I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to watch this 70s zombie flick after having endured the later George A. Romero films (post Day of the Dead). And yes, I’m calling this viewing experience “refreshing”, despite it being filled with the flesh eating undead. What a joy it was to finally be shocked, scared and grossed-out by what I was seeing, rather than be bored out of my brains.
Set on the island of Matool, the film sees Anne Bowles (Tia Farrow) and sandy-haired journalist Peter West (Ian McCulloch) team up to investigate strange goings-on following the disappearance of Anne’s father. Through the help of resident doctor David Menard, and couple Bryan and Susan, they discover that the island’s buried dead are rising from the ground to attack the living. Scenes set in New York City frame the film, having been added to the script following the huge success of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and the result is a simple enough story that is brought to life by fantastically absurd and grisly set pieces which mark this out as a zombie classic.
One, much-talked about scene in particular has a half-naked, scuba diving woman pitted against both a shark and an underwater zombie, who then proceed to fight each other in front of her eyes. It’s brave, ingenious decisions such as these which make Zombie (or Zombi 2/Zombie Flesh Eaters, whichever you prefer) so unforgettable, despite its flat-out uninspiring story and characters. Without scenes such as the eye-gouging (which made me squeal like a little girl), or the Spanish Conquistadors rising from their cemetery to interupt Anne and Peter frolicking in the grass (the first time in this zombie marathon that I’ve actually seen the dead rising from the dirt), this film would be pretty dull. However, to say that, is like saying that a Terrence Malick film wouldn’t be very philosophical without its voice overs*. The visceral gore and spilling guts are the film’s identity. They are its heart. And what a brilliantly mangled and gory heart it is.
*Yes, I did somehow manage to reference Malick in a review of a Lucio Fulci horror.
FINAL VERDICT: ★★★1/2