Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Film Review: ZOMBI 3 (1988, Claudio Fragasso, Lucio Fulci, & Bruno Mattei)

Stars: 3.5 of 5.
Running Time: 95 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Deran Serafian (actor in 10 TO MIDNIGHT, director of JCVD's DEATH WARRANT), Beatrice Ring (INTERZONE, SICILIAN CONNECTION), Ottaviano Dell'aqua (HBO's ROME, LADYHAWKE), Massimo Vanni (RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR, ZOMBI 4), Mike Monty (BLACK COBRA 2, BLACK COBRA 3).  Music by Stefano Mainetti (SILENT TRIGGER, HIDDEN ASSASSIN).  Sort of directed by Lucio Fulci (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, ZOMBI 2), Claudio Fragasso (MONSTER DOG, TROLL 2), and Bruno Mattei (HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD, RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR).
Best One-liner: "That'll fix ya, you friggin' monsters!"

In a familiar, darkened alleyway:

"It's been a while, bud!"
–"Indeed it has.  Seen any good movies lately?"
"You ready for this?  How 'bout a holy and unholy mess of Italo-zombie flickery?"
–"Lay it on me."
"ZOMBI 3."
–"Hey, that's not a 'third' film!  Lucio Fulci's ZOMBI 2, known in the U.S. as ZOMBIE, was really the first film in its series, the '2' was only there to trick people into thinking it was a sequel to George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD, which was released in Italy as 'ZOMBI.'  You're really starting this series off on the wrong foot if you're gonna fudge it like that."
"There's a '3' in it, and that's all that matters, my friend.  And get ready for another three––a trio, if you will.  ZOMBI 3 has three directors.  Count 'em: Lucio Fulci, Claudio Fragasso, and Bruno Mattei.  It's not just a perfect storm, it's like the convergence of three perfect storms in one wild turducken of incomprehensible Euro-trash nuttery!"
–"It's sounds like the Three Tenors, if the Three Tenors were known for eye trauma and bad dubbing and 'pissing on hospitality.'  How is that possible?  The idea of the directors of TROLL 2, THE NEW YORK RIPPER, and RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR collaborating is too much for my bad-movie-addled mind to bear."
"Well, I wouldn't really call it a collaboration, per sé.  Fulci fell ill about three weeks into the shoot, blaming the tropical climes of the Philippines.  Though those in the know claim that was a fabrication provoked by the terrible script."
–"Lucio Fulci walking away from a terrible script?  I don't believe it."
"You might if you realized it was the work of Claudio Fragasso and his writing partner, Rosella Drudi, whose finest hour was TROLL 2.  When Fulci bowed out, Bruno Mattei took over and directed the remainder of this thing.  Fragasso worked on some additional scenes.  Consequently, it doesn't have the dreamlike feel of your typical Fulci."
–"What's it about?"
"Essentially, it rips off DAY OF THE DEAD and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD in equal shades.  There's a secret army bunker (called Death 1 Compound!) on a remote tropical isle (like DAY OF THE DEAD), and they're messing around with viruses and bacteria (the writers continually act as if the two terms are interchangeable) and they accidentally make a gingerbread man-lookin' zombie.

This gingerbread man-lookin' zombie.

Then a bunch of nogoodniks who look like they wandered out of Fulci's CONTRABAND steal a suitcase filled with the virus/bacteria thing (not knowing what it is?) and there's a gun battle and then the surviving thief wanders over to a shitty resort

This shitty resort.  Actual quote: "A week ago this place was buzzin' with life... now it's buzzin' with flies!"

which is a five minute walk from the biological weapons facility (which seems like a less than ideal vacation locale) and then he infects some people, and then the General of the facility (who keeps commenting on the events as unbelievable 'science fiction!' even in the face of hard evidence)

Look at all the science on that whiteboard.

decides to burn the bodies in the crematorium (just like in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD)

and the smoke enters the atmosphere, which leads to practically the entire island getting infected.  One bureaucracy-battling scientist who knows what's up (and looks like the poor man's Jeffrey Combs from RE-ANIMATOR)

"Inexplicable acts of violence... murder... and people are eating each other!"

tries to solve the problem to no avail, because zombie movies are truly about the futility of human endeavor.   Zombies and survivors alike are hunted down by a bunch of dudes in biohazard suits (like in Romero's THE CRAZIES).  Gore and hilarity ensue, in something approaching equal measure.

So that's pretty much 'the big picture.'  But the big picture in a movie like this is rarely impressive.  It's the categorically insane 'little things' that make this kind of movie."
–"Such as?"
"I want to give you an idea as to the true flavor of this film.  A little soupçon of what ZOMBI 3 has to offer.  Behold:

That, my friend, is two and a half minutes of pure gold.  An inconsequential scene, really, of horny soldiers on leave hitting on some babes in a bus.

"We love soldier boys!"

