Since his debut in the Bela Lugosi film White Zombie, our friend Zed has always been the idiot bastard son of the horror movie genre. He never receives any credit for being a loyal, quiet servant to the practitioners of voodoo. Willingly performing any task given to him, no job too is menial and no respect is afforded.
George A. Romero came along and gave the zombie a little more “bite” by making him a flesh-eating ghoul, but zombie films were still few and far between. (The fact that Night of the Living Dead is shown virtually uncut on TV after being banned in more countries than we even knew existed still cracks me up.)
Well, the zombie is finally enjoying the fruits of his labors because he has NEVER been more popular. It seems like a new zombie film or five is coming out every year, and while most of them are no-budget bloodfests, I see nothing wrong with that.
Even in the literary world, the zombie is where the money is at. From comic books like Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead (soon to be ruined by edit-happy AMC) to full out novels like David Moody’s exceptional Autumn series (the first of which will hopefully be released to theaters sometime this fall), the zombie is everywhere and we owe it all to one man in my eyes….and his name is NOT Romero.
I have no problem giving George his due because he has given us the lumbering flesh-hungry zombie that I love so well and I LOVE Dawn of the Dead as much as anybody, but it bugs me that he set them up as the most dangerous threat to mankind’s existence and then had people spraying seltzer in their face and hitting them in the face with cream pies like Soupy Sales.
A boat drifts aimlessly into New York Harbor, and upon investigation, gruesome discoveries are made below the decks of the derelict. Reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch) is sent by his boss (Fulci in a cameo) to check out the strange story. He meets Ann (Tisa Farrow), who is the daughter of the boat’s owner. Determined to find out the REAL story, they team up and head for St. Thomas.
Chartering a boat from a couple who reluctantly agrees to take them to Matool despite its cursed reputation, they set off. Meanwhile, Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson) is having a hard time keeping the dead from returning and convincing his wife (the gorgeous Olga Karlatos) of their safety. She finds out the hard way that she was right in one of the most cringe-inducing scenes you will ever see.
Back on the boat, the drive shaft is damaging due to run-in with a shark and they make for the closest island….guess which one. They meet the doctor, who fills them in on the fate of Ann’s father and the island goings-on. He sends them to the house to check on his wife and when they discover her being devoured by several corpses, they clear out. Peter is injured when the jeep hits a tree and they continue on foot back to the hospital, arriving just as the zombies converge on it. The bullets and molotovs fly, but they are forced to flee into the jungle. Reaching the boat, they ride the current away from the island heading for St. Cristobal, but it’s too late. The dead are rising and taking over.
Featuring standout FX from Giovanni Corridori and Gianetto De Rossi, along with one of my favorite film scores by Fabio Frizzi and Giorgio Cascio, I saw this 10 weeks straight on a triple feature with Maniac and a changing third title (it WAS that good). Graphically violent, soaked in blood and featuring several very memorable scenes (including a fight between an underwater zombie and a shark) it remains the BEST zombie movie I have ever seen, and I’ve seen almost all of them.
Watch and enjoy!
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