MARCH 5, 2010
I am against watching sequels out of order, but it can’t possibly matter in the case of Zombi 4: After Death (or just After Death, Italian: Oltre La Morte), as no two Zombi movies have any real relation and it wouldn’t surprise me if the filmmakers of any sequel had never even any of the ones that came before it. “Any relation to any existing Zombi movies, Italian or not, is purely coincidental” should be part of the legal text at the end.
Indeed, Zombi 4 DOES have what I assume is a coincidental similarity to Fulci’s Zombie (aka Zombi 2). The film takes place on an island, and the structure where the bulk of the film takes place actually resembles the one where most of Zombie’s finale is set. It’s bigger, but let’s put it this way - the two structures are far more alike than any of the various Myers houses in the Halloween series ever looked, and those ARE supposed to be related.
It’s even more closely related to Evil Dead (of which I was about to go host a screening, coincidentally enough), as it rips off the Book of the Dead stuff outright. Not that Raimi came up with the concept, but it’s clearly taken from his film as depicted here. But unlike his films, the humor here seems to be entirely unintentional - I don’t THINK the idea of a talking zombie that shoots at its enemies instead of, I dunno, EATING THEM, is supposed to be played for laughs.
One thing I dug about the movie is that the zombies go from slow to fast (depends on their mood I guess). There are scenes where they don’t move at all, but rather stand around menacingly like the gang members in Assault on Precinct 13. But then other times they manage to keep up with the humans. It’s probably just lazy filmmaking, but it adds a layer of unpredictability to the film. Anything can happen here!
I also loved the soundtrack, which was a glorious mix of cheesy 80s rock ballads (think the Over The Top soundtrack) and an even cheesier, 80sier synth score. Composer Al Festa only bothered to come up with I think 3 different “themes” for the entire movie though, so if you hate it, you might want to shut off the movie, as you’ll hear them another half dozen times or more by the time the damn thing is over. And the pop song at the end credits is so good, it keeps playing after the credits run out, so you can listen to a few more lines without any of those pesky “things on the screen”.
Speaking of the film’s aural delights, we get the all-time best “how to kill the zombies” line in zombie movie history here. See, “You gotta shoot it in the head” is just too simple, and not nearly graphic enough. No, you need a guy to say “The only way to stop ‘em is to blow its head off!” YEAH! U-S-A! U-S-A! Otherwise though, the dialogue here is pretty generic, I don’t recall laughing at too many lines. However, I am sure this would change if the film played at the New Bev (I’d love to see the whole 5 film “series” back to back, actually).
The director of the film is none other than Claudio Fragasso, who is better known for directing the infamous Troll 2. As that disaster was my only other experience with the man, I had pegged him as a complete hack along the lines of Mike Feifer, but After Death is actually pretty decent, all things considered. It’s got a far better pace than most of these things (even Fulci’s original), some fun deaths, a complete lack of interest in following the “rules” of movies (everyone dies), and it’s reasonably shot well. All the more impressive when you watch the 12 minute interview with him that’s on the disc, where he claims that the entire film was shot at night (it’s not, but OK) because the camera was being used for another film, and he had another job, so he’d work all day at his job and then shoot all night until it was time to give the camera back.
There are also interviews with the film’s two main stars (Jeff Stryker and Candice Daly), though neither of them seem to remember much about the film’s production beyond not speaking the same language as their director. “Any funny stories from the set?” the interviewer asks Daly; “Nope," she replies, and it’s over. Also all three interviews are done by different people, which is kind of peculiar (as is the fact that Stryker looks like they caught him on his way to work). There are also some liner notes and a Fragasso bio, but they are damn near unreadable as they use a thick white font at a small point size. If someone wants to buy me a 60 inch LED set, I can probably read them OK on there.
What say you?