Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We wrap up the work week with the films of Lucio Fulci. We call them Fulci Fridays, and for those, we team up with Liam O’Donnell of Cinepunx. This week, we look at Zombie, aka Zombi 2, aka Zombie Flesh Eaters.
This was the first Fulci film I ever saw, and it’s still my favorite. There’s quite a few reasons why: its fantastic music by Fabio Frizzi, which includes the piece “Sequence 8,” featuring the ominous mellotron to which the composer would return for so many other Fulci scores like A Cat in the Brain and The Beyond. Additionally, the pace at which this movie unravels is something with which modern audiences ought to have an issue, but personally, I love. The heat of the island can be felt in the fact that Zombie moves at a sedate pace.
However, the way it’s punctuated is almost metronomic — it kicks off with two back-to-back situations that give the viewer a glimpse into what’s happening, but raises more questions than it answers. There’s then a long, mood-setting bit of expositional plot which seems to be going nowhere but some gratuitous nudity, until said nudity also leads into A FIGHT BETWEEN A ZOMBIE AND A SHARK. After that, Fulci’s film starts to pick up steam — again, slowly, but with a purpose that starts stacking shocking horror upon shocking horror.
The pace is part of the magic. No, really. From the opening sequence, as messed up now as it was when I was 17, to the utterly depressing finale. Zombi 2 somehow manages to vacillate from entirely atmospheric to over the top gross without losing any steam. This film defined Fulci for me until I had really dug into the man’s output. Sure, it is an Italian rip off film, maybe lacking in certain unique qualities. Yet it also sets up so many of its own ideas. The aforementioned zombie vs shark is a brilliant if also insane move.
The idea that SOME form of magic or voodoo is definitely to blame really adds a white guilt element missing from some of the other famous zombie films. The gore is some next level stuff. The infamous “eye scene” really established not only the point at which fun and stomach churning meet for me, but also made me watch for eyes n every other Fulci film and realize how much eye close-ups are a technique of his. Beyond all that, the cast are all scenery chewers in their own way. None plays it subtle, and none should. This film demands they respond to every aspect of it as if it were happening on some hyper plane of reality.
I wonder though, do you think Zombi 2 became the new standard of undead gore over the Romero film of which it is an unlicensed sequel? Would a completely naive modern audience make it through the long stretches of inaction to get at the brief but wonderful moments of ultra gore?