ZOMBI 2 (Italy, 1979)
(Working title: "L'Isola dei Morti Viventi")
also known as: ZOMBIE (Us)
L'ENFER DES ZOMBIES (France)

Directed by LUCIO FULCI
Music by FABIO FRIZZI, VINCE TEMPERA

"When the earth spits out the dead, they will rise to suck the blood of the living!"


 



French poster: actually my favorite design! How can you beat this amazing image of a fat zombie with a collection of the sickest scenes tattooed on his distended belly...


Obviously the classic zombie mug...

MOVIE REVIEWS
Fulci always managed to assemble interesting ensembles of relatively unknown but solid, charismatic actors. Mia Farrow's sister is a nice touch and british actor Richard Johnson lends a lot of credibility to the movie. The extras playing the zombies are absolutely perfect too, emaciated and disturbing physiques... Probably the creepiest bunch of zombies ever put to film.

 

Tisa Farrow
("Fingers", "Anthro-pophagus")

Ian McCulloch
("Contamination")

Olga Karlatos ("Keoma", "Once Upon a Time in America")

Richard Johnson
("The Haunting", "Island of the Fishmen")

Al Cliver
("The Beyond", "Mister Scarface")

 

Auretta Gay

Stefania D'Amario

Dakkar

Shark!

Lucio Fulci
 
ZOMBIES
 

Sailing Zombie

Underwater Zombie

Wandering Zombie

Feasting Zombie

Poster Zombie
 

Zombie

Other Zombie

Wormface

Cross-eyed Zombie

Sneaky Zombie
 

Zombie
punched left
Zombie
punched right

Drool...

Brooklyn bridge

zombies


Italian poser design: pretty cool too but a major spoiler for the ending of the movie. The one-sheet design with the movie still of the zombies shambling through the carribean night is my fave of the two...


British ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS quad poster...


(Blue Underground, Zone All, 2011) www.blue-underground.com
Blu-Ray is a good excuse to watch this movie again for the hundredth time... High definition doesn't necessarily mean a cleaner picture, better definition actually brings out much more film grain... Wether the grain is natural or added digitally on those Blue Underground releases is somewhat controversial, I have no idea myself, but I'm always a fan of additional detail!
The special features are excellent... It's first I've seen Richard Johnson interviewed about the movie for example. The 2-disc Shriek Show DVD was also incredible in terms of interview material though. I'm glad to have both editions anyway.
The title card on the recent Blue Underground release is a bit weird, a compromise with the US title "Zombie" being written in the same font as the italian title "Zombi 2"!
There is also a UK Blu-Ray (Arrow) that restored the original italian Zombi 2 title card but still need to get it.

Blu-Ray Screenshots (full view on click):



(Death Waltz Recording Company – DW001 )
This movie has got a number of different releases along the years, the most recent one being a vinyl LP re-issue.
Unfortunately this early Death Waltz release still suffered from the label's ugly standardized blue circle front cover design (fixed on their latest releases)... It still contained a fold-out poster of the artwork inside (LP size X4) and a cool transparent vinyl with red splatter (limited)...

Obviously, this score is classic... Minimalistic but extremely effective, an almost John Carpenteresque synth score. The main theme should be etched in the mind of most horror freaks, with its primal, almost disco beat (supposedly just the sound of tapping on a microphone!) and eerie ethereal melodies... The other stand-out tracks are Dr. Menard's theme song which is a darkly infectious track, there's a variation to this theme with more of a synth/calypso feel to it but still gives you a great sort of dark, hopeless vibe. The other tracks like zombie attack music or the tribal drum tracks are bit on the dreary side, extremely repetitive tracks honestly... That's really 3 tracks out of the whole album that are especially worth listening to... But it's still an essential soundtrack on the whole.
Unfortunately some of my favorite movie sound cues or effects are still missing from all of the soundtrack editions... There are brief scoring moments from the opening boat scene, the ominous sting at the end of it... or the scoring bits that accomgany the close-ups of the zombie faces walking through the carribean night! Also the Disco track from Ann's night investigations in New York harbor could have been a nice addition to a real, complete Zombie soundtrack! (I added the track to the media player in this page, along with a selection of the best tracks...)
The newly comissioned artwork for the LP is looking fine, but I would have prefered some original poster artwork restored for the cover art, the french poster artwork on a LP would have been fantastic!
The track order is a bit frustrating too. It seems like the theme music should be the opening track. It is not so, you'll have to wait until the end of the record to hear it!
Track list: 1)Sequence 1 2)Sequence 2 3)Sequence 3 4)Sequence 4 5)Sequence 5 6)Sequence 6 7)Sequence 7 8)Sequence 8


