Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Zombie (1979)

Zombie (aka Zombi 2Zombie Flesh Eaters) (1979)

(Originally posted here)
Zombie, known in its home country of Italy as Zombi 2 and in Britain as Zombie Flesh Eaters, is a clear victim of what is known as "Seinfeld is Unfunny" syndrome. It was a groundbreaking horror film in its day, and its zombie makeup and effects are still shocking more than thirty years later. What hasn't aged so gracefully, on the other hand, is the plot and the writing. After three decades of movies about scientists looking for the source of the zombie outbreak, people holed up in buildings with an assortment of guns and melee weapons, and downbeat endings, Zombie comes off as derivative of every zombie movie ever made, despite the fact that it played as big a role in codifying many of those plot devices as the films of George Romero did. As a result, its flaws, from the poor acting to the characters' mind-boggling stupidity, are a lot more visible.

The zombies themselves are one of the biggest problems with this film. When people talk about Romero-style zombies being slow, chances are they hadn't actually seen Night of the Living Dead. The undead shamblers in Zombie, on the other hand, actually do conform to that stereotype, moving at a pace that can be escaped with merely a brisk walk. When I watch the undead hordes slowly shambling towards the church/makeshift hospital where the main characters are holed up, I wonder to myself exactly why the characters don't just run away or knock them over with a broom handle. Which brings me to another problem I had while watching this film: none of the characters seem to have any sense of self-preservation. We get people standing idly as zombies (very) slowly shamble towards them and grab them, multiple times over the course of the film. If any of you saw the zombie movie parody that plays at the start of ParaNorman, with the woman screaming for nearly thirty seconds rather than running away as the zombie slowly creeps over, it's like that here... only this is not a parody.

That said, it's easy to see why this film remains a classic of the zombie genre. The special effects on display are astounding, even after thirty years of development. No CGI here, people! I can understand why the British were so squicked out by this film that they put it on their infamous "video nasties" list and banned it. Scenes like Paola getting her eye gouged out and the fight between a zombie and a shark remain up there with some of the most memorable moments in brutal horror, and must be seen to be believed. Unlike the story, the special effects most certainly do stand the test of time, and by themselves make this film a must-see for any zombie fan.

Score: 3 out of 5

Let's face it, this is not a very original take on the zombie genre, story-wise. The plot is something that has been done a million times since, and often better. However, if you're interested in the history of zombie movies and can separate your impressions of this film from those that came after it, or if you're a gorehound who wants to see some of the most grisly zombie FX ever put to celluloid, then this belongs in your collection.

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