It's moments like this when you really start re-thinking swell ideas like watching all your movies in reverse order and then writing them up. A venture like that should really be inaugurated by something like Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, which I still dearly love, but I watched that for the umpteenth time a couple of weeks ago. No, this is really for movies I haven't seen yet (or have yet to experience on DVD), so, as luck would have it, I get to start with a Lucio Fulci/Bruno Mattei/oh my god not again/Italian gut muncher mess.
Well, the site is called The Bad Movie Report (and there are also times I regret that bit of my impetuous youth, too). And, like ripping off a Band-aid, there is no better way than to just grab it and pull as quickly as possible, so here goes...
As you might presume from the title, the subject of this picture is zombies. Lots of 'em, running around and eating the living. This is put in motion when some really inept terrorist types steal a biological agent from some equally inept military types. How inept are the participants? Let's see. The toxic agent (codenamed, with admirable succinctness, Death One) is in a small lockbox, carried by two incredibly ineffectual scientist types (who, we later discover, got their Ph.D's in Excessive Whininess and Applied Uselessness). They plan to hand off this box to a helicopter which is being guarded by a single guy - in civilian clothes - with a shotgun. The terrorists, on the other hand, simply drive a van into this high security top-secret location and make with the bang-bang. After a half-hearted and low-budget firefight, the lone surviving terrorist, carrying the purloined case, runs not back to his van, but in the opposite direction, across an open field and into some woods.
Apparently one of the people killed in this opening sequence had the sole neuron in the entire cast of characters.
Soldiers take off in the helicopter and hunt down the terrorist, managing to put a bullet completely through the case and the vial it contains, infecting the bad guy. He then checks into a local hotel (this is, incidentally all happening in the Phillippines), and starts turning into a walking pustule, and then a murderous zombie. The Army swoops in, gathers up everyone in the hotel (and, we are led to believe, kills them all), and loads the dead-all-over-again terrorist into an incinerator, over the protests of the lead scientist, who has at least seen Return of the Living Dead. Intriguingly, the filmmakers don't use the full set-up from that picture (though they've ripped off at least three movies in the first twenty minutes) but have a flock of birds fly through the clouds of dead terrorist ash.
Well, sooner than you can say "How handy," three soldiers on leave fall in with an RV full of college students (their license plate should have read KN9-FODR), who, I guess, are touring the fleshpots of the Phillippines and have consequently run afoul of a flock of zombie sparrows, leaving one of them seriously hurt - and infected. As there's no hospital for miles, they drive to a nearby hotel - naturally (and thriftily) the hotel the dead terrorist was holed up in. "What happened to the hotel?" asks one soldier, echoing our thoughts, as the building has inexplicably become overgrown with vines in the brief time since we've last seen it.
You can write the movie from there, and chances are you would have done a better job. I'm not even sure if the characters have names. We get not one, but two sequences where an actress walks into an obviously deserted building and wanders around calling "Is anybody there? We need some water! Is anybody here? Hello?" over and over for several minutes, until she finds some zombies to attack her. Some of these zombies can talk, some can run, and almost all exhibit the most amazing facility for hiding until a character walks near, leading in one instance to an almost Keaton-esque segment where one of our military types will fight off a zombie and backpedal away from it, only to have another zombie jump out from its hiding place three steps later. Over and over again. Adding a rinky-tink piano and a bit of speed ramping would have ensured a boffo reaction from the audience.
Though the usual Italian gut-muncher rules are in effect - any character seems to be fair game - the zombies can at least be put down with fairly normal means. Anyone trying to do the traditional two-shots-to-the-torso-then-one-to-the-head isn't going to get past the first two shots. Ooh! Ooh! Did I mention that for some reason this abandoned hotel has a box of weapons and ammunition in the basement? When you start thinking that a movie like House of the Dead has better and more reasonable plotting, you begin to suspect that you've accidentally stumbled into a lower level of Hell than you'd previously assumed.
Yes, this is the movie with the infamous flying zombie head. Everybody always brings up the flying zombie head. That sequence lasts perhaps twenty seconds. Don't watch it just for the flying zombie head. That would be like watching WIld WIld West just to see Salma Hayek's naked backside.The typical person who seeks out this sort of thing isn't going to remember anything but the gore scenes, anyway, so the fact that the plot walks out, slamming the door behind it, ten minutes into the movie is no big loss. The rest of us who prefer things like, I dunno, plot or a soupcon of characterization might find ourselves in another (and particularly scabrous) boat entirely.
I can't really say the acting is bad, either. In what seems to be a standard for Italian horror flicks, the dubbing is so horrendous, I could be watching the Royal Shakespeare Company performing my favorite play, and this dubbing would still make it look like Zombi 3. Not as sweaty, most likely, but just as bad.
Speaking of which, my favorite line. Dr. Useless to Col. Psychopath: "When the Army asked us to work on Death One, they should have warned us of the dangers!" So... just calling it Death One wasn't warning enough? What did you think it was? A new malt liquor?
It's hard to pick out who was responsible for which parts of this movie - rumor has it Fulci is responsible for, at most, fifteen minutes of the finished flick, and I give him credit for the few effective bits in the movie - for instance, in the first "Is anybody there?" sequence, a surreal, dreamlike - well, okay, nightmarish - image that is genuinely chilling precedes the zombie attack. I'll mark Fulci on that one. Mattei's reputation speaks for itself, so he gets the roomfull of scientists trying to find an antidote for Death One by scribbling on pieces of paper and a dry erase marker board. Because medicine doesn't really need all those test tubes or fancy equipment, you know.
It's a toss-up as to who is responsible for the flying zombie head. I guess I'll cede that one over to Mattei, 'cause he needs a break.
If there is one thing Zombi 3 has proven to me, it's that I don't really need 660 DVDs that badly. It's going into the box marked Used Disc Store, in the company of others which I'm sure will be joining it in the course of this enterprise. Though Shriek Show has done an admirable job creating a DVD for a very marginal title, I'm never going to see this movie again. Ever. And I have absolutely no use for it. Seriously. I hear a lot of "so bad it's good" defenses, but nuh uh....This is merely so bad it's tedious. You can rip off movies, but you have to do something special with your stolen goods, or what you produce is a pale photocopy of a photocopy .. washed-out, dreary, and possessing no message or life of its own.
Zombi 3, Viewers 0
- June 11, 2004