The homages to Zombie in grind and death metal are probably too numerous to count... I'll only mention examples that always stuck with me... Impetigo doing a kind of "You Suffer" type track titled "Zombie" on "Ultimo Mondo Cannibale" with an intro from the film, cool but slightly disappointing for being so damn short.

Bowel Fetus doom/goregrind from Australia did a cool and super downtuned cover of the main theme once...

Engorged also did a song named "Zombie"... A bit too slow but I guess it echoes to slowness of Fulci's zombies. The main riff seems much more inspired by "City of the Living Dead" which again is slightly disappointing, "Zombie" would definitely deserve its own song.

And to finish the obligatory Mortician tune with "Island of the Dead"...


A deserted ship drifts into New York's harbor. A bunch of cops investigate and get attacked by a fat, bald and rotten zombie that eventually falls into the water after being shot at...
Ann with the help of a journalist Peter go to the Carribeans in search of an island, Matul, to find out what happened to her father (the owner of the boat)... There they find an island full of the walking dead and a scientist that's looking into the phenomenon... What ensues is some of most entertaining rippings of jugulars, ejaculating geysers of blood and brutal eye-gougings ever commited to celluloid, just sit down and feast your eyes on the dismemboweled carnage!


Here's a crucial movie which was a gateway to discover the world of italian horror for me... I must have watched this movie more than any other and always compelled to watch it again! In the end, Zombi 2 still amazes me... A word of warning, I'm probably gonna go deep into insignificant details in the extremely nerdy review that follows... Here we go...

Before producer Fabrizio de Angelis hired Lucio Fulci to take the helm of "Zombi 2", his first pure horror movie, the man was honestly more of a gun for hire kind of director... He had already spent two decades trying his hand at a number of vastly different genres from comedy to giallo/thriller and spaghetti western. He was 52 when he directed "Zombi 2", not exactly a newcomer and while landing the job on "Zombi 2" is probably a lucky accident and a way for Fulci to pay the bills after his last, excellent giallo movie, "Seven Notes in Black" ended up as a huge flop at the box office... Yet, the horror genre turned out to be a perfect fit for him, Fulci actually understood it better than anyone, the proof is clearly visible in this movie. The success of "Zombi 2" unleashed a slew of Fulci horror masterpieces, made from a similar template, a pre-opening credit sequence that really hooks you, a series of violent setpieces and totally bleak nihilistic endings... "City of the Living Dead" (1980), "The Beyond" (1981) & "House by the Cemetery" (1981) & "New York Ripper" (1982) were all released back to back to back in the short span of 2 or 3 years, yet this short period of time now seems to almost define the director as a whole!
Out of all these brutal horror movies, "Zombi 2" still remains the best for me! The tighter script and more linear story make the movie feel smoother and production values appear to be slightly higher.

With "Dawn of the Dead" being called "Zombi" in Italy, the basic idea behind a movie called Zombi 2 (as well as simply Zombie in the US) is obviously to cash-in on the success of Romero's film. However the final product works perfectly as a prequel (rather than a sequel) to Dawn of the Dead, delving into the origins of the worldwide epidemic, constrained to a secluded carribean island. Taking the genre to a smaller scale makes the movie work really well I think.
According to screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti (who ghost-wrote the movie under his wife Elisa Briganti's name), the conception of the move's original script ( titled "Island of the Dead") actually pre-dates the release of "Dawn of the Dead".
Fulci's zombie creatures behave in the exact same manner as Romero's, mindless putrid ghouls hungering for guts and gore. Yet the italians add their own twist, visual flair and a fistful of maggots to the proceedings; Gianetto de Rossi's zombie make-up and splatter effects are simply breath-taking. Zombies never looked so beautifully putrescent then (not until Day of the Dead at least), and the make-up by Gianetti de Rossi are not as latex-y as other artists, because of the fact he used actual dirt (or clay) to achieve his zombie faces. They're also actually shown rising from the ground which was another thing sorely missing from Romero's films then (which he made up for later in Creepshow). Another creepy thing about Fulci's zombies is the fact that a lot of them walk with their eyes closed yet are always zero-ing in on the living flesh.
The character of the scientist played by Richard Johnson ("The Haunting") investigating the phenomenon is also a very interesting addition and another element that seem to be echoed in "Day of the Dead".

