DVD: Zombie Flesh Eaters | Film reviews, news & interviews
DVD: Zombie Flesh Eaters
Restoration of Italian video nasty reveals it to be not so nasty after all
Zombie Flesh Eaters was at the heart of the early Eighties’ video nasty furore. Pilloried without being seen, it was cast as revolting and shocking, and subsequently banned from release. This pin-sharp, definitive restoration of Lucio Fulci’s 1979 over-the-top zombie fest isn’t going to suddenly elevate it to classic status, but it does show it to be good, workmanlike exploitation cinema of the highest calibre. Nothing in it is unwatchable, even if a few scenes are mildly disgusting.
Fulci, a journeyman working in Italian cinema since the late 1940s as a writer and director, was commissioned to make Zombie Flesh Eaters after the success of George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, renamed Zombi on its 1978 Italian release. The unrelated Zombie Flesh Eaters (its UK title) was cheekily released as Zombi 2 in Italy. Although Italy had a rich horror heritage, Fulci's film was at the beginning of a new trend pushing cinematic shocks to the limit – the true video nasties such as Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox.
This is standard post-Night of the Living Dead zombie fare. A sailboat drifts towards Manhattan. Unmanned, its bowels hide a zombie who quickly despatches a coastguard. The daughter of the boat’s owner hitches up with a journalist and they return to the Antilles, where the boat had come from. Once there, they find the tropical paradise overrun with zombies itching to bite chunks from anyone they come across. There’s an undertone of sexism, gore, shootouts, gratuitous nudity, Molotov cocktails and an absurd underwater fight between a shark and a zombie. The cast includes British ham Richard Johnson and Mia Farrow’s sister, Tisa.
Although Zombie Flesh Eaters has its boring moments, it’s more than the sum of its parts and is great fun. Fulci’s direction is assured, raising the film above the level of a cartoon. Even Farrow’s useless acting does it no harm. The mass of extras in the package include more docs, commentaries and trailers than you can shake a zombie at. The booklet has essays on the film's history, its tussles with censorship and interviews. Just the thing to sit down to after Christmas lunch.
Watch the trailer for Zombie Flesh Eaters
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
The Scottish play starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard marries spectacle to mumblecore
Pacino triumphs, despite questionable attempts to channel Neil Diamond
Challenging French film about engagement, or lack of it, in unsettling ocean environment
Matt Damon gives a masterclass in survival in Ridley Scott's space adventure
The late Soviet and Russian master Alexei German finds diamonds in the muck
Diverse films gave a glimpse beyond the tourist veneer of Brazil's cultural capital
Submarine star Craig Roberts' coming-of-age debut feature is flawed but bracingly inventive
Robert Pattinson and Dane DeHaan star in an insightful biopic of James Dean
theartsdesk casts ahead to an LFF programme bursting with possibilities
Nanni Moretti gets painfully personal with this impeccably judged family drama
Immaculate restoration of 1967 Slovak film, complete with remarkable score
Antonioni's 1962 classic of alienation loses none of its power