Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Zombi 3 (1988)

1979: Lucio Fulci gives the world "Zombi 2." Released as an unofficial sequel to "Dawn of the Dead" (which was called "Zombi" in Italy-though this movie was written before that movie), it made Fulci-who at this point was already a genre vet with several acclaimed giallo films under his belt-into a horror icon. Cut to the late 80's: Fulci's best days seemed to be behind him. After a string of other notoriously gory horror classics, he unleashed the likes of "Ghosts of Sodom", "Murder Rock" and "Aenigma", which were all not particularly good and squandered his reputation as a maestro of horror.

So yeah, Fulci was in need of a comeback. At the time, it seemed like a sequel to "Zombi 2" would be the thing to do that, and would cement his reputation. Well, there was a bit of a problem: Fulci was gravely ill at the time, as well as a full blown alcoholic. Filming in the Philipines with a script from noted "genius" Claudio Fragasso and his wife Rossella Drudi, he eventually left the film. However, Flora films needed this to be finished, so they hired Bruno Mattei ("Hell of the Living Dead", "Women's Prison Massacre") to complete the movie. The difference: whilst Fulci was well respected, Mattei was always regarded as a hack (though in his defense, he never cared much for his own movies either.) The end result was "Zombi 3", and it remains one of the most bizarre, misguided sequels ever made.

The premise really has no connection "Zombi 2." Basically, a terrorists body is infected by a deadly stolen chemical/man-made virus, only to be found and cremated by the US military. Well, as "Return of the Living Dead" taught us, cremating a zombie infected with a man made virus is, as Gob from "Arrested Development" would call, "A Huge Mistake." The virus ends up getting into the air, infecting the populace of a small Island (and it's birds) into flesh hungry zombies. Now, a trio of soldiers and a group of tourists must fend off the dead, who are for untold reasons slow one minute and fast the next.

First things first: a lot of people have blamed Mattei for the film being a disaster. I think it's time to put that all to rest and face the fact that even if Fulci had stayed around, the whole movie would have been a mess anyway. Now, on to the bad and good.

The movie is illogical even by the standards of trashy Italian exploitation. For some reason, a zombie's severed head can fly out of a refrigerator and bite out a man's jugular, and no reason is given as to why. Also not explained is how the dead are such good fighters, and at times even better than the living. Also, why are the military so unbelievably stupid here? Anyone would know not to burn the body of a man infected with a deadly, man made virus, but they do it anyway. And what's with the Rastafarian music DJ? Basically, this is a movie where people make bad decisions and nothing is explained.

Apart from that-well, the gore is fine, but those expecting the flesh munching, eyeball piecing explicitness of Fulci's previous zombie movies will be let down. The zombies themselves-well, I've certainly seen worse, but those who loved the rotting dead of "Zombi 2" or the ghostly white zombies of Mattei's "Hell of the Living Dead" will be disappointed. The score by Stefano Mainetti is fun (I especially dig the main theme), but it pales in comparison to Fabio Frizzi's haunting horror music. Finally, while I like the idea of a more action packed sequel, none of it is handled or directed that well (though both directors certainly do try), and I prefer the nauseating carnage draped over with Gothic atmosphere of the original. This movie has no atmosphere-just action scenes and illogical behavior.

I know I'm being hard on the movie, but to be honest, I really don't hate it. The gore is still pretty good, it's certainly never boring, there's some pretty memorable moments, and it has no delusions of grandeur over what it is. Best of all, it's hilarious. Granted, none of this is supposed to be hilarious, but it's still hilarious. Seriously, if you can't laugh at the undead bird attack, or the flying zombie head (and what the hell was it doing in the fridge anyway?), or the ending with the Rastafarian DJ becoming a zombie, then you have no soul.

So, is "Zombi 3" worth watching? If you cherish absolute trash with few redeeming qualities, then yes, it's a laugh riot. That out of the way, if you go into it hoping for a worthy follow up to "Zombi 2", then you'll probably be angry with this. Proceed with caution.

Rating: 5/10

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