Tag Archives: Italian

Zombi, or Zombi 2, either way it’s the best of the Italian Zombie Films

Zombi eye gouge scene

One of the biggest knocks about Italian horror, like Zombi, from American audiences is that the narrative is often confusing and sometimes downright nonsensical. In Italian cinema, the look and the atmosphere of a film is much more important than the script for the most part. However Lucio Fulci’s Zombi has a relatively easy to follow narrative for Italian fare.

Zombi is an unofficial sequel to the Italian cut of Dawn of the Dead. The classic American zombie movie, a cult classic, in it’s own right, was recut by Dario Argento and rescored by Goblin for it’s Italian release. Since Argento’s Dawn was released as Zombi, Fulci’s film was dubbed Zombi 2 in Italy. I wont get into the myriad of names and miscellaneous names slapped onto the horde of zombie films released in Italy and other areas of Europe, as that would take a full post of it’s own.

Zombi

Zombi is the movie that made Fulci a horror sensation, and is in my opinion the best of thee European zombie films, with the possible exception of the first Blind Dead movie. I still think Zombi is technically better but the blind Templars hold a special place in my heart for pure coolness.

The Italians, especially Fulci had a way with gore and he spares no brain nor blood in Zombie. In Great Britain it made the infamous video nasties list, alongside such notorious movies as Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit on Your Grave, and Fulci’s own House by the Cemetery. A full, uncut, authorized and legal version was not released in Britain until 2005. Progress marches on, but it marches slowly at times.

Zombi starts out in New York City where a strange ship drifts slowly into the harbor. Officers investigate only to be attacked by a hulking zombie. One officer is bitten and dies, the other officer shoots the zombie, who falls overboard.

Reporter Peter West is sent to investigate the boat, where he meets the boat owners daughter. They decide to investigate by sailing to her father’s last known location, the island of Matool. They join with a couple Bryan and Ann to help investigate the island. Apparently Ann loves to swim and scuba dive wearing nothing but a g-string. YES. Before they reach Matool, Ann decides to do just that. The scenes of her diving topless would be one of the most well remembered scenes in the movie (still is with me) if not for the next scene.

Here we are treated to probably THE most iconic scene in zombie movie history. Sorry Romero, you may have had the biggest impact on modern zombie film, but this scene is classic. So classic it was just used in a mainstream commercial. That’s right the shark vs zombie. Way before the Sci Fi channel decided to mix and match shit that should never go together, Fulci did it and made it work. No need for former teen pop stars past their prime. This scene is made of awesome. If you haven’t seen it, I wont give any details, just see it.

Zombi Shark vs zombie

After the attack the group heads on toward the island, where the dead are rising in ever increasing numbers. Dr. Menard is trying to find the cause of the outbreak, but is only holding his own. As night falls we are treated to another iconic scene and a Fulci trademark, when a woman’s eye is slowly impaled on a wooden splinter. When the group finally lands and meets Dr. Menard, the zombies are in full attack. Graves all over the island are starting to open and the dead, some centuries in the ground are rising. The survivors race to the boat to escape, fighting zombies along the way as their numbers dwindle. Who will survive? Will they make it to the boat and back to New York? And what will they find there. Like I said, got to watch it yourself.

Zombi

As far as Italian cinema goes, Zombi is pretty easy to follow. It’s a pretty straight forward plot, but still contains all the great imagery and atmosphere of which the Europeans are famous. Some of the scenes are iconic and part of cinematic history. A bloody part of history maybe but still, they deserve their praise. The eye gouging is hard to watch even today, and to me looks far more realistic than most CGI eye gags.

The shark versus zombie scene is another that is part of zombie history. The fact this was filmed with no visual tricks should amaze film makers and fans alike. The scene was filmed in a giant tank with a real shark, and a real stunt man. The shark was fed horse meat loaded with tranquilizers before filming began. Still bravo to that stunt man for getting in the tank.

Zombi, or Zombi 2, whichever you prefer is one of the goriest nastiest zombies the general public is every likely to see. Once confined to drive in, and late night showings it is now readily available in several different cuts. It rivals Day of the Dead, but for pure gore, I still personally give the nod to Day. The Salazar elevator scene still makes me wince to this day.

