Infamovies: Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)


Copied over from my Facebook on inception of the blog. Originally written 2/9/2010

What’s the deal? Zombie horror-violence.

Still banned? No.

WARNING: Spoilers to follow.

Background

When George Romero released Dawn of the Dead in 1978, Zombie movies went from a popular horror-sub genre to a booming genre of their own. Notable Italian horror director Dario Argento (Suspiria, Deep Red) made an edit of Dawn of the Dead which he then released in Italy, with Romero’s approval. The film was re-titled Zombi and enjoyed massive success.

A year later, another noted Italian horror director Lucio Fulci created a sequel, Zombi 2, which was a sequel in name only. It didn’t follow any of the plots of Romero’s films (Dawn of the Dead of course being the sequel to 1968’s Night of the Living Dead) and started the zombie apocalypse anew. When it was released to countries who had received Dawn of the Dead as opposed to Zombi, it was released as Zombie Flesh Eaters, an entirely new zombie film.

Fulci is something of a cheap filmmaker, or at the very least one whose not overly concerned with the story and cohesion of his films – he is more concerned with the special effects and having big “wow” scenes than a necessarily good movie. His classic The Beyond has no real plotline, it has about 90 that just come up so that they can have a relevant special-effects scenes take place.

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Though clearly special effects have become a bit more “special” since then.

Zombie Flesh Eaters is a bit like that. It’s also hilariously dubbed. Fulci filmed the movie in Italy; half of his crew spoke only English, the other half only Italian. All the voices are dubbed, regardless of their native tongue, and this led to the actors having to say every line in an exaggerated way so that the dubbing could easily fit.

Zombie Flesh Eaters

OFLC

This is probably one of the kindest rulings by the OFLC ever. It was banned in February of 1980, but the ban was lifted in May of the same year. It has remained unbanned since, with only a few additional rulings – the first version of the film submitted was missing a minute of footage (the one that was banned then allowed) and the next two rulings were when different distribution companies bought the rights to the film. These versions were self-censored by the companies, and passed with an R18+ rating.

In 2004, the uncut film was released on DVD, and passed with an R18+, and this is the version that survives today.

Plot

The film opens with a shot of a mysterious man shooting a body wrapped in cloths. He then intones “The boat can leave now. Alert the crew.” Right off the bat, you can sense this is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Not least of all because the gunshot wound looks like an eyeball pops out of the back of his skull.

Then we cut to a shot of the boat drifiting into a harbour, where the coastguards intercept it. The dialogue is cheesy and hilariously badly dubbed.

“Well, it looks abandoned!”

“But the only question now is…WHY?

They board the boat, and down below find a zombie. He offs one of the coastguards, an event which is so shocking that it reaches precisely one reporter in the entire city of New York. This reporter is our main character, Peter West. Peter West is British, for no discernible reason. I daresay the voice actor is not British, as every single word that can be stressed with a British accent is done so as much as possible. “I’m Peeter Whest. I’m a repoor-tah. I’m going to take my hand off your mouth, and you must promise not to scream.” That type of thing.

Peter West jumps on board the boat (we don’t know how he manages this – there’s a security guard up top to serve as a plot device, but apparently he’s not that vigilant. Anyway, Anne Bowles (daughter of the boat’s now-dead owner (the one who got shot at the film’s beginning)) is on there, and trying to find out what happened to her father. For no good reason, they feel threatened by the security guard above. He comes down to investigate strange noises, and they pretend that they were having sex. Apparently being caught having sex on an odd boat is preferable than being caught investigating your dead father’s boat. Anyhow, the scene is pointless – the security guard doesn’t really do anything, and they don’t discover anything on the boat.

We then cut to a scene in a rich mansion, where an obviously-evil man is arguing with his wife. For the record, she’s the worst actress in the movie. While she’s screaming at him, she looks like she’s grinning wildly. Anyhow, the obviously-evil man seems to be experimenting on zombie men. And that’s another thing – the wife refers to the zombies as zombies! They nearly never do this in zombie movies!

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Above: anger.

Peter and Anne decide to track the boat back to its origin – a mysterious island (emphasis on the mysteriousside of this – they find it really easily, and everyone they talk to knows about it – but they insist on it beingmysterious) called Matool. Yes, a British character is constantly referring to Ma-tool. Clearly no one on set thought of this. They enlist the help of Brian and Susan, a couple who own a boat, to travel to Matool. Even though said couple spend all their time saying that they won’t help Ann and Peter beyond taking them there, they spend the rest of the movie with them.

On the way to Matool, the Susan decides to go scuba diving, naturally topless as this is a late 70s. As she is swimming about, she comes across a shark, who naturally follows her trying to eat her. She swims away from it, and breaks through the surface about 200 metres from the boat. Rather than race towards it, she merely bobs up on the surface, crying “Brian! There’s a shark!” before making the executive decision to swim back down below the surface. Genius. While she’s down there, she discovers the best thing about the movie – AN UNDERWATER ZOMBIE!

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It’s a zombie! Underwater! How is this not awesome!?

She fights the zombie off with coral (actually) and then swims away. The zombie then takes a bite out of the shark before the shark comes back and finishes off the zombie! It’s pure awesome.

They go to Matool and the movie decides it’s about time that some zombies had better appear. There’s been precisely 4 in the film so far (although one of them was the fricken underwater one!) and they are kind of meant to be the focus. So once they get there, they discover that the entire island is overrun with zombies and violence ensues. The evil-doctor’s wife gets killed by zombies in a particularly protracted and excruciating eye-stab scene. Susan gets killed in the jungle and Brian gets infected. Anne and Peter decide to take him back to New York as proof of the zombies on Matool.

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About as close to the film gets at being disturbing. Though it is pretty gross when it goes through.

When they get back there, though, those zombies from the beginning of the film have actually attacked half of New York City. This is a classic trademark of Lucio Fulci – he just ends his films, and fuck giving an explanation.

Review

I. Loved. This. Movie. It’s so ridiculous, and so over the top, and so cheesy and so badly acted and so cheaply made that it’s just awesome. They introduce characters who have nothing to do with the rest of the film then forget them just as quickly. They have some of the worst special effects you could ever imagine, and the violence is laughable, but that’s half the charm

If you sat with beers and drank every time something looks unconvincing or cheaply made, you’d die of liver damage by the film’s end.

Also, the dubbing is just wonderful. Listening to actors perform dialogue that so clearly doesn’t match the emotion of the actual performance is amazing – it’s so badly matched that you wonder if the acting would’ve been good had they left it with the original dialogue.

It is quite a violent film, but it’s the kind of cheesy ridiculous violence that is really fun to watch.

Understandably Banned?

Well no, but clearly even the OFLC admitted this and allowed it back under the R18+ rating. It isn’t understandable that this film is banned and so notorious in so many other countries. I have to admit that I rented this because I was looking for another film to review this week – I knew of it by title only, but then knew nothing of its content. I’m so happily surprised with this. The violence isn’t nasty, it’s just ridiculous, but I think that’s a very deliberate action on their part.

Overall

The kind of ridiculous film that makes me love bad horror movies. Highly recommended.

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