BY CLAIRE WARD-BEVERIDGE
A mysterious sailboat found adrift off of Staten Island is investigated by two bumbling coast guards, one of which is fatally chewed up by a large John Goodman-esque zombie. The owner of said boat is nowhere to be found and so his pretty but plain daughter, Anne, decides to investigate with a small team of relatively handsome-looking adventurers to the Island of Matool. Anne’s bombastic, handsome doctor-father is discovered to have been doing research on the locals who are dying from some strange affliction. After they die, they come back to life as flesh-eating zombies made of burlap/papyrus/papier-maché and wander about the island wreaking terror.
STRAIN OF ZOMBIE
The strong, silent types. Like, Night of the Living Dead zombies but made out of burlap sacks and filled with giant, tropical worms. The kind of zombies that sort of appear out of nowhere and can suddenly latch onto a neck with the speed of a jump cut, yet take 20 minutes to stumble across a room while some poor soul tries to barricade a door. Also, weirdly hot and cold in terms of actually wanting to eat flesh–sometimes a good chomp on the neck seems to suffice, other times several zombies will listlessly pick at a human carcass like bored teenagers at Thanksgiving.
HOW IT FLESHED OUT THE GENRE
Definitely a good mix of sluggish late 60s zombies with 70s gore. Allegedly, this film helped give director Lucio Fulci’s career a needed boost, though I’m not sure why–perhaps because of the high-gore factor which had the film banned in several countries. I had never seen an Italian-produced/directed zombie film before and I couldn’t help but be reminded of spaghetti westerns of the 60s and 70s–the overdubbing, dramatic zooms and extreme close-ups on scared, sweaty, dirty faces. I can’t really see how this film would’ve made a significant impact on the zombie genre, except the soundtrack was pretty cool–almost like Italo-disco or something Broadcast would’ve had on one of their earlier albums.
(UN)DEAD ON DEATH SCENE
Definitely the eye-impaling scene. A gorgeous, high-strung doctor’s wife has shower and makes a hasty exit when she notices a peeping-Zomb lurking in the shadows. After the weakest attempt at locking a door in the history of horror movies, our gal’s hair is suddenly grabbed at until her face is slowly pulled towards a sharp piece of wood. Not only is it the most suspenseful scene, but also the best in terms of makeup and effects. The runner-up would have to be when another poor gal bumps into a massive conquistador-zombie in the jungle brush and they both appear to be transfixed in one another’s gaze for a good ten seconds before he latches onto her neck like a leech[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvbWKf9YLZ8]
Claire Ward-Beveridge is a freelance writer & photographer who lives in North Parkdale, Toronto and her rattled brain. She loves Werner Herzog and depressing English dramas. Follow her @clairewarb.