Now this is one of the zombie movies that I was looking forward to watching this week. Oh, I know it has been a while but I should go ahead and preface that this is an ITALIAN HORROR MOVIE, and you really should take that warning to heart. Now I first heard about this movie years ago when I was looking through a top 25 list of zombie movies and saw this movie towards the top. The thing that got my attention was them commenting about the fight between a shark and a zombie, which I just had to see for myself. So I went online and found a copy to watch and it quickly became one of my favorite zombie. So let’s dive right in to today’s movie, Zombi 2.
The plot: At an unknown location, a body, wrapped tightly in a sheet, suddenly sits upright before a man shoots it in the head with a gun, then says “The boat can leave now. Tell the crew.” Some time later, a seemingly abandoned sailboat drifts into New York Harbor. The harbor patrol head out to investigate it and as one of them searches below, he finds a severed hand in some sheets. Suddenly, a zombie burst out of a cabin door and attacks the officer, biting him in the neck. As the zombie climbs up onto the deck, the other officer yells for it to stop, then shoots it when it continues towards him, knocking the zombie overboard. Newspaper journalist Peter West is assigned to cover the story and when he asks if it is a big story, the editor tells him what little he knows. At the dock, the police are questioning the boat owner’s daughter, Anne Bowles, about her father but she hasn’t seen him in months. At the city medical examiner’s office, two doctors are preparing to do an autopsy on the dead police officer but as lead doctor chastises his associate for the condition of his equipment, they fail to notice the body moving under the sheet. That night, Anne sneaks back onto her father’s boat and encounters Peter West on board, who was searching for clues himself. After managing to fool a police officer into thinking they snuck on board to have sex, they leave, taking Anne’s father’s log book with them, which Peter had found. Peter calls his editor and arranges flights for him and Anne to the Caribbean, where they hope to figure out what happened to Anne’s father. When they reach the Caribbean, they go looking for a boat to take them to the island of Matul and convince Brian Hull and his girlfriend Susan Barrett, who are going to cruise the islands, to let them come with them. On Matul, Dr. David Menard (the man who shot the corpse at the beginning of the movie) is attempting to contact someone by radio but has no success. His wife Paola wants to leave the island but Menard refuses to leave until he figures out the phenomenon occurring on the island. The continue arguing about what is happening on the island, with Paola worried that what is happening on the far side of the island will soon reach the side they live on but Menard refuses to change his mind. Menard heads to his hospital to continue his research, telling his groundskeeper not to let anyone in the house. Back on the boat, Peter is talking to Bill about where the island is supposed to be, though the maps say there isn’t an island there and Bill says that is pretty common, as some of the small islands haven’t been charted or explored. Susan asks him to stop the boat, as she wants to go diving and take some pictures underwater and Bill does as she asks. As Susan dives underwater and starts swimming around, Anne notices a nearby island and Peter says that might be Matul. Meanwhile, Susan sees a tiger shark swimming up behind her and she quickly hides behind a nearby reef. When it passes her, she makes her way to the surface and calls out to Brian, alerting him to the shark’s presence, then dives back down as the shark begins charging towards the boat. Brian shoots at the shark with his rifle but it rams into the boat, then dives underwater. As Susan continues to hide from the shark, she encounters a zombie underwater and is able to get away. As she swims back to the boat, the zombie starts to move after her but it is attacked by the shark and the two begin fighting each other. On Matul, Menard and his assistant/nurse Clara are tending to some of the islanders, who are dying from a strange illness. Another helper, Lucas, tells him that some of the villagers are leaving the island, fearing the zombies that are rising up when they bury their dead but Menard doesn’t believe in his “voodoo”. That night, Paola is getting ready for bed when she hears something entering the house and she quickly rushes to the bedroom and attempts to shut the door, but a zombie pushes back trying to get in. She eventually is able to close the door, severing the zombie’s fingers in the process, but it pounds on the door and smashes through the slats. Paola attempts to push a dresser in front of the door to keep it from getting in but the zombie grabs her and pulls her through the door, impaling her eye on a piece of splintered wood in the process. In the morning, Brian steers the boat towards the island and after he and Susan check on the damage, they say they will be there for a while unless they get some help. At the hospital, Menard shoots the dead bodies in the head so they won’t reanimate and he and Clara carry them out to be buried when Lucas tells him that he spotted some flares coming from the beach. Leaving Clara and Lucas to finish burying the bodies, Menard heads to the beach, where he finds Peter, Anne, Bill, and Susan. Driving them back to his hospital, he tells Anne that he met her father when he visited the island and on his last visit, he had gotten sick and died (and it is shown that Anne’s father is the man Menard shot at the beginning of the movie). When they get to the hospital, Lucas tells Menard about an