Zombie movies should be a genre of their own. There’s something about seeing decaying corpses chasing people that makes them so appealing. No matter whether they’re slow or fast marauding zombies (the eternal dilemma), they’re probably the horror creatures that have managed to endure the most, never going out of style. Vampires, werewolves, aliens, they all are occasionally popular but zombies – zombies are always cool. If you think about it, they have been the most successful gimmick of horror movies with countless appearances over the years. Heck, entire books have been dedicated to zombie movies. What’s with them? Is it the morbid pleasure of seeing flesh-eating creatures walking around without any reasonable explanation? Is it because, all things considered, they still feel lifelike? I bet if you did a survey, people would say hypothetically they believe in zombies more than they believe in vampires or any other creature, and I think I know why: it’s because zombies are still human beings, and therefore feel more real – it doesn’t matter they’re dead. And the less you explain the reason why they’re walking, the better. Indeed, it’s the mystery what keeps zombies going.
So what if you had to pick one zombie movie? Would you go for the original living dead from George Romero or something else among the lines of the funnier alternative from Dan O’Bannon? Would they have to resemble alive people or be decaying beyond barely any recognition of human features? Slow or fast walking? The possibilities boggle the mind but I would boil it down to one movie: rather ironically, entitled Zombie. This gorefest was directed by the one and only Lucio Fulci at the peak of the zombie boom in the late 70’s. In fact, it was marketed as a prequel of sorts to George Romero’s seminal Dawn Of The Dead (the last scene in Zombie shows the undead just about to invade a sprawling city, which is the setting and theme in Romero’s masterpiece). Why would I pick this movie you ask? Because I would say it’s the only one (so far) in which zombies are the real protagonists. Often, filmmakers tend to take advantage of the invasion of the living dead to depict conflicts between the human refugees, and of course I have no problem with that whatsoever, but in those cases zombies end relegated in the background. Not here as this is pure and fully gratuitous zombiegeddon with lingering shots of putrefaction and rotten meat. For a change, you really root for the undead in this one because the characters are so lame and obnoxious that you really want to see them dead. This is typical in latter works of Fulci such as The Beyond in which the outrageous situations devised by his sick mind are what really matters, not the characters or their fates. In the case of Zombie for instance, we’re treated to an underwater fight between a zombie and a shark, a disgusting and lengthy bloody meal and the infamous eye-gouging scene (available in a YouTube channel near you). You have to put your mind in the right mood to enjoy this type of movie which is why Fulci is often dissed, even by hardcore fans of horror movies. But if you do manage to disregard banal characters, their ridiculous motivations and nonexistent storyline, you’ll be in for one hell of a fun ride. It’s maybe far from being the best one in terms of substance but it certainly remains the most emblematic and stylish zombie movie yet (and without question, it still features the best zombie makeup ever).
Zombie can be acquired from Blue Underground.