Monday, September 4, 2017

Italian Horror Week 2017 - A Look At Lucio Fulci's Zombie by Derek Smith

When I started out on my personal site, Film Classics Virgin, I did so in order to fill in the gaps of my cinematic knowledge. I've been slowly doing so, and realizing that one of the areas I lack the most in is in Italian horror. I was asked to participate in this year's Doc Terror's Italian Horror Week, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only do I get to enjoy some of the horror cinema I've missed out on, I would be able to pay tribute to one of my first supporters, the dearly departed James Harris. But with such a large catalog of titles unseen, where do I begin? As a man blind to Italian horror, why not start with one known for two separate ocular incidents. That's right, Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE aka ZOMBIE DEATH EATERS aka ZOMBI 2.

Beginning in the waters outside of New York City, we find an abandoned sail boat that almost runs into the Staten Island ferry. The harbor police are called in to investigate when one unlucky officer finds out that there is still one hungry and undead inhabitant. The owner of the boat is a doctor that has been missing, and his daughter, Anne (Tisa Farrow) wants to find out where he is. And she's not the only inquisitive mind, as journalist Peter West (Ian McCulloch) is intrigued by the origins of the boat. The two team up and head off to the Caribbean island where the boat and the doctor were last seen.

Anne and West end up hiring a boat to take them to the remote area her father was working, a place that the locals speak of in hushed tones. Driving the boat are Brian (Al Cliver) and Susan (Auretta Gay), a couple vacationing and documenting the beauties of their travels. Part of the beauty is that Susan isn't a fan of wearing clothes.

Our group's destination happens to be the home and laboratory of Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson), his wife (Olga Karlatos), and his local assistants. Dr. Menard is studying the epidemic of the dead coming back to life on this island as it pertains to voodoo. He is looking for a cure as more and more bodies are becoming mobile again, sometimes after centuries of slumber.

Going into this film, I knew very little. I knew that a zombie fought a shark underwater, plenty of practical effects and makeup, and that there was a gruesome eye piercing sequence. Truth be told, that last one may have been what has kept me from watching it. Ever since I was 5 and had a gnarly case of pink eye where I would wake up with my eyes practically glued shut, I have had an issue with things involving eyes. I wear glasses so that I don't have to touch my eyes. And I don't get frightened or grossed out by much, but have someone touch an eyeball and I'm squirming in my seat.

 Thankfully, I survived this experience, and despite it being a rather realistic effect (I'm looking at you HOSTEL), I enjoyed how Fulci ramped up the entire sequence, with the actress screaming out unlike a normal screen scream. No, that sounded like it truly hurt. While I won't be going back to that scene again anytime soon, I'm glad I've experienced it the once (Yes, I purposely chose that scene as a time to refill my water on my 2nd watch).

This wasn't my first Fulci experience, that being THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. Having seen some of the more surreal of his films, I half expected that while going into ZOMBIE. But I was pleasantly surprised that this truly deserves a spot near George A. Romero's DEAD series as a solid zombie flick. Whereas Romero ties in social commentary, Fulci presents us solely with entertainment with believable characters. We feel for Dr. Menard's wife as she's feeling more and more isolated. We want Anne to find out what happened to her father. And we want West to survive so he can teach balding men how to do a proper comb-over.

My sole complaint with this film is that we are told that voodoo is behind the undead epidemic, and Fabio Frizzi's wonderful score includes some wonderful tribal drum beats, yet we never get to see the island inhabitants (minus those that work for Menard) and the mystical religion that combines Catholicism with African tribal beliefs. Given this, if you are interested in seeing that aspect of the film, then I would recommend sticking with Wes Craven's criminally under-seen THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW.

If you are like me and you have failed to check out this 1979 classic, please don't hesitate a moment more and track this down. You can catch this stumbling beast on SHUDDER currently.

Derek Smith, also known as Darathus or the FilmClassicsVirgin, is the 
one that goes bump in the night. Because he's clumsy as fuck. A tech 
head by day, a father, husband, and film nut by night. Powered by coffee 
and energy drinks, Derek is always up for a lively conversation about 
anything, ESPECIALLY if it's extremely tasteless and/or offensive. His 
writing can be found at and at 
where he acts as Contributing Editor.

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