Zombie 4: After Death (1988)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:


Zombi 3

Zombie High

Zombie Lake

Zombie 4: After Death

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

"There's a zombie behind
me, isn't there?"
During the first hour of Zombie 4: After Death, we were ready to dismiss it as the worst kind of zombie movie -- annoying, illogical (even for a picture about the living dead), and unrepentantly derivative. The cookie-cutter cast of characters are too numerous and too noxious to provide the audience with any heroes, the zombies follow only those rules of behavior convenient to the shock gag that appears in the scene, and the script can never settle on whether these are zombies of the lurching, mindless variety, or ghouls of the semi-intelligent ass-kicking, Deadite clan. It's a mess of a movie, made on the cheap and shot at night using the equipment from another film in production at the same time and place. There's not a reason in the world to watch this picture, because you've seen everything that these zombies do, and done better, in some other movie.


That's some overbite.
Except for the fact that, after nearly an hour of the obligatory flesh-munching and stumbling about, the zombies in After Death actually manage to do something interesting: they take up arms and start shooting at their victims. So startled were we at this development that we thought perhaps something else interesting might happen, but afterward we surmised that the zombies had simply run out of ways to kill people, and decided to use guns only for the sake of completeness. Similarly, it is only for the sake of completeness that anyone would want to watch Zombie 4. Our initial impressions, it turns out, were correct.

Continuing in the grand Zombi tradition, Zombie 4 has no story connection to the previous three Zombi/Zombie movies. The script has enough trouble trying to maintain connections among scenes; keeping continuity with previous films would have been impossible. A group of scientists, looking for a "cure-all that would prevent death" take residence on a small island. The island is supposed to be in the Caribbean, but the movie was obviously filmed in the Philippines. When the local witch doctor's daughter gets cancer, the scientists attempt to save her, but she dies anyway. The witch doctor reacts as any grieving father would -- he opens a door to hell, drops his wife down it, and waits for her to pop back out as a slobbering, orthodontically challenged demon whose bite turns people into demons like herself. The scientists stumble upon the ceremony while looking to console the witch doctor for his loss. Though they had the foresight to bring automatic weapons, they are slaughtered by the wife-demon, all except the daughter of the lead scientist.

Jenny fails her audition
for Sixteen Candles.
Twenty years later that little girl just happens to return to the island. Why? We don't know. What has she been doing in the last twenty years? We don't know. Heck, the film can't even afford an editing trick to let us know that twenty years have passed. The shot of the little girl running from zombies is cut directly to an establishing shot of a boat that turns out to be the same girl returning two decades later. Barely 10 minutes in, filmmaking inspiration has run out.

The girl, Jenny (Candice Daly, best remembered as "Girl in Hallway" from Girls Just Want to Have Fun), is in the company of some wanna-be mercenaries. The mercenaries, Rod and Mad, will only work for good guys, but only "if they can afford our lifestyle." Rod says this shortly after popping open a Budweiser, suggesting that only access to the beer case at a Piggly Wiggly is necessary to support his lifestyle.

"So that's how Harry Potter dies..."
Also on the island are three other people looking for the scientists' lab. These three find a clearing full of mysteriously lit candles and a book titled "Book of the Dead." Perusing through the book one of them finds four words that will bring the dead back to life (and kick start a horror movie), and of course he decides to say them out loud. Quicker than you can say "klatuu barada nikto" the island is swarming with the living dead and characters are dying spectacularly unpleasant deaths.

By about the halfway mark in the movie it becomes abundantly clear that Zombie 4 is nothing more than a rip-off of all the zombie movies that came before. They've even lifted the bit from Dawn of the Dead where a character bit by a zombie dies in bed and comes back to life. The one noteworthy thing about the film is that when Rod and Mad get zombified they somehow retain their personalities and ability to use firearms. They must have been NRA members, because you really will have to pry their guns from their cold, dead hands.

Charlton Heston prepares
to run for his 43rd consecutive
presidency of the NRA.
As the movie flails its way to closure, Jenny remembers that she's been wearing the "key to hell" around her neck the whole time, so she finds the door to hell and drops the key in. The result is the ending from hell. Italian horror movies tend to have odd endings, but the ending to Zombie 4: After Death is a head-scratcher even by Italian standards, with Jenny changing into a zombie or a demon because she's looking in the mirror. Or something. A better title for this film would have been Zombie 4: Lack of Depth.

Own it!

Review date: 11/04/2003

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