Freddy in The Return of the Living Dead (1985): But I don’t care Tina, because I love you, and you’ve got to let me… eat your brains!
Glenn in Zombi 3 (1988): I’m feeling better, Patricia, but I’m thirsty…for your blood!
Zombi 3 is screwed up. Let me give you an idea of how screwed up it is. Zombi 3 follows Zombi 2, which is actually Zombi 1 because, even though it’s an unofficial sequel to Dawn of the Dead, which itself was a sequel, it presented its own version of the end of the world. But Dawn wasn’t really a sequel to Night, as it placed the outbreak 10 years later. And at the same time, Zombi 3 also presents its own end of the world scenario totally removed from Zombi 2, Dawn, and Night. So really it’s Zombi 1. Therefore, depending on how you look at it, it’s Zombi 4, Zombi 3, Zombi 2, or just plain Zombi.
Anyway, on to the review.
I have a theory.
After Zombie, Eye of the Evil Dead, Seven Doors of Death, Zombie Hell House, and City of the Living Dead, Lucio Fulci was ready to branch out. But the studios, being the dollar whores that they are, kept pestering him.
“Oh, Lucio, give us more zombies!”
“Oh, Lucio, film another brain being eaten!”
“Oh, Lucio, I pine for a worm-ridden monster chasing a nubile young woman with an opened shirt across the Italian countryside.”
Finally, he relented. “Ok,” he said, “I’ll deliver another zombie movie. But I’m not gonna write a script!” So Lucio went through the vaults and ripped pages at random from a bunch of old horror screenplays, threw in a levitating head in a fridge, and filmed the result.
You want to see the newscasts from Night of the Living Dead, the chemical spill from Hell of the Living Dead, the sentient zombies from Return of the Living Dead, the titular The Birds, the hazmat suits of The Crazies, the helicopter scenes from Dawn of the Dead, the pulsating wounds from Demons, the crazy gunner shooting from Full Metal Jacket, the ending of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the filming location from Apocalypse Now, Freddy and the crematorium from Return of the Living Dead, the anti-militarism of Day of the Dead, the science of The Andromeda Strain, the flying head from 13 Ghosts, Elias’ death from Platoon, the monster in the cellar and the hand removal from Evil Dead 1 & 2, the RV from Race with the Devil, and the mise en scene of Deep Red (albeit for only one scene), but don’t have time to make your own compilation tape? Never fear, for those crazy Italians have got your back.
Zombi 3 is surely the most ridiculous zombie movie ever made. The zombies change modus operandi every other scene — at one point even acting as a synchronized swimming team complete with matching green shirts. This could be at least partially attributed to the fact that it switched directors halfway though, Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso, the team best known for Chicks in Chains and Women’s Prison Massacre, contributing between 20 and 40 minutes. But no amount of on-set chaos could have yielded scenes like the one where zombies hide under tumbleweeds, or wake up their friends with dead throated growls of “Nancy,” only to allow their prey to run away. At times it even resembles a giallo, with zombies stabbing their victims and disappearing. Not to mention the hilarious sword-fight sequence. Or what is probably the most hilarious moment, when a zombie swings down to attack from DIRECTLY ABOVE and the director, whoever it was, doesn’t even bother panning up to show us what he’s hanging on. All we see is a foot sticking out and a swinging torso. It’s as if the cast and crew just gave up and went for broke with the ridiculous factor.
Zombi 3 follows the zombification of a town that’s ostensibly in some tropical locale occupied by the US Military. So basically anywhere in the Pacific Ocean or the Caribbean. As the zombified town falls to pieces (the look of the zombied town is actually one of the film’s high points, as unlike, say, Resident Evil, it has a truly gritty, grimy look that feels like zombies could exist anywhere), a group of scientists struggle to find a cure. And by struggle to find a cure, I mean sit in a row filling out worksheets as army officials look on with disdain (“They’re taking the SATs,” a viewer quipped as the scene played out.). Meanwhile, a jive-talking DJ provides diagetic narration, uttering such classic lines as, well, none of his lines had any substance. I’m sorry, he was a waste of time. Anyway, the tension between the military vs. scientist elements — straight from Day of the Dead — is one of the more hilarious aspects of the film . In one classic scene, (set in a room that looks suspiciously like my 6th grade English classroom) Professor Holder, the head scientist argues with Commander Bryant, the, well, commander, over the ethics of what they’re doing. He shrieks something to the effect of: “None of us understood the destructive power of the chemical [the tersely named “Death 1″]! You need to warn the public! Or it’ll mean the end of everything!” Bryant responds softly: “Are you suggesting we hold a press conference on the US Army’s experiments with bacteriological weapons?” As I said during the film: “The gulf between overacting and under acting in this scene is massive. It’s like the table is no man’s land.”
Zombi 3 is the type of movie in which a man and woman can leave the group for sex in the middle of a zombie invasion — twice. Zombi 3 is the type of movie in which a man can swim through a sea of zombies, only get tired out and die by walking up and down a staircase. Zombi 3 is the type of movie in which people can randomly find a crate of M-16s in a motel and not bat an eye. Zombi 3 is the type of movie in which the enemy can either be an expert fencer, a ninja, a mannequin, or a master of disguise, depend on what the scene calls for. Zombi 3 the type of movie I live for. Jeez, and I hardly even mention the zombie DJ playing 80s pop yet.