Zombi 3 (1988)

AUGUST 13, 2010


I swear I don’t plan movies in any way shape or form, but sometimes little coincidences spring up that others might assume are intentional (if they were paying that much attention to notice them). For example, when I was looking over my Zombi 4 review before watching Zombi 3 (reverse refresher!), I saw that on the day I watched Z4, I was hosting a screening at the Nuart – much like I was today (Let The Right One In – thanks to all who came, by the way! It was our biggest turnout since... well, Evil Dead, which was the one I hosted the night I watched the other Zombi. Weird.).

Anyway, I’ve heard more than once that Zombi 3 is one of the most colossally ridiculous entries in the Italian zombie canon, due to a myriad of production troubles (such as original director Lucio Fulci leaving after shooting only 50 minutes’ worth of usable footage, thus requiring Claudio Fragasso and Bruno Mattei to finish it with different actors) and the usual baffling lack of logic that these things always have anyway, but really it didn’t seem any more incoherent than any other one. If anything I found it easier to follow than most, because there didn’t seem to be much of a plot anyway – long chunks of the film play out without any real dialogue (just “oh!” or “run!” type of things), and it’s essentially just one long “let’s try to get away!” scenario. They don’t even really bother having the humans fight much with each other to complicate matters.

And it even has some (light) Romero-esque satire, with a radio DJ telling people to look for the soldiers in contamination suits, because they will “cure” you – this plays over shots of them just blowing people away without even bothering to check if they’re infected. It’s not much, but it’s the rare bit of intentional humor in one of these things. And at the end you find out the DJ is a zombie himself, though for how long is unknown. Maybe it wasn’t intended, but there is something to be said about everyone listening for a solution from the very mouth of the thing causing the problem, or something.

Look, it’s a lot closer to subtext than anything in Burial Ground, OK?

One thing it definitely doesn’t deliver is gore. It’s not exactly a PG-13 movie, but I was surprised how tame most of the kills were, even with this being an uncut version (two days in a row that I’m watching a composite DVD made from obviously different sources!). I don’t know if it was left out by design or what, but it actually makes some of the action a bit muddled – at one point a girl jumps into a pool and then seems to be missing her legs, though we never saw her attacked. Later, a guy is seemingly being swarmed Capt. Rhodes style, but then he is suddenly up again, showing almost no real injuries. I mean, they took the time to insert random shots of zombies just walking/running around (there’s no consistency whatsoever to how they behave during the movie – one of them displays Jackie Chan-esque quickness and moves, and one even has bear like claws on its feet), so I’d assume if there was any gore/action to put in, it would be there.

I noticed two things about Italian zombie movies that never quite dawned on me before while I watching this movie. One is that almost all of them feature helicopters (Burial Ground being a (the?) rare exception), and it wouldn’t surprise me if I’ve seen certain shots of low-flying choppers used in other films. The other is that the characters in these movies can never just accept that perhaps no one is there when they enter a home or building. They will call “Hello?” over and over and over, searching every single room, and never once seem to consider that perhaps the place is deserted. One broad in this movie finds her way into this dungeon type area, still calling for someone, when all she wanted was to get some water.

This scene is capped off quite hilariously – she gets into the car and turns the key, and when it was starts she almost seems shocked. “Oh, it started!”, as if it should be dead due to the fact that she’s in a horror movie. Oddly, later on there IS a scene of a car breaking down, and they need water for the radiator to start it back up (followed by yet another endless “Hello?” scene). If folks just carried bottled water with them, half of the action in this movie wouldn’t have happened.

Speaking of the plotting, I really love how the characters in this movie respond to new developments. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, someone will instantly have a detailed solution for it. When one of the army guys finds an injured girl, she tells him what happened, and instantly he knows where they should go and what they should do. No disbelief, no questions... just instant acceptance of her crazy story and and even quicker willingness to get involved.

The film often reminded me of Mattei’s Night of the Zombies (and a touch of Nightmare City, which I quite like), which isn’t surprising considering that film was also a mish-mash of various scripts and different directors. But it also has the army guys teaming up with regular folk, inexplicable actions that cause a character to die (in Night it was the guy putting on a tutu and dancing around; here it’s when they have zombies advancing at them from the left and right, and decide to use their one grenade to blow up a building BEHIND the zombies on one side), and bizarre uses of animals. Night had the elephants, but they didn’t really get involved with the action. Zombi 3, however, offers bird attacks!

One other curious thing about the film is that it stars Deran Sarafian, who is better known for directing stuff like Charlie Sheen vehicle Terminal Velocity (featuring one of my all time favorite lines in a movie: “For someone I’ve never slept with you sure fucked me pretty good!”) and a variety of TV shows such as House and Lost. What the hell he was doing in this movie is anyone’s guess – sadly they couldn’t get him to do an interview for the DVD to explain himself. They did get Mattei and Fragasso, however, plus actors Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, Massimo Vanni, and Marina Loi, all of whom discuss pretty much the same goddamn thing (i.e. how much of the film was Fulci’s, how much not, and what they think of it now). But they’re worth a look - Dell’Acqua and Vanni hilariously bemoan the fact that actors are no longer really next to (horribly unsafe and probably non-professionally created) explosions in movies, and Fragasso admits Fulci’s sequences are good while his are shit. He also has a wonderfully optimistic way of discussing his contributions to the film, more or less saying that rather than ruin Fulci’s film, he simply found a way to insert a different film into it. Yes, that’s much better. Think of how much easier George Lucas would have it today if, instead of adding effects and making Greedo shoot first, he simply put a different movie entirely in the middle of New Hope? No one would mind.

The final bonus feature curiously goes unadvertised – the fact that Freddy Krueger’s face from the Dream Warriors poster has been flipped and added to the montage on the disc and DVD cover, something that New Line never even bothered to question, apparently. I’m used to this sort of nonsense on bootlegs and such, but on mass produced, bona fide “legit” discs? No one minds? Christ, I think it’s bad when they use the wrong Myers mask on a Halloween poster (H4 being the biggest offender), Freddy doesn’t even appear in Zombi 3, let alone in his classic Dream Warriors form!

What say you?

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1 comment:

  1. Personally, I think this movie is fucking hilarious. And a lot of fun, surprisingly! Sometimes intentionally, but most of the time not. Any movie which contains ZOMBIE BIRDS can't be altogether bad, can it? I liked it better than Zombi 2 (not to say that 3 is better than 2, I just happen to enjoy it more).
    And I just CAN'T BELIEVE that you didn't mention The Flying Zombie Head In The Refrigerator! I mean, it's the most iconic element of the whole thing! It should be on posters, DVD covers... and pretty much everywhere.


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