Don’t look for a huge amount of social commentary or deeper menacing. This isn’t a Romero flick, this is a pure zombie horror survival movie. It keeps the action moving, cutting between the island and those on their way there. The slowest moment in the film is when we are treated to the wonderful scenic view of Auretta Gay as Susan diving topless.

The ending is meant to foreshadow that inescapable doom, in the same way that Dawn, and to a lesser extent, Night did, but for me that was the weakest part of the film. I think by the time I had seen Zombi, I had already seen similar endings, in similar films till I am a bit jaded. Even though it’s my favorite, it was far from my first Italian zombie shocker.

Zombies in New York Harbor

As a kid in school back in the late 70s, and early 80s the papers were full of drive in ads. These ads were usually heavily saturated with European horror fare, especially zombie movies. I was too young to go to the drive in, but those wonderful ads were enough to set my heart on fire. I still have a special place in my heart for these films, even the really bad ones. Zombi isn’t one of the bad ones, it’s one of the best ones. People who only know a zombie from The Walking Dead or Warm Bodies, should definitely consider checking out Zombi. If you can take it

Zombie (2-Disc Ultimate Edition) [Blu-ray]


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Cannibal Holocaust

My original review of Cannibal Holocaust originally post on Lord Dixie’s Dark Domain a few years ago

http://lorddixiesblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/cannibal-holocaust.html

A lot of films lay claim to the most disturbing movie of all times, even more are labeled that by fans, the media or groups protesting violent or disturbing films. Many times the label is applied by the films marketing team in hopes of stirring up interest, since any publicity is good publicity. While many films vie for this title and many deserve mention here there is one film that is generally agreed to by all that have seen it and many who haven’t, as the king of all disgusting films.

It’s a film so disturbing that the director has apologized for parts of it and said he would never make a film with that content again. It was a film so controversial that the director was arrested and the film has been banned in many countries from one time to another. The movie was Cannibal Holocaust.

Cannibal Holocaust was released in 1980 and the basic plot centers on a group of journalists who disappears into the wilds of the Amazon to film the natives who are suspected of practicing cannibalism. The group disappears and a New York. Anthropologist, Professor Monroe, goes into the jungle to locate them and find out what happened. With the help of local guides he finds the bodies near the encampment of the feared cannibal tribe. He is at first feared but eventually the tribe welcomes into their camp and invites him and his guide to a feast. He bargains for the film canisters and has to take part in the feast that involves him participating in cannibalism in order to get them. He returns to New York with the recovered film.

The bulk of Cannibal Holocaust  is this film, showing the film crew’s journey into the jungle and their descent into depravity and eventual torture and death at the hands of the natives they sought to film. Monroe brings the film back to New York where the local television station wants to broadcast the footage. Monroe insists on watching the film first after hearing that the film crew had a reputation of brutality toward locals and also a reputation of “setting up” atrocities so they could film it. After seeing the footage he recommends it be burned. At this point we watch along as he screens it for the execs and watch as the brutality unfolds.

We watch as the three men and woman embark in the Amazon and begin the trek into the “Green Inferno” as the locals call it. Almost immediately bad luck befalls them as their guide, Felipe, is bitten by a poisonous snake and dies soon after. The team continues on eventually encountering a group of the Yacumo, one of the tribes they set out to find. Deciding the best way to find the tribes camp is to follow them, they callously shoot one of the tribesmen in the leg to slow him down so they can follow. Arriving at the camp they resort to intimidating the tribe and set fire to one of the main buildings filled with tribesmen in order to film an “attack” on the peaceful tribe by cannibals. The leader of the team is so aroused by his murderous act that he roughly has sex with the female member, Faye, in front of the surviving tribesmen , while the last member, Andres, secretly films it.

Leaving the tribe they come upon a forced abortion by the side of a river and the ritual stoning of the women. They comment that it is most likely a ritual punishment for adultery. At this point we switch back to New York and Professor Munroe. He has seen the last reel of the film, that details the groups death. Once again he argues that the film should be destroyed, but the executives will not agree until they have seen the footage. Munroe again starts the film and we are thrust back into the jungle.

