Saturday, November 10, 2007


Despite their tendency to clone just about every successful American film, Italian horror film producers of the '70s and '80s were surprisingly reticent when it came to sequels. Though many rush-job productions were slapped with a 2 or 3 after their titles to mislead undiscriminating viewers, very few Italian horror films begat a legitimate sequel. 1988's ZOMBI 3 stands as a strong indicator on why that may be.

Fans of Lucio Fulci's ZOMBI 2 (itself masquerading as a follow-up to Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD, which of course went by ZOMBI in Pastaland) slavered for a sequel throughout the 1980's to no avail. When the moment finally arrived, anticipation quickly soured into disappointment. The final product fared so poorly it never even garnered a straight-to-video release, circulating stateside on the bootleg circuit before it garnered a legit DVD label.

A number of factors contributed to the film's failure, not the least of which was that the Italian film industry had changed (as any horror fan will tell you, Italian films took a nosedive into Sucksville near the late-eighties). Adding to the problem was Fulci's poor health, exacerbated by the grueling conditions of shooting in the Phillipines, which made filming unusually difficult. When Fulci's final cut ran short, hack director extraordinaire Bruno Mattei was brought in to pad the film to an acceptable running time. Of course, the fact that the movie used a script by Claudio Fragasso (the man responsible for bringing TROLL 2 into the world) as its starting point probably doomed the project from the get-go.

The zombies of ZOMBI 3 are brought about by Death One, a scientifically-engineered formula with no discernable purpose but to raise the dead. When one of those contaminated by Death One are incinerated, the ashes are spread into the air, quickly infecting the surrounding area and producing more zombies (a plot point I'm sure Dan O'Bannon would find awfully familiar). The military and their scientists scramble to find a cure and contain the outbreak, while we follow the exploits of an RV full of party-minded teens who encounter the zombies.

To no one's surprise, the many hands involved with ZOMBI 3 ensure that the finished movie resembles nothing remotely like Fulci, let alone the previous movie. The film lacks the dark, moody atmosphere on ZOMBI 2, with a cast comprised on bland, indistinguishable ciphers, none of whom possess the (albeit limited) presence of, say, Ian McCullough or Tisa Farrow. Nor does the movie have any memorable sequences; here there's no equivalent to the zombie-vs-shark or eye-skewering scenes that made the original a grungy classic (though the self-propelled severed head is good for a laugh). We do get a run-in with a machete-wielding zombie at a gas station--a scene that would've been great if Fulci had let it run more than a minute and a half--and a zombie birth (though the oversized claw that bursts forth at the climax of this scene renders it unbelievably stupid), but neither of these setpieces can compete with anything from the first film. And let's not forget the heavy-handed ecological message shoehorned in between zombie scenes, narrated by a jive-talking DJ.

I guess if one must find something positive about ZOMBI 3, it'd be that it saves you the trouble of having to watch THE CRAZIES, HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD, and AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH in separate viewings by cramming them into one convenient package.

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