Non Canon Review: Zombi (1979)

OCTOBER 30, 2008


The funny thing about Lucio Fulci’s Zombi (aka Zombie, aka Zombi 2, aka probably like nine thousand other titles) is that this was the third or fourth time I have gone to see it in theaters and the only time I managed to stay awake. At the recent all nighter at the Bev, I think I saw maybe 12 minutes of it (luckily, 3 of those were the zombie vs. shark scene). So even though The Beyond, which I had never seen in its entirety, was the last movie of the night (and thus most susceptible to my narcolepsy), I am glad Zombi was first, because I’m pretty sure it was my first complete viewing since I was 15.

See, Suncoast had this “dump bin” of budget titles, and one night I bought Zombi (called Zombi 2 on that VHS release), in an early attempt to “see more classic horror movies”, the very thing that led to my starting HMAD some 11-12 years later. And the back of the tape sold it as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead, so I was intrigued. And then annoyed, because I watched it and realized it had no relation to Romero’s film. Of course, this was like 1995, so I couldn’t just hop on the IMDb or Wikipedia and find out what the fuck was going on (especially since I didn’t have a computer at all until 1997). I was thinking about this a lot last night; it’s weird to think how relatively little time has gone by and yet my whole movie-watching experience has changed. Used to be, I’d watch the movie and be done with it, unless I happened to know of a Fango article in one of the issues I had. Now I watch the movie, the commentary, the deleted scenes, a making of, and then go online and read more trivia and such on the IMDb and Wiki, then read a few other reviews... it takes a lot of time to watch a movie!

Anyway, despite not having a goddamn thing to do with Dawn (which, we all know now, was never the intent anyway), it’s a fun zombie movie, and one of Fulci’s better films. It’s certainly the most coherent of the ones I’ve seen (which are sadly few, though now that I’m pretty much done with going through Argento, I’ll move on to Fulci), and while slow at times, has some top notch setpieces and amazing makeup effects to marvel at.

Plus, again, a zombie fights a goddamn shark! He bites it, punches it, rides it for a bit... it’s fucking insane! On the whole, actually, the zombies here do more cool stuff. The eyeball scene is more like something out of a Giallo than a zombie movie, and the rising from the grave scene is just plain great. Plus, they actually look DEAD, not just sick as some zombies do. They are rotted and filthy and they look like they have already started to turn into dust. Again, when I first saw the film, this annoyed me. “Why aren’t they green? Why doesn’t the blood look like pink paint?” But older, wiser me appreciates it all the more, because so many of the zombie films that followed these two go for a more Romero-y look than Fulci’s.

Back to the eyeball scene – this resulted in my being afraid to wear contact lenses, despite having glasses thicker than the glass on the Popemobile. When the splinter goes into the girl’s eye, it appears as if her eye is very soft, almost like tapioca pudding. Naturally, I thought this was what an eyeball actually felt like, and thus when I finally decided to get contacts, I was petrified to touch my eye, afraid I would “smush” it. It took me like three or four trips back to the optometrist before I was finally able to overcome this fear and get the damn things in and out. Thanks a lot, Fulci.

I also love how the hero totally gets a pair of innocent people killed. Ian McCulloch’s character (Peter) hitches a ride with a couple (the girl looks like Kristen Wiig’s “Aunt Judy” character) who are in the middle of their vacation, and by the end of the film they are both dead. Thanks for ruining our vacation, Pete! This was particularly amusing to me due to last night’s South Park, which had a lot of meta-comedy stemming from Craig’s wishes that the main guys would stop being so adventurous and getting everyone around them killed and/or in trouble. “This is why no one likes you. You go off on these stupid plans, and then you end up in a foreign country or outer space or something.” Oh man, awesome.

And being an Italian movie, there’s a lot of odd little bits that just send drunken horror revival crowds into hysterics, like when the girl removes her top in order to scuba dive. Or when the guy says “We’re gonna check up ahead!” and then proceeds to walk about six steps before beginning his investigation. And then, my personal favorite: Tisa Farrow is sneaking around a dock, trying to get on her dad’s boat, and she “hides” behind a barrel about half her size, pauses for less than 1 second, and continues on her way. It’s such a useless maneuver, I couldn’t help but cheer.

The next two movies are more fast paced and ridiculous, but this one is a better place to start for Fulci n00bs, I think. It’s got just enough of his “whatever” storytelling style to set up the other films, but on the whole it makes sense while retaining his signature gore scenes. Also: a girl showering has a mirror behind her, so we can see her front and back. Now I'll say it non-sarcastically: Thanks a lot, Fulci!

What say you?


  1. I can hear those synths over modulating. Zombi has a great soundtrack. I got hooked on Zombi back when videos costed 90 bucks, and you kept them for weeks before trading them back in + 5 bucks to get another movie. So we watched Zombi probably 30 times before trading it back in to the video club. Good looking out on that HMAD.

  2. My VHS copy of this is called Zombie Flesh Eaters and has some great taglines on the box.

    "When the earth spits out the dead, they will return to tear the flesh from the living."

    A brilliant film with some great FX and music!

  3. I'm squirm like a stuck pig during the eye scene. Even in his adventure movies, Fulci just couldn't leave eyes alone. Sadistic bastard!

  4. The Zombies in this film look creepy as hell.. they actually look like real rotting corpses..and you've gotta love the fat boy on the boat...Everything about this film just screams '80's Video Nasty'...and I love it!!


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