and West, Susan becomes fearful, with her melodramatic slight of turn she now becomes suddenly struck by her surroundings. Now frozen to the spot (sigh), she watches on as one of the Conquistadores begins unprompted, to rise up from his (centuries) burial place.
Again and despite the annoyance of Susan’s obvious paralyses, we temporarily forget her earlier fortitude? With the rising zombie we note in one of his eye sockets a worm infestation as they wriggle about. While Susan is now mesmerised or in shock; we’ll never know or understand the thinking behind this sudden fall from grace. It’s obvious to many observers that Fulci is/was in a hurry to gift us more violent carnage, dismissing the Barrett bravery of earlier and rather than have the courage of her earlier convictions, she becomes a victim of her changing, lacklustre character. To be fair to Fulci and despite my personal protestations regarding such matters, the crunching bite and tearing of the throat of Susan Barrett with its slow-motion expulsion of spilt blood is absolutely and categorically breathtaking, in both its visual display and the audience being indulged in this unravelling ultra-violent grand scale carnage.
Not only does the blood pour like a dam bursting but the make-up effects by Giannetto De Rossi are just supreme and further come to the fore. The last bloody moment is only eclipsed by the next and the next! The torn throat and bloody gorge wound is shocking and again it still stands – both test and time. It’s still a very gore spectacular event. Hull finally arrives back with the rescued, they – seconds to late. Susan lies blood soaked and slain, her killer walks away from the scene of the crime. Hull spotting the killer immediately opens fire. He sends two shots into the back of the zombie, we note the bullet wound trauma as blood and decaying fluids leak from the gunshot wounds. Shattered bone protrudes outward from the impact of the shots, in response the zombie turns. As this monster begins to walk back toward the three remaining members of the group, we see the zombies mouth still contains part of Susan Barrett’s meaty throat, worms still squirm about inside the right eye-socket of this undead fiend. Hull now freezes despite his efforts to fell the beast. The zombie begins to close in on the stunned Hull. West recognising the danger then takes immediate action. He hurriedly dives forward, while doing so he grabs for a wooden made cross? Obviously placed in position as grave markings? Firstly he smashes the zombie in the face. The monster falls to the floor. Before it id given chance to rise up again West uses the edge of the crucifix and brings it down across the zombies bald crown, this violent action slices off the top of the zombies skull. (Boiled egg anybody? Now where is that spoon and my toasted soldiers?) Bloody Brain matter spews out, the zombie is felled. With more dodgy dialogue preceding this carnage and with Hull and the others now traumatised by Susan’s death, West almost forcibly compels the devastated Hull to move on. The three of them hurriedly restart their initial quest.
The final moment of this unrelenting marker in the movie reaches fever pitch as the zombies begin to rise from their burial grounds. We begin to see images of a procession of zombies roaming the island like an infestation. There is no doubting the mixture of the group now searching for sanctuary and the zombie uprising in full flow begins to tap into the senses of this genuinely eerie montage of interspersed imagery and offers the viewer of these events great anticipation and a dreaded excitement that will finally lead us to journeys end. Fulci’s darkened landscape vision and the groups discovery of the church/hospital offers but brief respite for the exhausted survivors as they tentatively make their way toward probable sanctuary.
The doctor is checking up on a patient, the nurse asks Menard if she should continue to transfuse the patient. The task seems pointless has the doctor now points out, “they die anyway?” A sudden thudding upon the church door followed by shouts for help now gain the attention of the doctor. He opens the door and finds the injured West along with Anne and Hull desperate to get inside the building. In the distance by the tree-line figures break now break the shadows of nightfall. These shadows belong to the undead who now draw in upon the church and seek those inside. This will be Fulci’s ‘Alamo’ doubtless? West on entry to the building begins to decry the banality of events. “out there, they’re coming back to life. They’re everywhere”. This is never more highlighted when our zombie legion in various states of monstrous possession slowly stream into the area en-massé, working on the basic mechanical instinct of their reanimated state.
In the refuge of the old church we have what remains of the few survivors which includes Menard, his nurse, Lucas and the three remaining outsiders. This place also acts as set-up for a number of summations from Menard finding out about the death of his wife, we are also offered the most comprehensive revealing of the state of events and how it all began.
Hull: “What the hell are they, doctor?”
Menard: “I don’t know. It all started about three months ago. One of the fishermen said he’d seen his wife walking in the village at night, only she’d been dead for two days. Well, at the time nobody believed the story. In these islands, fantastic legends – voodooism, zombies – have been around for centuries”. Again the doctor expands on how he sees matters, while closing the eyes of yet another deceased patient. He continues, “As a man of science, I don’t believe in voodooism. But the phenomenon defies logical explanation. I’ve attempted to apply the disciplines of bacteriology – virology, even radiology. We’ve performed tests for epilepsy and for catalepsy. Nothing fits”. This sombre moment is very considered and observant and rather unusual for what has otherwise been a rush of events to get to this thought provoking point, however brief and demystifying. This moment shows that with a little more attention to detail and script, this monster movie could have been an added even more superior bonus; minus (my) personal picky short failing’s.