Several days have apparently passed since they left the Yacumo and the film crew states that they are in a different part of the jungle. They are in search of the feared Yamamomo tribe who they blamed the slaughter of the Yacumo upon. Suddenly they come across a young female member of the tribe and for unknown reasons they attack her and take turns raping her while filming the attack. Unknown to them another tribe member is watching from the tall grass as the scene plays out.

Faye tries to protest the rape but she is held back. It’s not clear if she is upset more about the rape or about her boyfriend Yates taking part. The film cuts and we see the team surrounding the young woman who has been impaled on a large stake with the end protruding from her mouth.. Yates is seen smiling at first, then strikes a concerned look for the camera as he explains that the girl was probably killed for a violation of the tribes sexual taboos. While it is not clear who killed the girl, we are strongly led to believe it was the film team. We then cut to the team once again in the jungle. They find themselves surrounded by natives in apparent anger over the attack on the girl. The team fights back as the tribe attacks but one by one they are caught and brutally killed. Yates, the last one killed keeps filming, seemingly taking more interest in the film than his friends lives. In the final shot Yates is speared and drops his camera, then falls dead in front of the lens.

Back in New York the executives are shocked and disgusted. They agree with Munroe that the film should never be shown. The tapes are destroyed. As Monroe walks out of the building and down the street, the last words of Cannibal Holocaust were “ I wonder who the real cannibals are.”

The brutality of the film crew on the natives and the filming of the crews death are disturbing enough. What really sets this film apart and causes it’s notoriety though is the animal slaughter. Throughout the film several animals are brutally killed for the film. It is real, it is not fake and it is brutal. The animals include a snake, a spider, a monkey, a pig, a turtle and a ferret. The turtle killing is especially is hard to watch as the team pulls it from the water, and viciously slaughters it. The scene goes on for several minutes.

Another scene involves a monkey. It is reported that the director actually had a fake monkey, but that the natives insisted on using a live monkey, since monkey brains were considered a delicacy. The scene took two takes so two monkeys were killed.  Director Ruggero Deodato now says he regrets the animal slaughter. They are the reason the film is still banned and considered  controversial.

Ironically the director was arrested for the scenes involving the human actors. Apparently because the animal scenes were so real some authorities believed that he actually had the actors killed for the film. He had the entire cast sign non disclosure agreements and non publicity agreements as a way of gaining publicity for the film. The apparent disappearance of the actors lead fuel to rumors of their death. Deodato was forced to break their agreements and summon them to appear or face charges of murder. Like wise the young girl who was impaled was compelled to appear . The director also had to explain exactly how the scene was done, which involved her sitting on a mounted bicycle seat and holding the point of the spear in her mouth.

What is interesting to me is that none of the human death scenes in Cannibal Holocaust look particularly real. I think the unrelenting reality of the animal deaths simply made the human deaths look more real. What is not known to many people who have watched the film is that there is actual footage of humans being killed in the film.

At one point a “documentary” is shown that has supposedly been shot by the film team before their journey to South America. The film shows actual executions from Africa and South East Asia. Professor Munroe is told that the film crew apparently set up these atrocities. This gives us insight into Yates character before we see his actions in the jungle.

Deodato has said he was making a film purely for shock value. If this is true than he accidentally made a film with deeper meaning . I can in no way condone the animal slayings, and while I have seen it once, if I ever watch it again it will be a censored version. Still the slayings add a rawness that otherwise would not be there. I think the human killings would look silly without them.

It is interesting that the “cannibals” are not guilty of as many atrocities as the “civilized” film crew, at least on-screen. Also since the sickening animal slayings almost all come from the film crew, we have little sympathy at watching their obviously fake deaths.

Deodato effectively points the camera at us and says we are the true savages. We go about our everyday life taking no concern over the brutality all around us. We automatically assume that anyone not as civilized as us has no worth. Who are we to judge our lifestyle as superior to theirs? True we don’t practice cannibalism but we have devalued human life to the point that death no longer affects us. We routinely step on others to get where we want to go and never consider those we harm in the process. In our race to civilization have we lost our humanity? Maybe we all need to get back to the jungle .

Cannibal Holocaust is available in R rated and Unrated versions. It contains graphic male and female nudity, sex, scenes of violence including rape and other sexual violence, profanity and actual animal slayings. Be warned though, t is not for the squeamish.

 

 

 

 

Cannibal Holocaust (Unrated)


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