Zombie – Lucio Fulci – 1979

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Fulci’s Zombi is basically all I want from a film. The horror-adventure hybrid is my favorite type of movie there can be and there are extremely few horror adventure films. This is one of the first, and scribes Dardano Sachetti and Elisa Briganti cook up a fantastic tale that Fulci delivers with gusto.

A man wrapped in a sheet slowly sits up. A bullet is fired through his head. “The boat can leave now. Tell the crew.” With this opening image, Fulci brings us directly into the horror, and gives us a mystery to consider. The “thump-thump-thump-thump’ of the Fabio Frizzi score unfolds and takes us into the tale.

Before long we, and the harbor patrol, see this abandoned ship drifting off of Manhattan. After the boat is boarded, a zombie bites one of the men. The other man shoots the zombie who falls into the harbor. This is a key point in the story though we do not know it yet.

Peter West, a newspaperman, meets Ann Bowles, the daughter of the boats’ missing owner. Before long, paper is paying them to fly to the Caribbean so that Anne can search for her father and Peter can search for a thrilling story! The couple meets another couple and board their boat set for Matul.

In one of the best acted scenes, Dr. Maynard and his wife Paola fight about his research. She claims he’s mad and she’s left alone to drink in fear of zombie attacks. He scoffs at this and slaps her and leaves to his crappy jungle hospital where his obsessive study of these phenomena transpires. Lucas, his assistant tells him villagers are leaving their homes in fear of the rising dead.

So far we have white American’s rushing into remote parts of the earth and being faced with supernatural happenings that terrify even the locals. This device allows western audiences to feel the thrill of adventure and the dynamism of travel as well as granting the viewer a terrifying view of an alien poison. However, it is not the locals making the dead rise, the dead are simply rising. It is ironic that Peter West and Anne Bowles left the city before the epidemic.

Zombie vs. Shark.

In what is perhaps the most iconic horror scene in all of film, a zombie fights a shark on the ocean floor of this film. The scene is thrilling and impossible but the main point, (besides being the coolest thing ever), is the depiction of the zombie walking across the ocean floor. If this zombie can cross the sea by foot, then the zombie shot off the boat in the NY harbor can surely walk to shore and ascend. Beyond that, the dead harbor employee shows signs of resurrection at the hospital. Who knows when exactly the zombies got to Manhattan, or if the boat was even the start of the infection? If the dead can walk the bottom of the sea, they would get there eventually.

We return to Paola showering in the beach house. Fulci borrows this familiar location from Psycho, the ultimate visualization of an individual literally being caught with their pants down. A zombie enters the house and smashes through a door, killing Paola by gouging her eye on giant splinter made from the smashed door. After that zombie vs. shark stuff, Fulci has to keep upping the ante, and this scene really delivers the gory goods.

The Americans boat is fucked so they stop on Matul, and Maynard answers their distress flare. Before long Maynard sends the Americans in his jeep to check on his wife, convinced that the zombies are approaching this side of the island. The clip of the plot is so exemplary, that virtually every scene both raises stakes and adds characterization to the members of our party.

From here on out the film is a zombie lovers dream with many, many scenes of gore and rising lumbering zombies. There is a huge finale in the church/hospital with many flaming zombies and gunshots. Fulci stages all of this pandemonium expertly and this scene thrills with each viewing!  Everyone dies except Peter and Anne who narrowly escape. As they tune their boat radio to the first clear frequency they learn that the world has been overrun.

Fulci has his zombies marching into Manhattan. The end is here. See, horror-adventure is possible. Let’s have our cake and eat it too!

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