emergency and as Mernard starts to head inside, he asks Peter and the others to go check on his wife. Inside the hospital, Menard finds his friend Fritz dying of the same illness affecting the villagers and when he says that the villagers had all died, Menard tells Lucas to barricade the doors, as zombies start appearing on the outskirts of the village. Meanwhile, Peter and the others arrive at Menard’s house and head inside to check on his wife only to find zombies feasting on her dead body. As they go to leave, they find two zombies approaching them but Peter and Bill are able to deal with them, then they get in the car to leave. As they are driving back, Bill swerves as a zombie crosses the road in front of him and he crashes the jeep, with Peter injuring his ankle in the crash. The group is forced to walk back to the hospital and as Peter takes a rest, Bill and Susan scout ahead and discover an old conquistador burial ground. Peter and Anne are talking and when Anne says she is scared they won’t make it back to New York, he goes to comfort her and they end up kissing. Suddenly, some zombies come up from the ground to attack them and, hearing Anne’s screams, Bill goes to help them. As he leaves, a zombie emerges from the ground and attacks Susan, ripping out her throat. Bill, Peter, and Anne return and as Peter kills the zombie, Bill cradles Susan’s dead body until Peter and Anne convince him they have to leave. They leave the graveyard, as more zombies begin coming up out of the ground, and eventually reach the hospital. Menard lets them in and they warn him that more zombies are coming and ask what is going on. Menard explains he is a man if science and doesn’t believe in voodoo but that there is no other scientific explanation for what is happening. Deciding to try and arm themselves for the siege against the zombies, Bill, Lucas, and Carla use the kerosene Menard keeps on hand to make some molotov cocktails. Menard goes to get some more shells for his shotgun but he is attacked and killed by a recently deceased patient. Bill hears him and kills the zombie while Lucas and Carla finish making the cocktails but Lucas is attacked by some more zombies. Bill kills the zombies that attacked Lucas and grabs some cocktails, telling Carla to grab the others but she is killed by Lucas. Peter kills Lucas before he can attack Anne and as the zombies break down the door, they begin throwing the cocktails at them, setting the zombies and hospital on fire. The three are soon forced to flee before they are killed in the fire and as they leave, Bill encounters Susan, who is now a zombie. Susan bites Bill’s arm and as he stumbles back, he yells at Peter to shoot her and Peter reluctantly does. They make it back onto Bill’s boat and sail off, moving slowly to avoid overtaxing the damaged drive shaft in the engine. Bill eventually succumbs to the bite and dies and when Anne asks what they should do, Peter says they have to take him with them so that they have proof of what happened. As they get close to New York, they turn on the radio to try and get some news only to hear a report that zombies have begun to overrun the city, as zombies are shown to be walking along the Brooklyn Bridge heading towards New York City.
Zombi 2 met with mixed results from the critics, holding a 46% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most critics appreciated the gore and some of the iconic scenes but felt it’s slow pace is too boring. While the movie was written before Dawn Of The Dead (1978) was released in Italy (which was released under the title Zombi), the studio wanted to cash in on the success of Romero’s movie so they shot the additional footage of New York at the beginning and end of the movie and titled it Zombi 2, despite there being no real connection. The newspaper office scenes were actually shot at a busy office building and at one point, they inadvertently interrupted a meeting held by Rupert Murdoch, who kicked them out of the building. Due to the rather high amounts of violence and gore (for the time), airline barf bags were handed out to audiences at the theater but that didn’t seem to stop them as the movie was a success in it’s home country of Italy, earning ₤3 billion off of a ₤410 million budget.
It does seem to shuffle along until it reaches the climax, but this is still a really good zombie movie. The acting was fairly good, with Tisa Farrow (Anne) and Ian McCulloch (Peter) doing good jobs in their roles. I also liked Richard Johnson (Menard) and Al Cliver (Bill) but the dubbing used for Bill’s voice was a little off. The story was interesting, with the writer trying to take the zombies back to their original voodoo definition while adding the flesh eating aspect to them, but it didn’t quite mesh to well. I did like the mystery aspect that had Anne and Peter heading to the island, as it was a nice set up and allowed some tension to build before everything kind of went to hell for them. The make-up involved with the zombies was pretty good and they definitely went all out with the gore, as some of the scenes rivaled those from Tom Savini’s work in Dawn Of The Dead (1978). The scene where Paola’s eye is impaled on the splintered door is just as cringe inducing now as it was the first time I saw it. As for the famed zombie/shark fight scene, it was pretty cool looking and definitely unique but I wish there was a little more to the fight than the brief bit that was shown. The one thing I will give them props for is that, since there was no CGI or animatronics used, the fact that they had a live tiger shark for the scene was pretty gutsy for them. All things considered, this is definitely one of those zombie movies that I would consider a must-see for any fan of the sub-genre.
Rating: 4 out of 5