But the rockin' 80s tunes, stilted line delivery ("What was her name? Cindy, Lindy? –I don't remember her name, but I sure as hell remember her TITS!"), and bizarre plotting (the bus of babes wants to con the soldiers into dates so they can swim at their biohazard beach?!) really push this over the edge."
"And nothing can prepare you for this, which feels more like the actual inspiration for BIRDEMIC than Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS:

We've got a lot of Fragasso screenwriting hallmarks: a hamhanded pro-ecological message that immediately undermines itself ('I think nature is something that should be considered sacred, that's all...'  –'K, but let's not make a big deal of it.  I like smoking, I take a toke of a joint every now and then, and once in a while I like to piss on a bush... am I gonna go to hell for that?'), pissing references, odd syllabic emphases ('According to these greenPEACE people we're on the brink of total extinction or something'), and rank exaggeration (a pile of dead birds is described as 'I've never seen anything so sad'). 

"Looks like some hunter's gone crazy!"

–"I'm also noticing a theme here––does that DJ hover around the periphery of the film, commenting like a Greek chorus throughout?"

"You better believe he does, spouting pro-environment and anti-science inanity all the while, though it's unclear if his actual problem with science is that it doesn't do enough to stop pollution?  Anyway, his name is 'Blue Heart,' and I'll come back to him later on.  In the meantime, ZOMBI 3 starts to lay on the crazy––we've got zombie bird attacks out-of-doors:

We've got zombie bird attacks in a bus (set to arena rock):

Hell, these scenes are so good they even made an unofficial sequel called ZOMBI 5: KILLING BIRDS!

We've got leaping ninja zombies!

 We've got machete-wielding zombies:

This zombie, inspired by RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD's 'Tar Man' is the most persistent zombie in zombie movie history––he has more agency and drive (he really, really, really, wants to kill this particular woman with that particular machete) than any other character in this movie.

We've got fast zombies, slow zombies... we've got no consistency in zombie speed whatsoever!  We've got zombies that talk, zombies that don't talk, zombies that know stage combat:

A zombie baby that busts out, mid-delivery, to eat the face of a midwife, even though she was already being eaten from behind by a full-grown zombie:

–"Why, it's utterly relentless!"
"There's a gas station explosion, because we all know it's not really an action movie till that happens:

we've got Deran Serafian (director of JCVD's DEATH WARRANT) in a rare acting appearance:

there's an Alice Cooper reference (the DJ has "Vincent Raven" read a list of safety precautions–– Vincent Raven being the name of Alice Cooper's character in Claudio Fragasso's MONSTER DOG!), and an inexplicable scene where a live woman is pushed into a pool and after she's rescued a few seconds later, she's missing her legs and is now a zombie.

–"Was it zombie fish?  Whew.  You're overloadin' my circuits, brother."
"With Fulci & Co., you should probably be used to havin' your mind blown.  ...But has it ever been refrigerated?"
"Shut up and watch:

 –"Oh, sweet mother of mercy.  What did I just see?"
"That there, my friend, was a knucklehead opening a fridge and seeing a severed zombie head instead of a stack of Kraft Singles, and then the head magically flying out and chomping on the neck of said hapless, food-seeking man."

–"So he became the midnight snack, as it were."
"Truly this is why we watch these movies.  Given a million years, I never could have come up with something as implausibly, brainlessly brilliant as a severed head flying out of a fridge on its own volition."
"Oh yeah, and there's a final twist of some kind where it turns out DJ Blue Heart was a zombie all along...

but it doesn't make any sense, so don't worry about it."
–"Hot damn.  Looks like another true trashterpiece."
"Yup.  And I'll bet you'll think twice the next time you open a fridge."
–"That I will.  But let's do the math: ZOMBI 3, divided by TROLL 2, plus 2 bird attacks, minus 1 Fulci ailment, but plus 1 head in the fridge... about 3 and a half stars?"

–Sean Gill


Franco Macabro said...

Agree, this movie is all sorts of nutso crazy, I bought in this zombie pack which included Zombie 3, 4 and 5....some of the worst zombie movies ever made, but also, as you've stated they are fun to watch. I guess the best of the three would be Zombie 3, because its so bat shit insane.

I mean, that whole scene with the zombie head flying out of the refrigerator...totally nuts! I got Re-Animator flashbacks! Which doesn't surprise me because every genre italian flick steals from some other American movie.

That bird attack scene was probably the scene that inspired a similar scene in Resident Evil Extinction (2007).

Sean Gill said...


I'm definitely interested in ZOMBI 4, specifically for the Fragasso Factor. Such glorious trash!

Franco Macabro said...

If I remember correctly, that fourth zombie film is actually the most "watchable" of all the films in that boxed set. Part Five...Zombie such a it has practically no zombies whatsoever!

Sean Gill said...


Nice––I'll probably be giving #4 a watch one of these days.