When I was entering my teens, this was the box in the video store that I was always afraid to rent. This fear was amped up when I was helping my dad at work and one of his employees told me that he had rented this flick and proceeded to graphically explain how disgusting it was and how the movie showed everything in detail. I started watching horror movies at a young age but this was one where I was well into my teens before I built up the courage to check it out. It was worth the wait as everything I heard about the movie was true and it exceeded my expectations as far as being a gross-out. It also introduced me to the world of Eurohorror and it did not take long for me to seek out as many zombies, cannibals, and tales of stylized murder as I could find. Reflecting on it years later, I like the movie even more today as I am able to see past all the gore and appreciate that this is director Lucio Fulci arguably at his best.
A mysterious boat sails into the New York City harbour. Soon after arrival, it is boarded by two coast guard cops who have to fight off a flesheater that is hiding below deck. Although nobody realizes that the cops were battling a rotting corpse, the incident attracts the attention of a reporter (Ian McCulloch - Zombie Holocaust) and a young woman (Tisa Farrow - sister of Mia) whose father owns the boat. The two of them team up and head to a tropical island to try to locate the woman's father. They find another couple (Al Cliver and Auretta Gay) to guide them and eventually find themselves on an island complete with a mad scientist (Richard Johnson), a crazy woman (Olga Karlatos) and a whole whack of zombies. Although the zombies are slow and somewhat dumb, they are sneaky and have a mob mentality that makes it difficult to escape from them. They are also really messy eaters.
This movie, The Beyond, and The City of the Living Dead are the three movies that Lucio Fulci is best known for and for good reason. Fulci creatures are what I think of instantly when I hear the word 'zombie' and I find their silence very unsettling. I like all of the aforementioned movies for many reasons but this is the one that made the biggest impression as a young horror fan. The influence of this flick is undeniable and many, many horror fans experienced it just the way I did. Everything from Fabio Frizzi's haunting score to the wild script from Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti to the inventive make-up effects by Giannetto De Rossi and his team clicked to make it a horror classic. There are many scenes that will be permanently embedded in your memory from Karlotos getting a wood splinter through the eye to throat rippings, the iconic conquistador zombie from the poster in action, and an unbelievable scene featuring Auretta Gay's topless scuba dive being interrupted by a battle between a zombie and a shark.
Fulci has been described as "the godfather of gore" and this movie is what gave him this title. Although I love George Romero's zombie flicks, they have a different vibe to them than the Fulci flicks. It is almost like the comparison between The Beatles and The Stones in the 60s. One is a little cleaner and has a little more to say while the other is raw, dirty, and fun. I appreciate both but what I prefer depends on my mood. It does not mean that one is necessarily better than the other. Although some people dismiss Italian horror films as goofy and poorly executed, they are obviously not fans of the genre. To horror fans, this is a masterpiece.
An interesting bit on this film is that 80's pop group Duran Duran made a mini-zombie movie for their song "Night Boat" that was clearly influenced by this flick. This was made a couple of years before "Thriller" and is effectively creepy as the band members are hunted down on a tropical island by voodoo zombies. (Josh Pasnak, 6/22/13)
Directed By: Lucio Fulci.
Written By: Dardano Sacchetti, Elisa Briganti.
Starring: Ian McCulloch, Tisa Farrow, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay.
aka: Zombi 2, Zombie Flesh Eaters.