Zombie (Italy, 1979):
(Zombi 2; Island of the Flesh Eaters)

It begins with The Great Train Robbery, a revolver pointed and fired at the screen, but the opening is built around another silent era staple, Nosferatu, the unmanned ship bringing pestilence -- in both cases stemming from an era when images were enough. Lucio Fulci operates accordingly, presenting the first zombie, rotund and bathed in the cop's blood, centered in the frame in close-up as it lumbers forward. How did the decaying creature reach New York? Off to the tropics for newspaper man Ian McCulloch and Tisa Farrow, whose scientist father experimented in an uncharted island; the sway of touristic Caribbean beats gives way to indigenous drumming and the buzz of flies. Science can only explain so much, however, and, as the voodoo curses spread, doctor Richard Johnson shoots the freshly deceased in their heads to keep them from getting up again. Fulci sets up then delivers, both nudity and gore leading into each other -- Auretta Gay strips down to a string thong for scuba-diving, occasioning a wacky underwater mano-a-mano between a hungry shark and a hungrier zombie; Olga Karlatos later goes full frontal in the shower as decomposing fingers against tap the window, moments before a wooden splinter gets rammed into her brain through her eyeball. The wind blows through the remains of an old shantytown, a crab scuttlers across the composition while a small figure lurches onward in the distance: the undead, natch, ornately gutted candles in Fulci's hands, caked with filth and feasting on viscera. An old conquistador helmet is unearthed from native soil, but Romero's political subtext is scrubbed off the zombies, the better to concentrate on the shot, images so pungent that even the bluntest of montages can trigger magical effects -- i.e., the shifting POV between Gay and the zombie, rising from the earth with earthworms in its eye-socket before snapping at the lens. Apocalypse is logically in order, the maestro proudly shipping back to America the transgressive creatures he's borrowed. With Al Cliver, and Stefania D'Amario.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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