Zombi 2 ReviewJoe Shaffer
I've rewritten this intro several times, but the elephant in the room was too apparent to ignore. Try as I might, I find it difficult to discuss Zombi 2 without bringing up the movie's claim to fame...
During one scene, the lovely Olga Karlatos finishes up a shower, throws on a top, and enters her living room in complete silence. Even the soundtrack shuts up for this occasion, adding to the movie's eeriness. A clunk sounds off camera, Karlatos turns her attention accordingly, and puts on a face of pure horror. Panicked, she slips quickly into her bedroom and finds herself unable to close the door. Undead fingers protrude from the crack between the door and the frame, abating closure. After some effort, she manages to crush the digits and shut the portal. She then pushes a heavy dresser in front of the entrance, stopping only to catch her breath for a moment and sealing her fate. A hand bursts through the frail wood and snatches a lock of her hair and slooooooowwwwly, slooooooooowwwwly yanks her through the newly formed opening. Another look of dread appears on her face, then the camera transitions to show us a splinter jutting from the hole, aimed right at Olga's eye.
...and slooooowwwwly, sloooooowwwwly we see--as in the camera doesn't cut away from it--every nasty detail of the shard piercing Karlatos' eye while she screams in agony.
Zombi 2 is a graphic, take-no-prisoners film. It's not uncommon to see the living dead snacking on once-living flesh or tearing chunks of meat out of arms and throats, or to glimpse gruesome depictions of zombies wandering the streets of the fictional Caribbean island Matul. Makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi did a wonderful job crafting all manner of partially mutilated and rotting ghouls, from the partially eaten to the long decayed. Unlike the movie's name-only predecessor, Dawn of the Dead (titled Zombiin Italy), this one eschews the comic book feel and subtle social commentary in favor of horrific imagery and straight up horror.
The picture isn't only a video nasty, though. Director Lucio Fulci made the most of set pieces, creating abandoned boats in disarray, disheveled clinics, and ruined villages that bolster the film's thick atmosphere. You get the feeling that there is no safe haven, and that every locale is just as damned as the last.
Zombi 2 also serves as a campy drive-in piece. One remarkable scene, for instance, pits a zombie against a tiger shark in shallow waters. Yes, there was an actor who donned full undead makeup, went underwater for extensive periods without scuba gear, and tangled with a tiger shark in the name of entertainment. This man deserves nothing short of a medal and a holiday in his honor. A few other scenes add a bit of unnecessary humor to the film, including an awkward segment in which a coroner admonishes his assistant for failing to keep his instruments clean. That and a few occasions of horrible dub acting...
My only complaint regarding the movie is one I make for almost any retro Italian horror feature. These movies tended to utilize English, Italian, and American actors. Because of that, you have select performers who now have awful voice actors speaking for them. There's one scene, for example, that really suffers in which Olga Karlatos, her face awash with heavy drink and cynicism, argues with her husband (Richard Johnson). Her non-vocal acting, posturing, and facial expressions are magnificent, but her dub actress sounds way too frantic and ridiculous, not to mention that her speech is not quite in sync.
In spite of poor dub acting, Zombi 2 is still a killer film for anyone who loves old European shockers. This one brings the grue and gore by the droves thanks to Giannetto De Rossi's handiwork, scares the crap out of you with both atmospheric shots and settings, and plays to your campy sensibilities. It's a delicate balancing act, but director Lucio Fulci pulls it off with finesse.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.