July 7, 2009

ZOMBIE ITALIANO: Zombi 3 (Review)



Zombi 3 (1988)

Director: Lucio Fulci (kind of...)

RATING: 2 / 5 zedheads

In Zombi 3, an experimental biological agent known as "Death 1" is stolen from a military lab and released upon the public, turning people into violent zombies. As the thieving terrorist flees, consummate whiner and over-actor Professor Holder (Robert Marius) utters this line, "They have to stop him... or it'll mean the end of everything!"

Apparently, no one on the actual set of this movie was willing to tell the writer, directors, and actors the same thing: "They have to stop him... or it'll mean the end of the Zombi franchise!"

Unfortunately, no one was stopped. As a result, Zombi 3 ends up as a Fulci-in-name-only film that has no connection in plot or quality to the celebrated Zombi 2. It also lowers the bar for all subsequent films slapped with the "Zombi" title. It is, in short, a movie so bad it's BAD.

"That's right fellas, the Untrustworthy Military Stereotype
convention is upstairs and to the left."

Eight years after Zombi 2 was released, Lucio Fulci began directing Zombi 3 in the Philippines from a script written by Claudio Fragasso. Claudio Fragasso would later go on to direct the infamous "best worst movie ever," Troll 2, but at this point in his career his crimes against cinema remained confined to the script page. Apparently, Fulci disliked the script (and maybe even Fragasso on a personal level), but there was resistance from Fragrasso and the producers whenever Fucli attempted to make any changes. Joining Fragasso on the Zombi 3 team was Bruno Mattei as second-unit director. Mattei was already, and would continue to be until his death in 2007, one of the worst directors in Italy, having squeezed out such exploitation bombs as the charming Porno Holocaust (1980) and the 1980 Dawn of the Dead ripoff Hell of the Living Dead (aka. Virus). Obviously, a real crack team of shitty filmmakers was assembling around Fulci on Zombi 3.

To make matters worse, Fulci's health was failing. According to his daughter Antonella Fulci, in an interview with Glen Kay for Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide, "[Fulci's] liver was seriously injured, and the hot, humid weather of the Philippine Islands was a bad fit for an ill man. Plus, the budget was ridiculous, even for a little zombie film, and the producers, as far as I know, were not very honest." Because of all these factors, Fulci left the film after completing approximately 50 minutes of the finished product (60% of onscreen footage). Bruno Mattei was promoted to director to finish the film. And when you give Mattei control of the camera, you doom us all!

Although Zombi 3 is a Fulci film in name only, his name is still on the movie so I consider him as well as Mattei and Fragasso to blame regardless of his departure. Zombi 3 is a tedious, plotless mess of scenes that go nowhere. However, there are four reasons you might want to see this movie:
  1. The opening scene of the first zombie decaying and smashing its head through a glass case
  2. The shot of a zombie head in a refrigerator flying under its own will and looking for a bite to eat
  3. A brief scene with an incredibly energetic zombie clumsily brandishing a machete.
  4. The birth of a zombie baby predating Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake
Sounds awesome, I know, but to get to these parts, however, you have to spend a running time of 96 minutes with annoying characters. A group of teens and young women meet up with a pack of douchebag, dick-head soldiers who love making obvious observations about what's on screen ("It's empty! Looks like I've had it!") and constantly announcing what they're going to do before and after they do it. They run around and die at the hands of Philippine zombie extras who are inconsistently nimble. Some shamble awkwardly, others can manage to engage in fist fights, and others leap around like ninjas out of an "action-sploitation" film, to borrow a term coined by Brad Jones (aka The Cinema Snob). Hell, one of these guys makes a jump that puts the Left 4 Dead Hunter to shame! When the zombies meet the humans, this isn't even the kind of movie where you root for the zombies to win. You just feel kind of apathetic about everyone involved.

Zombi 3 doesn't have what it takes to be hilariously bad. For example, there are continuity inconsistencies and ridiculous lines (Roger: "Hey, this Blueheart's music is great, huh?" / Bo: "Yeah, it's making me horny.") but they illicit groans, not laughs. Make no mistake, none of the other films after Zombi 2 labeled under the "Zombi" franchise are really any good, but some manage to have their lovable moments. Zombi 3 is the only one that puts me to sleep.

When Bo tells Roger that Blue Heart's music is making him
horny, Bo is speaking in code to get around "don't ask don't tell"

However, I can't deny that Zombi 3 was an educational experience.

  • WAVING YOUR ARMS and TALKING LOUDLY is the same as acting.
  • The best way to protect a dangerous biological weapon is to put it in a thin metal box, transport it across an open and unprotected courtyard, and hire a small contingent of mall cops with assault rifles. Safe!
  • Somersaults over chairs and couches is the best strategy to outmaneuver the enemy.
  • Smearing your face against a mirror causes you to cough up blood.
  • Telling people you thirst for their blood is not a conspicuous way to hide your zombism.
  • Military officials are willing to admit they're simple minded but not willing to concede that this at all affects their job performance.
  • Philippine radio jockeys use outdated slang, you dig groovy hep-cats?
  • There's someone in the camper.
  • Zombies will patiently wait and twiddle their fingers in the air until you're done barricading yourself in.
  • Putting those two molecules together might work. It's worth a try!
  • The men in the gas masks and overalls are not here to help you. They are NEVER here to help you (see The Crazies and The Mist).
  • Under the employ of the government, the college NERD vs. JOCKS war has been replaced with SCIENTISTS vs. MILITARY. Neeeeerds!
  • The soldiers Kenny and Roger will not magically morph into country legend Kenny Rogers no matter how hard you wish and how much beer your drink. When am I going to get my Kenny Rogers zombie movie!
  • Pissing on a bush is an ecological issue.
  • Zombies take naps under shrubs until disturbed by helicopters. Please don't piss on them.
  • If you're complaining about bringing about the end of humanity, you should have thought twice about working on a project called Death 1.
Okay, a few beers later, and I think I can call this review a wrap.

Unless you are the most hardcore of hardcore zombie fans, you won't miss out by skipping a viewing of Zombi 3. You might get a kick out of it with a group of drunk friends yelling at the screen, but if you're screening Zombi 3 for yourself, you'll more likely end up tucking in early and catching some Z's instead.

*A note about Zombi 3 on DVD. My edition of Zombi 3 is from Shriek Show, and although it offers anamorphic widescreen and dolby digital audio, sections of the film where previously cut gore scenes have been reintroduced into the film are not of the same picture quality as the rest of the movie. It is nice to see what are actually some decent special effects, but the shift from clear to grainy picture is jarring. If this will bother you, buyer beware!

Tomorrow, we turn our attention to Zombi 4: After Death (1988)