Director:Lucio Fulci . Writer : Dardano Sacchetti
Starring. Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Olga Karlatos, Auretta Gay. Italy. 1h 31m.
I had seen a great deal of movies around the time I finally found a copy of this on DVD and being in my early 20’s I prided myself on seeing a lot of horror and gore films, banned movies galore, I honestly thought I had seen it all, but half way through this Zombie Flesh Eaters, I realised I hadn’t see anything quite like the Tiger Shark Vs Zombie scene… I got into more detail here, but the film is a testament to Fulci’s ability to try new things while being a staple in the 70’s horror scene.
In this semi sequel to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) There’s a host of iconic imagery and gruesome special effects, the now iconic Fulchi eye gore and just the general nastiness of the Conquistador Zombie who looks fine and maggoty but doesn’t go much other than .. arrive. But all of these budgeted techniques helped define the Zombie genre including having a cast of characters with no peripheral vision. Zombies are sneaking up on people left right and centre, but that’s all the fun, if the cast were to avoid all zombies then we’d never get to see any gore.
After a sailboat turns up in New York with a bloated corpse trying to maul the local police force, the owners daughter Anne (Farrow) is notified and questioned about the whereabouts of her father, it seems she hasn’t heard from him and embarks to the remote Caribbean location to investigate with the help of a resourceful reporter Peter (McCulloch).
Arriving in the sunny Caribbean searching for an uncharted island known as Matu (similar to Voodoo Island in I Eat Your Skin (1964)) they hitch a ride with a bohemian couple Brian (Cliver) and Susan (Gay), who spices up the film with it’s only bit of nudity. The couple are on a diving holiday and as they draw closer to the island the most impressive scene of the movie occurs, as stumble on a zombie fighting and eating a tiger shark under the waves. On the island a doctor is trying to cure a rare disease which is bringing the dead back to life.
New York Has a New Problem
There’s a lot of references to Hoodoo but sadly there are no actual rites seen in the film Fulci casts us into the aftermath of what has gone down, this is a bit of a let-down but something corrected in Black Demons (1991) where we get to see some melovent manifestations. Fulchi did have a lot of fun with all the different types of zombies that were crafted for this adventure, each encounter seems to turn up a new species, including the infamous hungry underwater shark eater, a zombie idea which has never been attempted again due to animal rights and insurance pressures, the film also includes one of my all-time favourites, Conquistador zombie who is unearthed in a secret graveyard near the end of the film filled with worms and maggots his goreface is all over tons of merch. The gore and effects are pretty apt for this video nasty, coming from an era of putrescent effects, it fits right in, as does the obligatory eye poking scene that’s in most of Fulchi’s productions, this one involves a nasty splintered bathroom door and sadistic zombie making the most of Dr ?? long suffering wifes pretty face.
There will be a lot of criticism from the modern day enthusiasts as the film isn’t as fast paced with infected people running amok and there’s hardly a gun on the Island, but this take back to the folkloric reanimated corpses being raised from the ground by mysterious black magic, but the bees knees of this gory suspenseful mystery film that just happens to launch its cast into a paradise filled with hungry corpses.The fresh startled face of Farrow and her strong and brave partner in crime McCulloch travel the world in order slaughter a village of dead people while tackily a crazy doctor and that’s the nuts and bolts of any classic zombie film. The addition of outrageous 70’s antics that cast caution to the wind make this just about crazy enough to work.
Everything is slightly underpar with this film, the off dubbing, slightly animated acting, but putting it all together with such passion makes it a true golden classic for anyone into 70s or 80’s euro horror, and so much has been adapted from the film which goes to show how brilliant it really is.
Related – The Beyond (1981) Night of the Living Dead (1968), Zombie Flesh Eaters 2/Zombi 3 (1988),Black Demons (1991).
List – A-Z of Zombies and the Infected Vol 1, A-Z of Italian Films, Famous Eyepokes
Articles– Good bad films, Classic Horror Cinema, Classic Italian Horror Cinema.
Spotlight – Tia Farror, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Ian MucClloch, Olga Karlatos