While "Night of the Living Dead" was my first cinematic undead shock, with its groundbreaking concept of global apocalypse and "Dawn of the Dead" twisted the knife further in terms of on-screen blood-spurting and gut-munching impact... Lucio Fulci's stab at the genre is still to this day my all-time favorite in the whole saga flesh-eating zombie saga...



Not as frantically edited or action-oriented as Dawn of the Dead, the movie is filmed in a much more stylish way, with some terrific eye-popping widescreen cinematography of wild, god-forsaken vistas; to me, it does for the zombie genre what Sergio Leone movies did to the american western... It's got a sweaty and feverish epic feel, pretty ambitious story-telling using flash-backs and a deliberate pace that allows an atmosphere of doom to set in, plus sudden explosions of exquisitely shot extreme violence, murder and mayhem. Those sequences really pack a punch, accentuating sadism to a grotesquely intense degree. The death scenes are perhaps more akin to how Dario Argento would shoot and stylize murder sequences rather than Romero, except Fulci takes the bloody violence to a whole new level here.

The most talked about scene from this movie is probably the infamous shark vs zombie fight, a seemingly ludicrous sequence that Fulci actually pulls off splendidly! While not really my favorite part in the movie this is a cool and strange little scene exploring the possibilities of the zombie concept to its fullest...
I have a theory that this Dawn of the Dead vs Jaws crossover might be a possible leftover influence on this production from Enzo Castellari, who was originally set to direct this film... Some of his fingerprints seem to been left on the production even after Fulci arrived. For example, the casting of Olga Karlatos (the eyeball girl) might been Castellari's idea from previously working with that actress on the spaghetti western Keoma. To me, the shark totally feels like a Castellari idea (afterall he directed "Great While", one of the biggest Jaws rip-off!)

Anyway, the zombies are really only teased at first, underwater cameos or simply appearing as a menacing Halloween/Michael Myers-type presence, through a disquieting point of view shot with a "death rattle" kind of heavy breathing in the background...
The whole first half of the movie is in fact all about preliminaries, the riot of the undead really only gets going half-way through when Dr. Menard's wife played by Olga Karlatos is left all alone at the mercy of zombified intruders...
Fulci's direction is very inspired here, using quasi-Hitchcockian suspense tactics to really immerse you into the scene. This set-piece is very much played out like the shower scene in Psycho. The viewer is alerted of the attacker's presence before the onscreen victim and just waiting for the worst to happen.



This scene particularly stands out in the way it's infernally dragged out and nerve-racking. Poor Olga's eyeball slowly grinding against wooden splinters, an unbelievable spectacle worthy of the cruelest of Grand-Guignol shows. A possible nod to Luis Bunuel's "Un Chien Andalou" too and the beginning of Fulci's trademark occular violence he'll carry in many of his subsequent movies.
An interesting touch is the ominous close-up to Olga Karlatos eyes earlier in the film that already plants the seeds of her upcoming eyeball trauma in our mind, brilliant foreshadowing on Fulci's part.


Next is probably my favorite scene in the whole movie and zombie genre: The discovery of Dr Menard's corpsified wife! Four absolutely ghoulish-looking undeads left with the only insinct to feed on human flesh, quietly sitting down for a cannibalistic lunch, pulling out fresh internal organs from the woman's bloodied and dismembered shell of a body and stuffing themselves. This scene is particularly well-edited with the reaction shots and disgusted looks on the main characters' faces, it also kicks the film and zombie apocalypse into high gear!

