Let’s get the confusing part out of the way: If you see the title Zombi 2, it’s the same as Lucio Fulci’s film, Zombie. In Italy, it was advertised as a sequel to George Romero’s iconic Dawn of the Dead, which is known internationally as Zombi. The title, Zombie (note the “e”) was released in 1980 in the U.S.
So, to reiterate: Zombi 2 is Zombie and—most importantly—it doesn’t matter anyway, because this movie is a standalone!
When an abandoned boat in the New York Harbor is boarded by two policemen, they discover a big, fat zombie (love a fat zombie). It bites and kills one of them before the other cop shoots it into the water. The dead cop is taken to the morgue, where we see his feet twitching under a cover. Later, Anne Bowles is questioned by the police, as the abandoned boat belongs to her father. She tells the police that he is conducting research on the Caribbean Island of Matul. When she furtively boards the boat—which is now a crime scene—to do some further investigating, she runs into Peter West, a journalist working on the story. They decide to travel to Matul together, with the help of boaters Brian and Susan, to figure out what’s going on. Meanwhile on Matul, Dr. Menard and his wife, Paola, are researching the anomaly of dead islanders reanimating, which everyone is chalking up to voodoo. As more and more dead begin to rise out of the ground, Anne and the others arrive and briefly meet Dr. Menard, only to struggle to make it back off the island through the horde of zombies.
This is an entertaining movie that I feel is largely under-appreciated, if not simply undiscovered. It doesn’t help that it has been released under several names: Zombie, Zombi 2, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombie 2: The Dead Are Among Us, The Island of the Living Dead, and more. If not for Italy attempting to make bank off of it by advertising the film as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead, it likely would have suffered more. Thanks, Italian copyright law!
There is a foreboding tone to this movie that is immediately set in place with the opening scene, where a silhouetted Dr. Menard shoots a waking body swathed in sheets and says, “The boat can leave now. Tell the crew.” Then we have the title card and the main theme by Fabio Frizzi, which, in my opinion, is one of the best themes in horror cinema (oh, and there’s also this tropical island theme that is just over-the-top delightful). Though the acting occasionally leaves something to be desired, there are so many beautiful, wide shots in Zombie. Not to mention the gorgeous underwater cinematography. If you watch this movie for any reason, watch it for the zombie-shark fight scene. Yes, you read that right. Zombie. Versus. Shark. Props to the underwater photographer, Ramón Bravo, for dressing up as a zombie and swimming with an actual shark. (The shark was well-fed, and unfortunately, tranquilized enough not to cause harm).1
The most important visual though, is of course, the zombies—and man, are they creepy! They’re not regular-looking people with white makeup on (like in Night of the Living Dead), but they’re not gratuitously mangled either. Their eyes are dark, hollowed out, or filled with worms and maggots, as opposed to open-wide in the desire for human flesh. To me, this kind of vacancy was a welcome respite from the noisy Walking Dead style zombie we see so often now, which is constantly gurgling and sloughing off limbs.
The movie ends with a lot of potential for a sequel, though it doesn’t feel necessary to have one. Overall, Zombie is a good flick. It can feel dry at points, and some of the voice dubbing is off, but the sense of dread is palpable, the zombies look great, and the music *chef’s kiss* is to die (and come back to life) for.
HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL MISS IF YOU COVER YOUR EYES
Classic fake-out make-out
A really cool airport
Gratuitous unabashed boob-staring
ZOMBIE VS. SHARK
Very slow eyeball puncturing
And so much more…