Plague Town - Italian Zombie Movies
Italian Zombie Movies – Guilty Pleasure
Okay, I lied. I don’t feel the least bit guilty over my love of bad cinema. In fact, I wallow in it. And when I share my beloved bad movies with friends (translation: (force them to watch the glorious badness with me), it makes me feel like I’m doing my part to expand their horizons. Or rot their brains. Either one works for me.
I have a special place in my heart for the Italian zombie movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, starting with Zombie (also known as Zombie 2 and Zombie Flesh Eaters) directed by Lucio Fulci. Zombie is one of those movies that made me laugh when I first saw it, but I’ve also grown to appreciate for some of the genuinely creepy and atmospheric elements mingling in there with some really stupid characters (can you say “What’s a self-preservation instinct?”), my vote for Most Insipid Heroine in zombie cinema history; inadvertently funny camera work where the camera is zoomed in really tightly on the actors’ faces (I don’t want to be that intimate with the inside of anyone’s nostrils, thank you) as they talk, always a few seconds behind before switching POVs in these swooping camera moves to the next character speaking. And, of course …
… ZOMBIE VERSUS SHARK!!!!
If you’re a zombie fan, you’ll be familiar with this now iconic scene in which a mostly naked female scuba diver is attacked by a zombie lurking in the coral reef where she’s hiding from an equally aggressive shark. The woman escapes the zombie’s grasp by swishing a piece of coral in its face and swims off, leaving zombie and shark to face off, rotting mano a fin-o. Truly hilarious as the zombie actually backs away from the shark in what almost looks like a dance movie from Westside Story. Zombie bites shark, shark bites zombie, shark wins as scuba-babe swims back to the boat and informs the rest of the heroes that “There was a man down there!” Good times.
Another fan favorite scene is the one in which a woman has her hair grabbed by a zombie, which then pulls her relentlessly towards a shattered door, one of her eyes on a direct trajectory with the business end of a splinter of wood. Yes, fan boys; I know it’s nice and gross, but seriously. We’re talking a slow drag here, not a quick yank. She had plenty of time to get a hand up there and either smack that bad boy splinter out of the way or, last resort, block it with her hand (yes, ouch, but better a pierced palm than a ruptured eyeball, y’know), but no. She just screams, keeping those eyes wide right up to the moment when the splinter goes in. WTF?
COVER YOUR EYE, DAMN IT!
All the women in this movie annoy me. When faced with an approaching zombie, each and every one of them throws their head back and screams, almost as if deliberately giving the zombies easy access to their necks and shoulders. How about running? We’re talking really slow shamblers here. Or what about picking up a weapon and, oh, maybe trying to fight? Not in this movie.
The men aren’t much better. They think it’s a good idea to take a break in a cemetery while running from zombies. One of them thinks it would be a smooth move to make out with the heroine in the same cemetery. Another decides leaving his wife alone in an isolated house is perfectly safe because the zombies were only seen on the other side of the island. Dudes, really?
That all being said, Fulci got the creep factor of the slow, inexorable zombies completely stripped of humanity. These are walking corpses and they’re icky. There’s one memorable shot of an empty village, wind and dust swirling through it as the camera tracks a lone zombie staggering slowly through the street. Awesome atmosphere in that scene. The ever-present voodoo drums in the background is another nice touch, and casting dignified Brit actor Richard Johnson (horror fans will also recognize him as Dr. Markway in the original The Haunting) as the doctor trying to find a reason and a cure for the zombie plague was genius.
“There goes my reputation!” “You signed the contract, sucker…”
Most of my friends, however, can’t get past the zombie versus shark scene.
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