Comebacks don't always work out. Some bands have been "making a comeback" for years now. Some directors have been "making a comeback" for years. The problem with this is that more often then not, comebacks just don't work out the way we hope they will.In a lot of ways, Lucio Fulci's (and the Bruno Mattei's) "Zombie 3" is something of the definition of a failed comeback.
The only way to make Radio DJ's tolerable
Fulci himself was no stranger to horror even before his splatter days. He made his first venture into the genre with 1969's "Perversion Story", and made several acclaimed Giallo films in the 70's. It was 1979's "Zombie 2" though, that made him a horror favorite. Released in it's home country as an unofficial sequel to "Dawn of the Dead", "Zombi 2" became the definitive Italian zombie movie-loaded with nauseating gore, outrageous set pieces, oodles of atmosphere and little attention to things like plot or thematic elements. After the movie was a hit, Fulci followed it up with more gore happy horror films-"City of the Living Dead", "The Beyond", "House by the Cemetery" and "New York Ripper" all made him a hollowed name in the annals of the genre.
And then...not much worthy of mention. Sure, he continued to make movies, but they were lacking. The wonderful style and suspense of his 70's Giallos was gone, and while some of his movies still had gore, they were rarely as nausea inducing or creative and atmospheric as his splatter films were. If anything, his movies were becoming boring and redundant instead of gross or creepy. So in short, he needed a comeback.
In what seemed like good news at the time, he was given an offer he couldn't refuse-a chance to do a sequel of sorts to "Zombi 2." Granted, it was in no way connected to the original and was written by Claudio Fragasso, but at the time it seemed like the movie he needed. Well, health problems arose, as did on set conflicts (the latter not exactly alien to Fulci) and production gaffs, leading to Fulci leaving the set. The end result is not exactly what those involved hoped for. Fans of the original were unhappy, it came out in a time when horror was starting to die in Italy, and it was unable to make to the states officially until the last decade.
A few good...er, a few men.
The plot, as it is, kinda feels like a more action packed, more serious attempt at remaking "Return of the Living Dead." A terrorist is infected by the bio-weapon he's carrying, and his body is cremated by the U.S. military. As we all know, this turns out to be...
...and the next thing you know, it infects the inhabitants of the island the terrorist was on, turning them (and some of the animals) into flesh hungry zombies. Now, members of the military and some tourists most fend for themselves as the inevitable zombie apocalypse draws nearer.
Revisiting it, I found "Zombi 3" to be both an oddly fascinating and somewhat depressing experience. On one hand, the movie rarely makes any sense, is full of plot holes and can be unintentionally hilarious. The zombies themselves have no real continuity here-at one moment they are lurching flesh eaters, and the next they have the agility of a ninja. People often make the dumbest decisions, and completely random events (a zombie's head in a refrigerator flying out and attacking a man) happen without rhyme or reason, as if those behind it thought "Hey, why not?" In that way, it is worth watching as a bad but interesting experience.
At the same time, it all feels like a "what could have been" experience. Whereas the original had a sense of menace and rotting dread, this one tries to go the action movie route, which is a mistake due to how dull and ultimately boring the action ultimately is. People fire guns, zombies jump out of trees, people try to escape...and none of it is interesting. Also, while there's gore, none of it is up to par with the original, or even Mattei's "Hell of the Living Dead." Sure, that movie is bad, but there's a weird sense of fun to it, and it's completely unapologetic about it's cheap exploitation roots and impressive, gory set pieces. Here, it feels like those behind it are embarrassed with what they are making, and don't have any real conviction towards the film.
Finally, the whole thing feels like it's too little, too late. If this had been written by someone else and done back when Fulci was still hot, it could have been a more effective movie. However, the end result feels a lot like other Italian horror movies that started to pop up at this time-indifferent, lazy and not worth watching unless you are a bad movie fanatic.
Hey, that's not my leftovers!
Maybe in some alternate universe, "Zombi 3" is actually a better movie. In this universe though, it's a misfire that's best viewed as a morbid curio and little else.