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1979 - NR - 91 Mins.
Director: Lucio Fulci
Producer: Fabrizio de Angelis, Ugo Tucci
Written By: Elisa Briganti
Starring: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay
Review by: Jake Cremins

I could make a cheap joke about these being theater patrons, but look! That's Mia Farrow's sister! Weird.
When George Romero made 'Dawn of the Dead,' the company that bought it for Italian distribution decided to release a different version. Dario Argento was hired, and the movie was reedited and rescored to great success. That version was entitled 'Zombi,' which is Italian for you know what. Turns out there was a loophole somewhere in the copyright law, and so 'Zombi 2' was made and released in Italy, even as Romero began thinking up 'Day of the Dead' back home. 'Zombi 2' was this film, which was imported to the U.S. as 'Zombie' (but not as a sequel). I mention this because I find it interesting, and because it takes up a respectable amount of space, and because Movie Gurus has a five-hundred-word minimum per review. Writing five hundred words about 'Zombie' itself is a pretty depressing prospect.

But we must press on. 'Zombie' has become a minor classic of sorts among people who will happily sit through some of the worst movies ever made, provided that someone dies gruesomely every fifteen minutes. This movie satisfies both requirements, believe you me. It also benefits from having one of those shrewdly chosen titles that neatly sums up its genre, just like 'Modern Romance.'

It's tough to say whether 'Zombie' was actually intended to be scary. In the broad outlines, it has the structure of the average porn film (if not, we can hope, the same dedication to authenticity). We'll sit through scenes in which stone-faced actors lob horrendously dubbed dialogue at each other, and after a while another Good Part will arrive; the topless scuba diver will have her throat ripped out in slow motion, for instance. And so we'll be given enough of a reason, in theory, to sit through the next fifteen minutes. You get the idea. There's a certain amusement to be had in actually paying attention to the dramatic scenes in a movie like this, but then again life may be too short, a theory for which 'Zombie' is compelling evidence.

Gee, I haven't even gotten to the plot. Richard Johnson plays a grizzled doctor on a remote Caribbean island. He runs the hospital, which these days entails wrapping the dead in sheets, waiting for them to rise and shooting them in the head. He also drinks a lot and looks very bitter, either because he knows in his heart that he's fighting a losing battle, or because there was once a time when he starred in movies like 'The Haunting.' The doctor has a lovely wife who complains, not unreasonably, that it's about time they got off the island. They are soon joined by a pair of vacationers and a man and woman from New York. The woman got a letter describing some sort of horrible plague on the island, so she decided to head down there right away to check things out. Wouldn't you?

The characters, good sports that they are, go out of their way to be eaten by the undead and keep the audience happy. (I imagined an offscreen drawing of straws, in which one of the survivors is chosen to stand there and do nothing the next time the zombies approach.) One woman has the rotten luck to get in a fight with her husband, be impaled through the eye socket and have her radio go on the fritz all in the same day. Later that evening she hosts a dinner party that goes pretty well, if you get my drift.
Movie Guru Rating
A train wreck.  So bad some may find it unintentionally entertaining.
  1 out of 5 stars

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