See, kids? This is what happens
when you pick at those scabs.
The Zombi series joins the ranks of other film franchises like the "Rambo" pictures, which have confused sequel numbers -- since Dawn of the Dead was released as Zombi in Italy, and Zombi 2 was released as Zombie in the U.S., it can be a bit confusing as to where Zombi 3 actually fits in. Talking about such confusion assumes, however, that you actually give a damn about which film fits in where, which is unlikely once you discover that this movie is as unrelated to its predecessors as Zombie/Zombi 2 was to Dawn of the Dead/Zombi. Making such concern doubly unlikely is the fact that Zombi 3 marks a precipitous dip in the quality of the series, which is remarkable, since Zombi 2 is only entertainment in the sense that it contains flickering images and is sold to poor schmucks who don't know any better.
Zombi 3 has an infamous pedigree that doesn't excuse the movie's awfulness, but may help to explain it. Filming was started by Zombi 2 director Lucio Fulci, who fell dangerously ill in mid-shoot. The movie was completed by Bruno Mattei and the existing second-unit director, each of whom may have invented plot elements on the fly to fit their own vision of what the movie should be. At least, we hope that's what happened, because otherwise Fulci started off with a script that truly, truly sucked.
Pentagon cutbacks illustrated.
At a military installation in the Philippines the U.S. Army is testing a terrible virus weapon they call "Death-One". . .
Okay, you see how already the movie has lost us? The U.S. military would never name any weapon, no matter how horrible, "Death-One." They would call it "Freedom-One" or ""Victory-One" or, possibly, "George." In addition, the awful dubbing of the movie sometimes makes it sound like the disease is named "Depp-One," which until recently would have led to us making a joke about the fact that the virus was responsible for the death of Johnny Depp's career, but then the bastard made two hit movies in a row. Curse you Johnny Depp, with your boyish good looks and inestimable talent, curse you!
Death-One turns infected animals and people into aggressive, slavering zombies. Not the "Corey Feldman at a Hollywood party" kind of slavering, but the "I'd like to eat the flesh off your bones" kind of slavering. (Admittedly, the distinction there is a fine one, but we think you know what we mean.) Before we can really absorb this information, however, someone steals the virus in a daring yet stupefyingly ill-prepared raid on the base. The only surviving member of the raiding party is infected during his escape, and so he hides out in a resort hotel. (Naturally!) By morning he has left a heck of a mess for room service to clean up, in the form of a maid dead in the bathroom. (No doubt she croaked at the sight of the state in which he left the bidet, without so much as a tip.) The military finds the motel quickly and quarantines it, thereby stopping the spread of the virus and ending the film.
How the heck did he get up there?
Or so it would go, in a just universe. The Commander (Mike Monty) decides to burn the offending robber's corpse, against the objections of the hysterical Dr. Holder (Robert Marius). When Holder suggests that the smoke of a fire could distribute the virus even further, The Commander mocks his idea as "pure science fiction." Of course Holder is completely correct and zombies overrun the Philippines in no time flat.
With the pesky setup out of the way, Zombi 3 devolves into one lumbering chase scene after another. Our main characters are three soldiers named Ken (Deran Serafian), Roger (Ottaviano Dell' Acqua), and Bo (Massimo Vanni). They hook up with some hot women (notably Patricia, played by Beatrice Ring) and spend the rest of the film fending off the undead.
"Howzabout a kiss?"
Zombi 3 features some of the most remarkably dramatic zombies of all time. Not in a positive sense, though -- it 's just that these brain-eaters spend a lot of time setting up quick shock scenes for the camera. In one scene a zombie jumps off a high pillar to scare our main characters. Was it just sitting up there all this time, waiting for them to come along? That hardly seems like the behavior of a mindless animal driven by a hunger for human flesh. Another zombie appears to have curled up and hidden on a shelf in a closed cabinet just so it can burst out at the proper time. Yet another lurks within the ivy crawling along a wall, popping out as if spring-loaded to scare the bejeezus out of our heroes. Patience may be a virtue, but it is hardly one we'd ascribe to the living dead.
"Those zombies over there? They're
making an Indian musical."
If we had to pick careers for these zombies, we'd advise them to go into the nightclub business. Seriously. Every scene that features a lumbering flesh-eater contains gobs of atmosphere, most often conjured up by some not-so-well concealed smoke machines. Outdoor swimming pools on sunny days are exactly the kind of place you'd expect to find rolling fog, and so that's where we see great plumes of the stuff emanating from potted geraniums. Give these guys a disco ball and a Marshall stack and we've got the revenant equivalent of Studio 54. Do zombies dance?
Some of these rudimentary horror techniques might be more forgivable if the filmmakers had a better hold on the concept of what kind of zombies these monsters are supposed to be. Sometimes they move around quickly and attack people with machetes. As they aren't really undead, that's somewhat understandable, as with similar disease-infected people in 28 Days Later. But other times they look (and act) like rotting corpses, which is much more in line with the reanimated dead from Night of the Living Dead. Like its victims, the virus also suffers from a sense of drama, which causes it to infect some characters very slowly (to give them time to angst over their condition) and others almost instantly (to provide maximum shock value when good characters turn bad).
WROT, all-zombie radio.
There is a shocking lack of even rudimentary filmmaking competence on display in this picture. More insulting even than the circumlocutory and irrelevant dialogue about environmental pollution, the laughable zombies, or the leaden dialogue is the fact that Zombie 3 pretends to be a sequel to Dawn of the Dead, which is a terrific piece of entertainment. If viruses or comet gas hadn't long sinced forced them out of their coffins, we suspect this film's cinematic ancestors would be rolling over in their graves.
At the end of the film Ken and Patricia survive, destroying all chances for us to make a "They killed Kenny!" joke. Deprived of even that small pleasure, we, the living, are forced to envy the dead. Even the ones who own smoke machines.