Lucio Fulci‘s best known these days as a horror director, but before making his 33rd film in 1979 his forays into the genre were limited to a handful of thrillers and giallos. Zombie changed all of that, though, and altered the course of his career through to his death in 1996. The film changed the genre in some ways as well, and 39 years later it remains a hell of a good time for fans of gut-munching thrills.
A sailboat arrives in New York City’s harbor with seemingly no one aboard. A woman goes searching for her missing father, and she’s joined by a reporter and a vacationing couple. They arrive at a small Caribbean island and discover a terrifying truth involving the dead, the soon to be dead, and the undead.
Fulci’s Zombie — aka Zombi 2, aka Zombie Flesh Eaters, aka Island of the Living Dead — wasn’t the first zombie movie and certainly won’t be the last, but it remains a giant in the sub-genre thanks to some ridiculously memorable and gory sequences, a strong score, and Fulci’s deference to atmosphere over logic. It never gets as dream-like as some of the director’s later films like The Beyond (1981), but the calmly frightening nature with which the undead rise from their graves and their death shrouds adds an eerie feel akin to classic chillers from decades past.
Of course, those scenes are precursors to carnage and nudity that would likely have given heart attacks to movie-goers of the early 20th century. Necks are torn open, innards are fondled and munched on, and then there’s the infamous eyeball violence. A woman, fresh from the shower obviously, fights against an unseen intruder trying to break in until the killer’s hand bursts through a wooden door and slowly — slowly! — pulls her eye toward an exposed splinter. Any other film would cut away then cut back to the shard in her eye, but Fulci? He shows us the sharp piece of wood enter her eyeball, squishing the flesh beneath it, before her head is twisted causing the wood to rip through her face. Nearly four decades on and the sequence is every bit as amazing and squirm-inducing, and it’s even more stunning with this new restoration.
Oh, and a zombie also fights a shark.
I would describe the scene, but if you haven’t seen it yet it’s really best experienced first-hand. It’s simultaneously absurd, beautiful, and the thing you never knew you’ve always wanted to see. The film as a whole is an immensely memorable and enjoyable watch for horror fans who like their movies wet and hopeless. There are a few saggy bits despite the relatively short 90 minute running time, but they pass quickly enough as more zombie action is always right around the corner. What I’m saying is Zombie is an all-timer, and if you don’t already own a copy this is the one to get.
Blue Underground’s new two-disc release features the same extras from their previous Blu-ray, but it adds a terrific new interview with Stephen Thrower, an equally fascinating commentary by Troy Howarth, and an absolutely gorgeous new transfer from a 4K restoration. It’s a completely new experience as the richness of color and detail fill the screen. In addition to multiple sleeve options and a booklet the discs include trailers, TV & radio spots, a poster & still gallery, and more.
- *NEW* Commentary with Troy Howarth, author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
- Commentary with star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater
- *NEW* When the Earth Spits Out the Dead [33:05] – The always knowledgeable and fun Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror – The Films of Lucio Fulci
- Zombie Wasteland [22:19] – Interviews with stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, and Al Cliver, and actor/stuntman Ottaviano Dell’acqua
- Flesh Eaters on Film [9:38] – Interview with co-producer Fabrizio De Angelis
- Deadtime Stories [14:30] – Interviews with co-writers Elisa Briganti and (uncredited) Dardano Sacchetti
- World of the Dead [16:29] – Interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati and production/costume designer Walter Patriarca
- Zombi Italiano [16:34] – Interviews with special make-up effects artists Gianetto De Rossi & Maurizio Trani and special effects artist Gino De Rossi
- Notes on a Headstone [7:25] – Interview with composer Fabio Frizzi
- All in the Family [6:08] – Interview with Antonella Fulci
- Zombie Lover [9:36] – Guillermo Del Toro talks about one of his favorite films. It’s Zombie. Zombie is one of his favorite films.