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15 people found this helpful
Actually pretty good...
on 10 October 2004
I've been after renting this film for some time, as it's widely regarded as a classic Italian zombie film, but reports that it is trash and bad put me off buying it. However, I managed to find it for a decent price and bought it straight away. An initial word of warning: do not associate this with Zombie Flesh Eaters 2, which isn't part of the same series, and is easily the worst film I've ever seen.
Having watched it, the film seems very different to how people have described it. Rather than a gore-obsessed exploitation film, it's more like a straight-forward adventure/horror flick, with some nasty moments. The film doesn't actually feature the titular zombies for much of the film, as the plot and characters are set up. The acting is actually quite good, obviously not of a million dollar salary standard, but well up on the usual standard of this type of film. There are a couple of exceptions, notably the two police from the opening, and the doctor's wife, who is mercifully killed off before she has time to over-act for long.
There are obvious comparisons to be made with Romero's films (which are far superior), in particular Dawn of the Dead, as this film was made as an unofficial prequel to that film (despite it itself being a sequel to Night of the Living Dead). Lucio Fulci isn't as smart a director as George Romero, and there is none of the symbolism, social commentaries or dark humour Romero displays. However, Fulci is a better "horror" director, managing to create some tension and jumps, rather than Romero's air of constant disturbing feeling that never really rises. Fulci also manages some visual flair, particularly during the gore scenes, while Romero just let the camera linger on the scenes, Fulci plays them with tight editing to increase the effect.
Of course, a large percentage of the people reading this review aren't looking for shocks, but gore. The version of the film I have isn't the Vipco "extreme" one, but the version Amazon are now selling, which has no details of how cut it is, so it's quite possible my copy is edited by the BBFC. In either case, it really isn't as gory as has been hinted to by many sources. The famous scene here is the splinter/eyeball scene, and it isn't "gory", not in a blood splattering way. However, it is a supremely nasty sequence, and Fulci plays it out for maximum effect, making you cringe when it finally happens. The other gore moments vary- there are a fair few exploding heads, and a few zombie brains get punished by some blunt instruments. There is only one really gruesome scene in my copy, and you'll know which one when you see it. In terms of comparisons, the gore is roughly level with Romero's Dawn of the Dead, but nowhere near as frequent.
A couple of elements of this film really impressed me. The shark/zombie battle underwater is amazing, if only because you wonder how the hell they pulled it off. It's a real live shark, and a pretty big one too, and how the actor who played the zombie didn't drown is beyond me. The other aspect is the zombie SFX. They're quite simply incredible, far better than Romero's early zombies (some of the ones in Day of the Dead are on an equal level though). The zombies look very dead and decomposing, and extremely convincing. In particular, the zombie that wakes from the jungle grave is incredible, and genuinely scary.
On a closing note, this is quite a different film to the more famous zombie films. It's not the gore fest most people make it out to be, but a low budget action movie with a liberal dose of splatter. The zombies don't really get enough screen time, and you wish Fulci had followed on from the ending with a bigger budget. The music is extremely annoying 70s pre-MIDI synth nonsense, although the tribal drumming is quite atmospheric. If you can live with all this, then there's a good flick to be enjoyed here.