Zombi 2 (1979)
If you are a fan of horror movies then sooner or later Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (also known as Zombie, Island of the Living Dead, Zombie Island, Zombie Flesh-Eaters and Woodoo) will appear on your radar. For good or ill, this movie looms large within the genre and has a mixed reputation. Even by current cinematic standards, this movie is a gore-fest and it still has the ability to make viewers squirm. It is a curious phenomenon that a relatively low budget and obscure Italian cash-in on George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, has managed to achieve such an infamous, iconic and cult status.
The film was released by Blue Underground on Blu-ray on 25 October 2011 with a 2K transfer. An alternative Blu-ray edition was released by UK distributors Arrow Films with a brand new high definition restoration of the original negative, recently. Both versions come with a wealth of interesting extras and documentaries about the movies production and chequered history. It’s rather ironic that a movie that at one time was labelled a “video nasty” in the UK and banned, is now subject to such a conscientious high definition transfer and scholarly analysis.
The relative merits of Zombi 2 ultimately come down to personal taste. I know fellow horror fans who hate the movie with a passion. It was rather interesting that Mark Gatiss’ recent Horror Europa documentary chose to not dwell on this or any of the director’s other movies. Personable I like the film although I do not consider it to be a cinematic masterpiece. Yet despite its obvious exploitation roots, Zombi 2 does have moments of creativity. The underwater zombie and its subsequent shark attack are truly surreal. The infamous splinter in the eye scene still shocks and it’s actually quite suspenseful. The film soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi and Georgio Cascio is very evocative and suits the movies ambience perfectly.
I have not yet seen the new UK restoration of the movie but I have seen the Blue Underground release. Zombi 2 has never looked so good and the lush tropical locations and mud caked, blood soaked, decaying corpses are extremely vivid. The high definition image does show some of the shortcomings of Gianetto De Rossi’ make up effects but considering the budgetary constraints and the environment the movie was shot in, he and his team worked miracles. To review this film in a formal fashion really is somewhat redundant. It has survived over thirty years of censorship, hyperbole and controversy and has proven to be indifferent to both criticism and praise. My advice is not to just see it but to “experience” it and then make your own mind up accordingly.