Hull reinforces the church entrance as the gathering zombies begin to bang and bounce off the church doors. The doctor offers his revolver to West and as he notifies the others of there being two drums of kerosene in the sacristy, he goes to fetch his shotgun in preparation of the imminent breaking of the barricades. The doctor and Hull batten down the hatches by sealing the shutters. Hull finds the nurse and tells her to find empty bottles. Meanwhile a breach is noted by the injured West. At one of the unclosed shutters – one of the zombie hordes sneakily attempts to clamber into the building, (clambering zombies?) West puts paid to the zombie by smashing a spade in the monsters face then as previous uses the shovel to de-crown this undead interloper. He then pushes the slain zombie back through the hatch and is finally allowed to lock it up. Hull, Lucas and the nurse are now in the process of filling empty bottles with kerosene and placing torn material in the end in order to create makeshift fuses – now officially becoming Molotov Cocktails. In another room Menard begins to load up his pump action shotgun with has many shell as it will accept. “Oh no?” From nowhere a zombie attacks the doctor side-on, he unable to avoid the attacking zombie. We recognise this manifestation as the former friend of Menard? Fritz fells the doctor by tearing a hole into the side of his face, Menard falls to the floor.
Hull hears the commotion and goes to investigate. When he arrives upon the scene he sees a zombified man eating away the doctor. Hull opens fire the shot penetrates the zombies torso, again as this guy not learned from previous encounters? On Hull’s second attempt he raises his rifle a little higher and finally gets the necessary result. He shoots the zombie in the face and sends the creature to permanent rest. Hull checks on Doctor Menard? Back in the bomb making room Lucas and Menard’s nurse are still filling bottles for purpose. One of the blanket covered deceased lay in the room begins to rise from slumber, his head easily ripping open the seam of the restraining sheet. The two busy bottle fillers are unaware of this new awakened menace. The zombie presence moves forward and before he can act in defence Lucas is bitten by the zombie who bites a rather large chunk of flesh from his arm. The wound is horrendous and Lucas falls to the floor. This bloody scene is immediately let down by the Gorgon (Medusa) touch, yet again? (I am sorry but it was a continued bugbear especially when noting the doorway inches away from the nurses reach?) When escape from the room seems blatantly obvious, the nurse simply freezes and as another dead body rises up and the one that has just attacked Lucas draws closer, facial expressions of terror and screaming and the word “no!” used several times becomes purely frustrating. The busy Hull hearing yet more cries picks up the second weapon and attempts to get back to the nurse? On his way he notices one of the shutters opening before him. It’s another sneaky zombie, “pesky buggers!” Hull this time fires the shotgun but somehow misses the target. With his second shot however, well let’s just say both zombies head and the protective shutter explode and shatter into splintered pieces. It’s safe to assume the shotgun as done its job. Hull finally reaches the sacristy. He storms in, blasting away at the still approaching zombies, the nurse still frozen to the spot. Both zombies fall to the floor with the power of the shotgun blast. Hull then grabs some of the Molotov Cocktails and hastens the nurse to follow suit. She goes to collect the remaining bottles, turning her back on the felled zombies as she does so. With the nurse not paying enough careful attention and we wondering whatever happened to Lucas, ( well… you work it out?)
West and Anne watch on as the main entrance doors begin to buckle under the constant pressing persistence of the pin-balling zombies. Outside the zombies persistence begins to loosen the now collapsing barricade. Several meters back Peter West points the doctors revolver at the door in anticipation of a breach. Hull puts his supply of highly flammable cocktails down by his side and instructs Anne to go and fetch more supplies. (Again) we have a further over the top piece of melodrama as the recently zombified Lucas pops round the corner and startles poor Anne. This now over-used even boring expression on this occasion just compels me to snigger loudly as I immediately think back to Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and his moments of mesmerism upon his victims, this moment akin to that very thought. During Anne’s rabbit-in-the-headlights moment, West turns and fires his pistol toward the looming Lucas, his second shot hitting the zombie spot! Roll-on the oncoming days of heroines the likes of Lieutenant Ellen L. Ripley – Sigourney Weaver. Who funnily enough becomes a counter balance to Veronica Cartwright’s – Lambert character in the aforementioned Alien (1979). “ I Clearly making a mockery of the very point I am trying to convey, really?”
