Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bald Mountain Night 3: Zombie

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

3 days in and my sanity and spine are still intact, though I will say that my first two selections were pretty tame, all things considered. The Hunger was more a vampire drama than a horror film and Zombieland was a comedy that just happened to be about zombies. I think it might be time to crank the heat up just a wee bit. Enter Lucio Fulci's 1979 gore-fest, Zombie.

Originally released in Europe as Zombi 2 as a cash-in on Romero's Dawn of the Dead (which was titled Zombi in Italy), Zombie has in fact nothing to do with the harrowing tale of survivors fighting the undead in a suburban Pittsburgh shopping mall. In fact, Zombie's zombies don't even have the same origins as Romero's zombies, being created by voodoo rather than space radiation. The movie clearly does its best to ape Dawn at every step of the way, even paraphrasing Dawn's iconic "When there's no more room in Hell the dead will walk the earth." It's not quite wholesale rip-off, zombies are zombies (remember, this is pre-28 Days Later "running" zombies) no matter who's behind the camera.

The plot concerns a boat that mysteriously washes up in New York harbor with a reanimated, flesh-hungry corpse onboard. The arrival of the ghoul prompts a young woman (played by Mia Farrow's sister) and a hot-shot reporter (remember those?) to venture to a Caribbean island to discover its origins and the disappearance of her father (it was his boat, you see). Once there they discover a mad scientist who's conducting experiments to prove that the island's history of zombie attacks can be attributed to a virus rather than voodoo mumbo-jumbo. Before you know it, legions of undead natives and re-animated conquistadors are besieging their shelter, Night of the Living Dead-style.

Zombie is par for the course as far as the zombie movie is concerned, there are a few good scares and the island gives off an eerie vibe as distant voodoo drums summon the zombies from their graves. The gore is over-the-top and pretty fun, especially the infamous "sustained shot of a wood splinter going through a woman's eye" scene. However, something to take into account is that Zombie is an Italian production and seems to have a half-Italian, half-American cast. Some characters speak English no problem, others are clearly and hilariously dubbed. The whole thing came off kind of like the MST3K episode Zombie Nightmare but with tons and tons of gore. It's hard to take the movie that seriously, we're not given much reason to care for the characters, besides the female ones we see naked. Also, the fact that there's a shark vs. zombie fight really boggles the mind. But in the end, Zombie gets the job done and provides some nice gory, horror-y, entertainment.

Verdict: 50 Congos