Ah, Lucio Fulci's "Zombie." Released in Italy as the unofficial sequel to "Dawn of the Dead" (with the title "Zombi 2"), it launched the director's career as the master of Italian splatter movies, and brought forth a wave of zombie movies from that country. I may not think it's the best Italian zombie movie ("The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue" and "Cemetery Man" are better) or Fulci's best movie ("City of the Living Dead" is), but it is the definitive Italian zombie movie, as well as the movie that went on to define the director's career.
The plot is pretty simple: Peter West (Ian McCulloch) is investigating some strange goings on, when he runs into Ann Bowles (Tisa Farrow), whose father has gone missing in the Caribbean-or so she believes. Meanwhile, an epidemic of walking, flesh hungry corpses has overtaken that region, and Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson) is at the center of it, trying to figure out the cause (it's voodoo), as well as dealing with his increasingly angry wife Paola (Olga Karlatos.) In the process, Peter and Ann are headed to the Caribbean to find out what happened to her father, and Brian (Al Cliver) and Susan (Auretta Gay) are coming with them.
To be honest, the story here isn't that important, and the acting is largely pretty bad. However, on a purely visceral level, "Zombie" succeeds with flying colors. This is a movie that's unapologetic about over the top it is, with flesh munching zombies, gratuitous nudity and legendary moments such as a zombie fighting a shark that exist simply to make the audience go "holy shit, did you see that?" Also, it's gory as hell, with torn out throats, maimed flesh, and even a stomach churning moment in which Paola's eyeball is impaled in close up. It helps that the effects here are impressive, with excellent cinematography by Sergio Salvati and a wonderful electronic score by Fabio Frizzi complimenting the proceedings nicely.
The other reason "Zombie" sticks out is that it's atmospheric as hell. The dead here are the best looking zombies in movie history, covered in dirt, worms and maggots, and damn near looking like real live walking corpses. The scenes of them walking en masse and rising from their graves are positively spine tingling. Even notorious moments like the eyeball impalement are terrifying, as they are drawn out in grueling detail, leaving first time viewers to think "No way. They aren't going to show that!" And then they do, and you can't shake it off.
Simply put, this is a must for anyone who says they love zombie movies, and is the movie that made Fulci the cult sensation he is today. Absolutely essential. Also, the new re-release by Blue Underground looks and sounds incredible, and is a no brainer as far as purchases are concerned.