The zombies finally breach the doors of the hospital. Fabio Frizzi and Giorgio Tucci’s theme music again comes to life as the zombies step into the battle region. During the next several moments of this stand off the two gun toting men begin to blast their way through as many zombies as possible. The exploding Molotov’s also play their part as numerous zombies catch fire but still undeterred they briefly continue onward. The zombie showdown has many fine choreographed set-pieces from melting body parts, to burning creatures still roaming into battle undeterred. It looks in part, very dated now but by the same token these battle scenes of carnage show a great ingenuity on behalf of all involved. During the retreat backward from the growing inferno of the building entrance we are rewarded with some much needed close contact combat with its much bloody and physical reflexes and zombie punishment. Here I again cast my mind back to the moment in George A. Romero’s, magnificent – Dawn of the Dead (1978) in which Ken Foree – Peter initially refuses to leave the over-run shopping Mall and contemplates suicide. Gaylen Ross – Francine aka Fly-girl waits in the helicopter hoping her remaining colleague/friend will have an epiphany moment and join her in escape. Just as Francine takes off for the skies Peter chooses life and begins to become combatant once again and violently fights his way to the rooftop in order to get free of the zombie invasion. Does he, or doesn’t he make it? For that cliffhanger either go watch the greatest zombie movie ever made! Or check out TCMR’s salute to this glorious horror movie feast.
I digress, I’ve managed so hard in recent reviews not to do
this…“sorry”. Anyway back to Fulci’s finale. The three survivors eventually escape through the back of the building and run for the trees, shooting a few more zombies along the way. They are suddenly halted when they recognise one of the approaching undead. It’s Susan. Hull stops and becomes momentarily mesmerised. Susan in her new nature and without a moral conscience does what is natural of a zombie and without warning bites him. The spell is broken and Hull asks West to shoot her, reluctantly he obliges. The remaining survivors take one last look at the church, which has become an inferno and then head back to the boat.
Peter West, Anne Bowles and Brian Hull make it back to the stricken boat. Daylight has returned. Because of the damaged drive shaft, the fading Hull suggests that they try and make it to San Cristobal. Hull eventually collapses. Down below Anne tends to the injured man who has become fevered and delirious. When Anne finally goes back to the bridge she notifies West that Hull as died.
Anne: “What do we do now?”
West: Lock him in the bilge, take him back with us to the states. Someone there might be able to do something?”
Anne: “But… we can’t risk it. You know what he might turn into”.
West: “Well i’ll make sure that he’s safe. We’ve got to take him back with us. He’s the only proof we’ve got that this happened. And we will need proof, unfortunately. Otherwise, they’ll just think that we’re crazy”.
Anne: “I don’t care. I feel dead myself.
West puts on the radio. Coincidently a news broadcast is revealing the latest news, in the background to this report car horns become a noted constant. Broadcaster: “The situation here in New York City since the discovery of the first zombie is getting worse by the hour. There’s chaos in the streets. The National Guard cannot control the situation. In every borough of the city, from Brooklyn to Manhattan. From Harlem to Queens, the zombies are taking over. The Governor as declared a state of national emergency and has asked the President For immediate assistance. The zombies are everywhere. There seems to be no way to stop them. The city is at their mercy. Barricades have been thrown up throughout Manhattan. General Stein of the National Guard said that missiles will be used if necessary”.
During this Orson Welles-esque, type apocalyptic broadcast, we note the reanimated sound and presence of Brian Hull locked away on the boat. He menacingly wanting to get out of confinement and kill his warders. This shocking realisation then turns to the Manhattan bridge walkway. Gathered along its length zombies walk toward the city ahead. Again this scene highlights unfolding distant vistas of what was the original famous New York landscape as the zombies stagger into the vast metropolis beyond. The radio broadcaster in panicked, fearful tone announces that zombies have broken into the station. The cries of the broadcaster soon fall silent. Horns blow louder now and for the final time Fabio Frizzi and Giorgio Tucci’s soundtrack interlopes and the final credits appear.
Farewell zombie adventure with your doom laden, blood-soaked goodness. You was the best of times and the worst? What is beyond doubt and despite my silly bugbears, this is easily Lucio Fulci’s finest hour. It also sparked much debate here in the UK. It became an event outside its cinematic narrative and also showed despite its often wide and neglected moments it still is one of the finest horror movies ever made. To people of my age it also represented a special time in youth and offered those opposed to its inception a courteous, “f**k you – middle finger?”
This film courted controversy, (especially that Olga Karlatos scene and its gory aftermath) which is still horror movie magic whatever way you view this Fulci classic. It is a legendary scene that gave this film its focused infamy tag as a subsequent banned 80’s video nasty. Thankfully we have moved on since those dark days of Mary Whitehouse and her Festival of Light representation and dirge and fortunately – that scene has now been fully restored to its original splendour in many versions of its re-release and it is wonderful, unrelenting horror cinema at one of its finest points. Everything that a zombie movie should have as content, this Fulci movie does so in abundance and though it is not in the same league as George A Romero’s ‘Night’, ‘Dawn’ or ‘Day’, it still sits pretty as an alternative offering of glorious visual engagement, no-bars-held, in your face type of film-making and for that reason alone, a horror movie collection is not a true collection without this cult gem amongst its brethren. The joy and twists of the warped and violent world of Lucio Fulci is glorious horror cinema; he is without question one of the true genre innovators and an undoubted master of the macabre.