‘Zombi 3’ or — Like ‘Day of The Dead’… But Better?
“I’m not a huge fan of George A. Romero’s ‘Day of The Dead’ (1985),” I thought to myself last night, “So why am I about to watch an inferior Italian knock-off version of it?”
“Wait a second, Colin!” I was instantly able to catch myself, “You haven’t even watched it yet so don’t call it ‘inferior’ until you’ve done so. Sure, the chances are it’ll more than likely will be god-awful but don’t pre-judge.”
My issue with ‘Day of The Dead’, from which ‘Zombi 3’ aka ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters 2’ (1988) takes it’s cue, is that I find it a little too unpleasant, a little too cynical, a little too cold. If ‘Zombi 3’ was a low-budget rip-off of the most sterile of the Living Dead series then I could really struggle with this one. I just didn’t want it to be dreary.
But hosannah and glory be as it turns out ‘Zombi 3’ couldn’t be further away from ‘Day of The Dead’ if it had actively tried because whereas Romero’s flick is nihilistic, nasty and clinical Fucli/Mattei/Fragasso’s (this movie had more directors than it had titles) affair is fast, wild, colourful, silly and packed with tonnes of variation all running on a ridiculously delirious energy. There’s no social commentary, no character development, no nuance and zero logic with everything stripped down for maximum mayhem. Fantastic.
The script is an inadvertent work of genius and has an inspired minimalism about it, rattling along in a no-holds barred frenzy where a lack of coherence is a freeing and liberating force. In fact if you can get away without needing a carefully structured plot, character depth or time consuming exposition then why would you even pretend to bother with any of that stuff in the first place when you don’t need to? We watch these movies for all the crazy madness so if a filmmaker gets the chance to make a movie consisting of nothing but that insanity then they’d be bonkers not to do so. Sometimes story, continuity and cohesion can be a debilitating hindrance and that would certainly be the case here.
Talking of lack of continuity, that explicitly applies to the zombies in ‘Zombi 3’ whose powers are totally situation dependent, so if they need to be slow moving for a specific piece of action to work they’ll be slow but if they need to movie fast, wield weapons, fist-fight or even speak to pull off something crazy they’ll do that too. It doesn’t make any sense in terms of zombie continuity but it makes perfect sense for pacing and thrills. After all, a severed head flying out of a fridge doesn’t make any sense in any context but it’s exactly the sort of thing we want to see happen in a movie like this.
My favourite moment might be the knife attack where a zombie bursts out of some green smoke with a huge blade and goes on a furious slashing and stabbing spree, the film being sped-up or with frames removed to create an uncanny fast-forward effect. It’s crazy but it also looks great and is a perfect example of the filmmakers knowing that these sorts of energy ramping moments are vital if a movie like this is going to work.
Also, being an Italian zombie film the undead have a more stylised and ornate look than their American counter-parts with clawed hands, demonic nails and feet that are green on the top but soles which are bright red; these aren’t just people painted grey but feel more like monsters from childhood dreams. There isn’t a huge amount of OTT gore but there are plenty of inventive kills, grisly moments and all liberally peppered throughout the movie.
Towards the end ‘Zombi 3’ morphs into ‘The Crazies’ (1973) meets, er… ‘Vanishing Point’ (1971) as the military clamp down whilst a jive-talking radio DJ broadcasts the proceedings over the airwaves and leading to an ending that’s surprisingly satisfying considering how chaotic everything leading up to it has been.
I enjoyed ‘Zombi 3’ way more than I would ever have expected. Halfway through it I noticed I was having a blast and a lot of the tension I felt for throughout the rest was me hoping the film would keep the entertainment level up for its entire run-time; I was rooting for this movie to work. The good news is that it did, even ending with an explosion that’s deceptively impressive (I loved the camera shake).
So I had another lesson in not pre-judging as not only is ‘Zombi 3’ not inferior to ‘Day of The Dead’ but, in my opinion, it might even be the better movie. I certainly enjoyed it more.