The review includes one of the best pictures we’ve ever seen. It also makes references to Beta-max and SunCoast. You’re welcome.
I wanted to talk about Zombie (a 1979 film directed by Lucio Fulci) because a couple weeks ago I actually got to see it at The Byrd in a midnight screening organized by a new group called Gorehound Features. The best part about the event was that we got to see an actual 35mm film print. I can’t stress enough how awesome that is, especially after seeing DVD projections in the theater, or worse, when The Byrd showed Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same on a crappy old VHS tape.
I first saw the iconic cover for this film as a kid in Fredericksburg, VA. My mom used to take us to Erol’s Video a lot to rent the latest and greatest to watch on our Beta-max VCR (that’s right, and we still have it, AND it still works). I used to beg my mom to rent movies solely based on my impression of the covers. It was this that led to my childhood obsession with The Dark Crystal, a film that I begged my mom to rent EVERY time we went to Erol’s. She actually had to force me to watch different stuff like The Goonies, and Breakin (the latter became my second great childhood obsession film). I knew where to find Zombie because I had just learned the alphabet and knew that “Z” meant the bottom right. Even though I saw it a lot, the cover freaked me out every time. I was just too young to be actively seeking out pictures of worms crawling out of corpse eyes, but alas.
Years later, Resident Evil (the game) led me on a hunt for zombie movies to watch with my friends (college creates these types of situations). I found a new version of Zombie at SunCoast and bought it after seeing the cover. I couldn’t believe that the movie that freaked me out as a kid was just at a store and I could just buy it. I had pretty high expectations, and for once this film actually surpassed them!
The movie opens with an abandoned boat floating just outside of New York City. Slow creepy camera work sets the template for the rest of the film. Two guys from the Coast Guard find the boat and hop on…only to be attacked by a super fat zombie that looks like Kingpin!!! We then find out that the boat belonged to Anne’s (Tisa Farrow) father, and they quickly get an ad hoc group of adventurers together to journey to the island where her father was last seen. On the way, they encounter a shark just outside the island which leads to one of the all time great scenes and battles:
!Zombie Vs. Shark!
Real shark the whole way through, too! When they get to the island, they find a doctor that has been trying to cure an epidemic that has led to the dead coming back to life, and that this epidemic took Anne’s father. From here on out, this movie is almost one big action scene as the dead return to kill the living. The film is very gory, and often times looks realistic, as in the famous eye gouging scene, so be warned. I think one element that really made me like this film more than many other zombie films, was the atmosphere. The island is really a great setting, and the fact that voodoo is believed to be the cause also strengthens the film to me. For some reason I’ve never liked when radioactive stuff leads to zombies. My favorite cause for zombies has always been the slightly more organic(?) voodoo/magical explanation.
As a director, Lucio Fulci can definitely be hit or miss, but in Zombie, he was able to get everything right (and with him this always means a few unintentional laughs). Check it out.