As a side-note, I'd like to mention this scene also brings to mind a similar zombie flesh feast from "Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue", esecially because of the appearance of a white-haired zombie granny in both films which is a nice touch. Special effects maestro Gianetto de Rossi was also likely recruited because of his work in "Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue" which makes it another major film baggage for Zombi 2. That movie was one of the first "Night of the Living Dead" copycats in color, beating "Dawn of the Dead" to the punch in delivering full color guts and gore as well as cool zombie action...

Now to focus on something else other than gore for a while... Voodoo is an invisible but relentless presence in the movie through the tribal drumming pounding on the soundtrack and on the character's nerves. None of the voodoo rituals are shown onscreen and it remains unknown wether these rituals are to prevent the evil eye or to actually perpetuate the zombie curse. Fulci liked to cite Jacques Tourneur's classic film "I Walked with a Zombie" as another influence and Zombi 2 definitely takes the zombie mythos back to its roots, setting the movie in a mysterious carribean island and linking the undead epidemic more clearly to voodooism than any other "zombie" movie out there, Ken Foree's character makes a passing reference to voodoo in "Dawn of the Dead" but Romero always said he intended the creatures in Night of the Living Dead to be more like ghouls... I think the monsters in this one really earn the right to be called zombies.
The sight of bed-stricken victims sick with the putrefying disease, insanely rambling stories of dead relatives coming back to life also add greatly to putrid atmosphere of voodoo doom!

This brings us to yet another crucial scene... While our four core characters decide to take a rest (and maybe get it on) in a seemingly quiet spot in the jungle, they're soon to be witness to the rise of the most sickeningly awesome-looking zombies ever! Emerging from the earth, worms crawling through their hollow socketed eyes... Their dirty set of teeths are the last thing you'll see before they rip out your throat. Auretta Gay's death by tracheotomy is one of the most satisfying in horror movie history, the gory equivalent of the "money shot" in movie like Deep Throat! You're treated to a point of view shot as wormface slowly rises from the ground and the explosion of gore is filmed in gleeful Sam Peckinpah-style slow motion. Again, the jugular spray and the torrential splatter effects here are flawless!

The main music theme swells as the ancient cemetery gets more and more animated, with badly decomposed bodies in ever corner, slowly rising from their shallow graves. The fact that these zombies might be conquistadors doesn't make a lot of sense, as they should probably be skeletonized by now (more like in Tombs of the Blind Dead) but who cares these are some of the most amazing-looking walking corpses you'll ever see, and this whole sequence is probably the most exciting in the entire zombie genre for me.

Night falls and the sluggish zombies are hot on the group's tail... It helps that one of the characters is limping due to injuring his ankle. Even though these might be the most lethargic bunch of zombies ever, they're also the creepiest, looking almost phantasmal while shambling through the carribean night.
I especially love the portrait shots of the zombies advancing towards the church where the crunchable living beings took refuge. A shot visually really close to the possessed deadites at the end of the original Evil Dead, maybe due to a similiar kind of shaky cam effect attached to the actors..

In its final act, Zombi 2 turns more into a siege movie, following the Night of the Living Dead or Assault on Precinct 13 model with some decent gun and molotov cocktail action... Unfortunately a slight slump in terms of quality make-up can be discerned as the number of zombies increases... Some of them simply look really fake or ridiculous but overall it's a very solid fiery finale. The re-appearance of a zombified person dear to one of the character turning out to be fatal also feels pretty much lifted from Night of the Living Dead. But the final shot of the movie from the Brooklyn bridge is a perfect way to close the movie and tie it back to the beginning...
I maintain that this is the best zombie movie ever made, still unsurpassed!

This publicity shot (used on UK posters as well as a template for the french poster design) puts forward a sequence that was imagined for the film but never made the final cut, and probably never even filmed? I imagine the zombie from the beginning of the story finally emerging out of the harbor waters in search for fresh blood and guts to chomp on! This could have fleshed-out the whole invasion of New York scene that closes the movie and tied in with the theme of underwater zombies earlier in the film.