Zombi 2 (1979)
A Critical Analysis by Eric Brooks
In 1979 George Romero classics second film Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy under the very descriptive title Zombi, evidencing a significant decline in Italian creativity in the late post Renaissance. Fortunately, at least one Italian, the great Italina horror master Lucio Fulci, was inspired to greater artistic endeavors which resulted in the film Zombi 2, an Italian ode/sequel to Romero’s films. The film opens in New York City where an expensive yacht drifts aimlessly between Staten Island and Manhattan. It is found to be devoid of crew except for a rather obese zombie who promptly commits assault on two of New York’s finest. They, being unaware of the “once in the head and they stay dead” rule pump the zombie full of lead until he falls overboard. The daughter of the boat’s owner is informed of the recovery of the boat and absence of her father, something a newspaper reporter with the local paper learns as well. The daughter and reporter ultimately decide to go to the Caribbean to find her father who was visiting a small island. Upon arrival in the Antilles, the reporter hires a boat captained by an American and his wife. They set out on a lovely journey across the beautiful crystal blue waters of the upper Caribbean which is interrupted for a dive by the boat captain’s wife who wears only a thong with her scuba gear and evidently uses her breasts as buoyancy control devices. On her jaunt through the reef she is chased by a large shark that is in turn chased by a seaweed encrusted zombie. This results in one of the great zombie movie scenes of all time as the shark and ghoul go mano a jaws. It is complete with green blood and black goo. We need not spoil the outcome of this epic battle. Eventually, the intrepid crew of the SS Undead make it to the island where the father last was known to be. Unfortunately, the shark broke the boat prop before engaging the swimming dead so the fearless four are stuck on Zombie Island! The rest of the movie is a long battle with the undead. For some reason the scientist living on the island with his wife does not get the clue that leaving before the infestation gets out of hand might be wise and waits until it is in full swing to act. He almost seems to be too scientifically interested and medically concerned to let it go. The movie follows an inevitable track of death and destruction that ultimately leads back to New York, now also overrun with the undead that were begat by the original zombie on the boat in the harbor that bit one of the cops.
While Lucio Fulci’s story is not terribly unusual, it is well paced and interesting enough. More interesting are the Zombies themselves which come in all shapes and sizes from Caribbean natives to New Yorkers, to even 400 year old conquistadors. Fulci’s zombies are very well made up and show all sorts of interesting decay and effects of time. Particularly Fulci seems to be fascinated with worms. They fall off, out, and around many of his zombies and in large quantities. I found this to be a nice calling card of sorts. If there is an unusual quantity of worms about, one of Fulci’s zombies must have been there. Fulci’s zombies also commit generous and glorious violence, ripping tearing, gnawing, and generally disemboweling all who fall prey to them. Fulci, in addition to providing significant quantities of violence also provides some very high quality gore as well. There is one scene in particular involving splintered wood and an eye socket that is truly artful and not for the squeamish (at least about ophthalmic mayhem).
In all Fulci’s film is quite entertaining and a worthy ode to the great Romero. The shark scene alone earns it a place in the essential undead canon. It is neither the goriest, funniest, nor most creative zombie film but it is a good clean romp and well worth the 100 minutes of time to watch. The most unfortunate aspect of the film is the score which most consists of buzzing noises that are more annoying than useful. It also feature some late 70’s early techno sound that passes for music but now just seems cacophonic. As a whole the film gets two rotting thumbs up! Pull up a big plate of spaghetti (well, in view of the worms perhaps lasagna) and enjoy this Italian feast!
The film stars no one of note except the female lead, Tisa Farrow, who is not really known as an actress (at least to me) but is the sister of Woody Allen’s former wife/mother-in-law Mia Farrow. The film was released under several titles including Zombi 2, Zombie, Island of the Living Dead, Sanguelia, Gli Ultimi Zombi, and Zombie Flesh Eaters but is widely available as either Zombi 2 or Zombie.