It somehow seems appropriate to finally watch Zombie while there’s an ongoing worldwide pandemic. Frankly, I’m shocked I didn’t know more about the resulting pop-culture affects of the undead cult classic, which was released way back in 1979. (Cue the music of The Smashing Pumpkins.)
A ghost ship sails into New York harboring dark secrets. A bloated monster’s attack leads a pair of Americans to the Caribbean for an investigation of a strange disease, one which results with the dead rising into reanimated corpses. The natives are restless, fleeing their remote island due to bad juju, which these Americans soon encounter face to face.
“I found it doesn’t pay to ignore native superstitions.”
Zombie‘s slow-burn story detailing a worldwide wasteland of terror would make George Romero proud (even though there’s not many obvious political story elements). Actually, this film does have a connection to the Godfather of the Dead. In Italy, Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was edited and released as Zombi and Italian copyright laws allow any film to be marketed as a direct sequel to other peoples’ work, so Zombie was actually released as Zombi 2, supposedly furthering Romero’s story. Except this one involves witch doctors who know a thing or two about voodoo. Too bad that origin story of Patient Zero doesn’t explain why the dead are simultaneously rising throughout the rest of the world.
Utilizing creepy slasher vibes at different points, this film will forever be remembered for its gore, less about its storyline. The practical special effects are not so bad for being 40-plus years old and the decaying flesh of these unholy terrors looks like rather gruesome, fragile costumes for their actors to wear. There is one cringe-worthy kill involving a shank of wood to the victim’s eye, which sparked an international controversy and the label of being a “video nasty.” I found the most noteworthy element of the film being that underwater Zombies totally dig topless scuba divers, but who doesn’t? And who knew sharks vs. Zombies was actually a thing way back in 1979? Now that’s a future Shark Week topic I could really sink my teeth into!
Initially titled Nightmare Island, the film’s original script was supposedly inspired by The Island of Doctor Moreau, which I would have loved to see. A mad scientist playing Mother Nature, bringing walkers and stalkers into the world? Yes! Too bad its story was rewritten. Boo! Zombi 2 spawned multiple sequels and became a successful film franchise, featuring a variety of directors. For me at least, Zombi 2 will always be the movie that could have stood toe to toe with Night of the Living Dead. Instead, its filmmakers basically removed Romero from the franchise that he created. Following that “What If” scenario, it would have been interesting for the filmmakers of both movies to have collaborated on future storylines taking place within one shared universe. Ah, what could have been…
If you’re a cinephile, you should definitely give Zombie a shot to see what it’s all about, if for nothing else than background noise. In the grand scheme of things, that may actually be its greatest contribution to the horror genre.