Lucio Fulci’s classic Zombie (Flesh Eaters) was called Zombi 2 in Italy, marketed as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead, which was know as Zombi. Consequently, when Fulci made another zombie film in 1988, it became know as Zombi 3, or Zombie Flesh Eaters 2 in the UK, even though it is as much of a sequel to that film as Zombie (F.E.) is to Dawn – in other words not at all. The film has got itself something of a bad reputation among Fulci fans, who mostly view it as being a between disappointing & terrible final zombie film from the master. However, it’s well known that Fulci left the film during shooting (due to a stroke) to be replaced by an unaccredited Bruno Mattei. Although it’s not quite clear precisely how much of the film Fulci actually directed (some place it at over an hour), general consensus is that it was under 15 minutes. Certainly, Zombi 3 doesn’t feel like a Fulci film, but if you overlook the dispiriting fact that it carries his credit as sole director & consider it more as being a Mattei film, then the film actually emerges as being a riotously entertaining & frequently hilarious flick.
OK, I guess this is where I tell you a little about the plot. Oh, boy. Right, a group of people drives into a high-security (!) medical research facility in the Philippines & they snatch a freezer case being transferred to a helicopter. The sole survivor tries to escape on foot, but the chasing ‘copter accidentally misses him & shoots the case, causing it to leak. D’oh! The case contained a virus for use as a biological weapon, which, well it turns people into flesh eating zombies, obviously. Somehow the army guys track down the survivor in a hotel, & kill everyone & burn the bodies to prevent the disease from spreading. Unfortunately, the ashes, and this is the clever bit right, well they’re are contaminated too, & they float up into the atmosphere, turning a load of birds into – yup, you guessed it, flesh eating zombie birds, which then attack pretty much everything in the area. A small group of people then battles to survive from both the zombies, & the nasty army types who are trying to kill everyone & thus contain the disease.
Zombi 3 hits the ground running & barely lets up going for all it’s running time, delivering a fun & frantic (& reasonably gory) action horror film. There aren’t too many dull patches between attacks (mostly these are taken up with hysterically bad acting), & the sheer daft inventiveness & variety of the confrontations, which have a wonderful habit of restarting just when you think they’ve finished, should keep the viewer entertained. Whether it’s dangling in the rafters or hiding under a pile of hay (just don’t ask), you can never tell quite where the next attack will come from, or what form it will take. Of course, the price to pay for this pretty random & scattershot inventiveness is one of the films many problems – it’s hopelessly lacking consistency. Sometimes the zombies stumble along in the traditional Fulci manner, other times they’re much more animated in their attacks – coming close once or twice to being kung fu zombies, & even wielding weapons. Sometimes a random shot to the body will put them down, other times you gotta get the headshot in. Interestingly, they usually have memories of before they died, which is fairly unusual for a zombie film, even if it’s not used very much. I could go on, but suffice to say most of the events in the film don’t really make much sense. Of course, zombies are by their very nature inconsistent, but not having a basic set of ground rules or logic that your zombies are going to operate by – well, that just isn’t cricket, old chap. Still, that’s Euro-horror for you, & if it means we get some of the wonderfully loony scenes here, then I’m all for inconsistency – the film wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if it wasn’t so wildly inventive.
You see, the lack of consistency could be fatal if the rest of the film was much good, but it falls short on pretty much every critical level, & the almost surreal logic becomes the films’ greatest feature. The thin plot as outlined above is quite sublimely ridiculous, & the characterisations … well, I don’t really remember there being any. The acting is frequently almost ludicrously bad, & it’s not helped by what is one of the worst English dubs I’ve ever heard. As for the dialogue … well, don’t think it might be even almost semi-acceptable. As for the DJ, who gets to deliver some environmentalist voice-overs…? The film is almost impossible to enjoy on any kind of serious level, sad to say. But as long as you don’t, the almost amazingly comic amateurish & inept nature of those things I’ve mentioned above make it extremely hard not to enjoy, whether watching solo or as a great party movie.
However, at about this point I feel I must point out a couple of features of the film that I found to be good in an actually good way. Stefano Mainetti’s fun & propulsive, yet wonderfully moody score has a strong theme, which keeps the action nipping along nicely. Richard Grassetti’s cinematography features a couple of wonderful Bava/Argento-inspired moments of colour, & some neat fog/dry ice effects give a couple of sequences something approaching actual atmosphere. And there are a couple of times between attacks that it has the groovy "you’re all alone & everyone else is dead" zombie movie feel.
Deciding what rating to give this film was a real tough one. As any kind of serious critical rating, I’d having difficulty justifying anything other than total shit. However, in terms of the entertainment it provided me, I’d be looking at, ooh at least 4 skulls. The rating on this one’s so bad, that it’s hit the bottom of the scale, & managed to bounce back up. Therefore the given rating is a compromise. Just remember, if you’re after a serious film, don’t even think about going near this one. But if you’re after a so-bad-it’s-good beer-&-pizza flick, this frequently lunatic film is pure daft entertainment of the highest order. It’s not clever, & it’s not scary, but I had an absolute blast with it.
I’ve been watching the UK R2/PAL DVD from Vipco. Now, Vipco have got themselves something a poor reputation, but I found the 1.85:1 widescreen image here to be perfectly watchable. It’s certainly not the most solid picture I’ve seen, with a couple of fairly wonky moments, but with their reputation I was expecting much worse. The colours are brought out quite nicely too. Audio is provided by an unambitious English-only 1.0 mono track. It’s not a bad track by any means, although it’s a shame that nothing more spectacular could be provided.
Sadly, whilst Vipco usually do well for extras, as if to make up for the reasonable A/V presentation, basically all we get here is four trailers for other films, a small picture gallery, & static menus which insist on playing a very annoying ‘80s song from the end credits at very loud volumes. This is not a disc that I would pay full price for, but since the film is "quality" rather than quality, I’d say this version is worth picking up for a bit of fun if it’s going cheap. However, if you want a version of the film to savour (quite why you would, I’m not sure), you might want to look elsewhere.
Incidentally, this version has been passed uncut by the BBFC, but like all European prints of the film, it is missing a pre-credit sequence running around 5-minutes. I haven’t seen it, so can’t comment on whether it’s worth the effort, but the scene is available on the Japanese DVD by Magnet, but I’m happy enough with this version, which I'm just pleased is available at last in the UK.