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Strangers looking for a woman's father arrive at a tropical island where a doctor desperately searches for the cause and cure of a recent epidemic of the undead.
For more about Zombie and the Zombie Blu-ray release, see Zombie Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 25, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay, Stefania D'Amario
Director: Lucio Fulci
» See full cast & crew
Zombie Blu-ray Review
You want gore? Here's your gore.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 25, 2011
I'm sure there's a natural explanation.
If anyone is looking for the perfect example of ruthless, unafraid, hardcore Horror cinema, this is it. Zombie is a gore-driven spectacle the likes of which are rarely seen even in the Horror genre. The movie has no qualms about allowing the camera to linger on shots of incredible grotesqueness, whether torn flesh, gushing blood, rotten bodies, or popping eyeballs. It's insanely gory, but it's not exactly frightening. Zombie, or perhaps better known as Zombi 2, as in the unofficial "sequel" to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead which was called Zombi in other parts of the world (whew! The titles alone are more complicated than the movie) is arguably Director Lucio Fulci's (The New York Ripper) most cherished work. Not for the squeamish and, perhaps, not even for some dedicated Horror fans, the movie is an infamous example of style over substance and gore over plot to the point that the film was banned in parts of the world, a misguided effort which undoubtedly played a role in actually raising its profile and expanding its fan base rather than minimizing its exposure.
A boat aimlessly drifts into New York Harbor. It appears to have no crew, no passengers. Authorities check it out, find it abandoned, and discover gruesome remnants of what was once a boat housing the living. It currently houses the dead. One officer is brutally attacked by a zombie. When the situation is finally under control, the police call Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow) to the scene; the boat is registered to her father's name. it turns out her father is a researcher conducting his work in a foreign land. Anne ultimately teams up with a reporter named Peter West (Ian McCulloch). The two travel to the relatively obscure island of Matool to discover what's happened to Anne's father. Little do they know that they'll instead find the origins of a great zombie plague that threatens not only their lives, but the lives of those around them and, if they cannot get it under control, the entire world.
Zombie is a difficult film to analyze, and praising or shunning it will both rightly and wrongly bring out the torches and pitchforks from both those who see the movie as tasteless tripe and those who cherish its gore and atmosphere. The truth of the matter is that Zombie probably does exist somewhere in the middle. It's undoubtedly well made, its gore effects are incredibly detailed, and its atmosphere is frightening, but there's also the weak plot line, middling acting, and no real discernible purpose to consider aside from splattering the screen with blood. Ultimately, there can be no doubt that Zombie is absolutely defined by its violence. Perhaps its most memorable scene is of a young lady's eye popping and gushing when it's punctured by a sharp piece of broken wood. The effect is shown in full detail; where other films might cut away, Zombie seems to almost cherish the grotesqueness of the moment. It's one of the film's many incredibly real-looking shots of graphic violence. While blood usually looks thin and fake, the rotting and ripping flesh and various other visuals on full display are squeamishly real in appearance, or at least the imagery's effect on the mind and stomach give it the appearance of reality. Is it at the level of being"distasteful?" Some will rightly argue "yes" -- there's no point -- others will argue "no" -- it's a zombie movie, and this is what zombies do. If there was ever a movie that should have a warning label, this is it, but it certainly shouldn't be banned, hidden, or otherwise made unavailable to those of the appropriate age and mindset who want to see it.
Aside from the gore, there are other pluses and minuses that become evident with a viewing of Zombie. Related to, but not necessarily a direct result of, the gore, is the film's overwhelming sense of despair, filth, infestation, and hopelessness. That's a good thing. The film's atmosphere is brilliantly conveyed, from the inhospitable boat at film's start to the muggy and bloody island location that's so prominent in the movie. Fulci makes his audience uncomfortable, which in a movie like this is the closest a filmmaker can get to truly bringing the viewer into the action and the terrors that appear in it. On the other hand, there's just not much substance. The plot of Zombie is as simple as it can be in a movie like this; sure there's the various discoveries and whatnot, but ultimately it goes down to the story serving as a frame and backdrop for the violence, and not the other way around. It's still a sound plot to be sure, but it doesn't expressly attempt to go above and beyond Horror movie basics. The acting is questionable, too; the cast manages to elicit a palpable sense of fear, aided in large part by Fulci's atmosphere. Richard Johnson turns in something of a Gregory Peck-inspired performance, but the rest of the cast is mostly invisible, giving way to the violence and mood and playing their parts just strongly enough to look and sound good as they run around, shoot zombies, or get eaten.
Zombie Blu-ray, Video Quality
Zombie sports an even and good-looking transfer from Blue Underground. Of course it's not as pristine and perfect as a new release movie, but the print is clean, the image is stable, and the 1080p resolution brings out colors and fine detail like no home video edition before it. Whether various wood textures around the movie, facial and clothing intricacies, or the fine detailing on decaying bodies and gore, the movie has never looked better, more stable, more ominous and terrifying. Color balance is strong, whether the gaudy red flooring and seating at the airport as seen relatively early in the movie or the pastel shades adorning various period clothes. Blood red is vibrant and satisfying as it sprays, leaks, and cakes on various surfaces, particularly around zombie mouths. Very slight black crush appears to be cause for minor concern, but banding, background blocking, and other negatives are not. Grain is generally light but spiky on occasion. The print is clean, free of any unwanted defects, hairs, or other distracting elements. This is another good quality release from Blue Underground.
Zombie Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Zombie chews into Blu-ray with a DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack. It should come as no surprise that it's not exactly the most satisfying and robust listen ever to pour forth from home theater speakers, but it adequately and admirably gets the job done nevertheless. Range is slightly limited and the back channels don't carry much in terms of musical support, but the movie's score is clear and clean through the entire range. The surround channels don't carry much else, either; light ambience and a few action effects are about all she wrote. Even gusty winds in one scene remain more or less the property of the front speakers. Various gunshots throughout the movie are suitably potent, whether pistol or rifle blasts. Likewise, tribal beats and other native-inspired music lack a real strong low end kick, but the effect is nevertheless adequately robust. Lastly, dialogue is clean and center-based throughout. This is a quality presentation that lacks the muscle of newer tracks, but it's just fine given the nature and age of the material.
Zombie Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Zombie contains supplements on both discs. The meaty parts, aside from the commentary, are all found on disc two. Disc one otherwise features only a look at a few of the film's promotional materials.
Zombie Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Zombie does everything it can to elicit a reaction. Its insanely ambitious and grotesque violence and its palpably intense and overwhelmingly negative atmosphere both yield a sense of despair, which only enhances the movie a great deal. Unfortunately, there's not much else to it. Zombie is a visceral, superficial experience. It's a great success if "success" is defined by drenching the screen in violence and really showing its audience what a zombie plague might actually look like, but if "success" means having some substance behind the madness, then the movie is not a success. This is the ultimate "take it or leave it" sort of movie, one that will turn on as many viewers as it will turn off. Chances are, most will know whether or not they will like it before they even see it. Blue Underground's Blu-ray release of Zombie features good video and audio presentations to go along with plenty of supplements. Recommended to fans and newcomers who like their movies bloody.
Zombie: Other Editions
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Zombie Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Zombie Blu-ray - July 6, 2011
Blue Underground will release Lucio Fulci's Zombie on Blu-ray just in time for Halloween this fall. The Italian answer to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Zombie focuses on a doctor's attempt to stop an undead plague from his remote island. The Blu-ray streets ...
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