Thursday, October 6, 2011

REVIEW: Zombi 3

Zombi 3
Director: Lucio Fulci & Bruno Mattei
Year 1988

Zombi 3 is a low grade Italian zombie film, that aside from its troubled production, lackluster acting, and convoluted plot, is actually quite a bit of fun. The film starts out at a laboratory, where scientists are doing experiments with various chemicals in efforts to reanimate the dead, or so I could gather by the obscure opening of a dead soldier's body coming to life and then violently deteriorating into a bloody mess. Say what?

Well anyways, the movie kicks into gear when a terrorist infiltrates the lab and steals a highly volatile bacterial virus. As he escapes he accidentally infects himself with the virus and begins to deteriorate, until he finally drops dead in a grotesque heap. The military find the terrorist in a hotel and quickly dispose of the body by cremating it. Little do they know that they inadvertently unleash the virus, now airborne, onto a small island village turning the inhabitants into crazed and bloodthirsty zombies. During the mayhem, a small group of tourists and surviving military struggle to make it off the island alive. Can they make it? Who really gives a shit, but damn is it entertaining to watch them try.
Check out these douchebags.

The Gas Mask Boys were a boy band that never really quite caught on in the States.

The film in general has been known to have had a troubled past. Initially, Zombi 3 was directed by the legendary Italian horror filmaker Lucio Fulci, but after some disagreements and other unknown problems, he left the production of the film, passing directorial efforts into the hands of fellow horror creator Bruno Mattei. I have no idea of the extent of Fulci's influence on the film or how much can be credited to his vision, but Mattei can be felt throughout this movie in almost every aspect of its narrative.

That's both a bad thing and a good thing, because both directors are worlds apart in the crafting of their stories. Fulci's output is of a higher caliber boasting such classic horror flicks as The Psychic, Zombie, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, The House by the Cemetery, and New York Ripper, while Mattei's craft has aimed a little lower with such interesting cinematic outings as Hell of the Living Dead, Guardian of Hell, Rats, and a slew of Emanuelle flicks. They each have their own style and are outstanding in their own right, but for completely different reasons. Personally, I've always been more fond of Fulci's filmography and the style in which he tells his stories. Bruno Mattei is an interesting director though, never fearing to put that element of sleaze or morbid sense of debauchery into the mix. It's a low brow execution that ends up creating an especially unique feel for his films, including the highly underrated Zombi 3.

These are what 3D dreams are made of.

Say hello to my little friend.... and to the guy behind me who is also my friend.

What we get with this film, is not a masterpiece of decaying flesh, but an entertaining romp through the killings fields of a third world country gone to hell, literally. The location of the Philippines is actually the perfect setting for a zombie apocalypse, set within a lush tropical jungle that seems to have swallowed up the surrounding villages and urban structures. The place feels dead, but with a hint of life.

There's also a grittiness to the landscape that gives the film an authentic feel. The group of survivors must trudge through thick jungles, muddy rivers, deserted villages, and even an abandoned hotel that has been taken over by the surrounding forests. Simply put, the locations looks like complete shit and that's a very good thing. It's a strange thing to put down in words, but the entire film just feels dead and decaying and combined with Mattei's dream like execution behind the camera, the film comes out being very atmospheric and vividly placed within a world that only exists on the celluloid roll. It may be considered low class, but Zombi 3 definitely has a feel all of its own.

Holy Shit! I think they're gonna kiss!

Here zombie... zombie... zombie.

There are a few things that hold the film back from being something entirely special and memorable, and that would be the acting and tremendously entangled plot. In the case of the acting, the actors are wooden as all hell and deliver their lines like they've just come out of their first day of acting school. For me this doesn't make the film unremarkable or easily discarded. I can appreciate the efforts put on by the cast and I understand that they were the best that the production could afford for this humble zombie undertaking. Surprisingly their awkward dialogue and cheesy delivery actually adds a certain charm to the movie, making a perfect companion to the equally dire and devastated locations. It's a slumming experience when watching Zombi 3, but in retrospect it seems like the only way this confusing story could be told. The movie is a low budget wonder that relishes in the impoverished locales that it is filming in and thrives for that very reason.

The same can be said for the story of Zombi 3. Anyone who has watched this film can tell you that there isn't a whole lot of logic to be had within the narrative and that there seems to be two warring factions of creative thought within the structure of the film. The passing of the torch from Fulci to Mattei can be felt throughout this flick, giving way to a multitude of uncomfortable moments when the story just runs off the rails and delves into some seriously sub-par moments, that often bring about laughter rather then screams. Take the flying zombie head for instance. Yeah you heard me right, there's a flying zombie head that bursts out of a refrigerator of all places and bites one of the main characters in the neck. If that wasn't wacky enough, there's also a ridiculous birthing scene where a newborn infant rips its way out of its mother's womb to feast on the flesh of another cast member. These moments are pure Mattei and often derail any tension that might have built up prior to the scene. Now don't get me wrong, these instances of insanity are entertaining as all hell and are definitely unique to say the least, but they're extremely distracting and feel culled from another film, not the one we were previously following.

These guys don't mess around when it's zombie killing time.

I hope your aim is better then your acting.

Even in its unbalanced nature, the film is a blast to watch and it even has some rather effective and morbid moments. The unsympathetic and ruthless military squad that is set loose upon the zombie infested island, gives way to some outstandingly dire situations for the survivors harking back to those Romero-esque notions that the zombies aren't the ones that we should fear the most, but instead man. There are some truly inspirational shots of the military force, draped in hazard suits and gas masks, marching through the streets and looking genuinely menacing.

Let's also not forget about the zombies, which there are a plethora of. We've got all types of walking dead, like the slow movers, to the water waders, and even some of the jumping variety. There's also a machete wielding zombie that's one crazy son of a bitch, moving at lightening speed and acting like a total bad ass. My favorites of the bunch though are the slow moving pack of zombies. There's an especially excellent scene that has our main survivors held up in an abandoned building as they watch the approaching throngs of undead shuffle their way towards their barricade. The scene is slow and methodical and actually brings a bit of class to the overall film. While not as iconic as the zombies in the original Zombie, these dead-heads do their job and do it well.

How the hell did we get ourselves into this shit?

Hell Yeah! It's DJ Aint Seen Shit!

What can be said about Zombi 3 other then it is a blast if you're willing to overlook the movies shortcomings and appreciate it for what it is. The film is a down and dirty zombie tale that tends to go a little overboard in parts, but never strays too much as to make it unwatchable. In fact, the moments when the film veers off course are insanely enjoyable and stick with you because of their astonishing and earth-shattering oddness. Flying heads and rabid babies aside, Zombi 3 is a very atmospheric flick that provides a good number of memorable zombie moments that should cater nicely to walking corpses fans the world over. If you're willing to watch a film that is a little bit rough around the edges, but has entertainment at its heart, then I recommend giving it a chance. You never know, you might actually end up liking it. Now I'm off to get something from the fridge..... SHIT! Zombie head. Damn you Zombi 3!

3 out of 5 stars             An Interesting Fulci/Mattei Oddity!


  1. I enjoyed watching the trailer over and over for this film years before I finally saw it. The cameo from Mattei and Fragasso at the beginning pretty much sets the tone for what’s to follow, which I honestly thought felt more like Mattei than Fulci, though the Fulci zombie feel was still detectable at times. I think this makes a pretty good double bill with Zombie 4.

  2. the zombie head was the only part that fulci directed before he went back to italy in poor health.

  3. ^ actually, my mistake, i think i got that info from a not-perfectly translated interview with a possibly vague fulci. he directed about 70 mins of the completed film. i personally found this one to be very "blah". nowhere near the masterpiece that is zombi 2!

  4. he was rather proud of that head scene. maybe the scene with the mayor's daughter's head coming out of the tv in "cemetery man" was inspired by this?