on July 21, 2010
The main setting is an obscure, uncharted and plague ravaged isle named Matool which is cursed by a most incredible and horrible phenomenon of obscure and inexplicable origin! Seems that the succumbed victims of the aforementioned pestilence are reviving as foul soulless creatures which commit atrocious acts of murder and cannibalism and threaten to amass into an inexerable horde which will overteem the the isle and, in the words of one character, "transform it into a wasteland of terror!!", . . thus setting the scene for some of the most brilliant, amazing, grisly, gruesome and horrifying scenes in the history of horror cinema!
One particularly imaginative, visually stunning and powerfully shocking sequence takes place entirely underwater and depicts a skin divers confrontation with both a live shark and an apparently amphibious ghoul. The said shark appears first, thus establishing a sense of menace and impending peril ( so that one expects a shark attack on the skin diver to ocure ), then the divers subsequent encounter with the aquatic ghoul provides an unexpected and horrifying twist!
Another amazing and horrifying scene, featuring very good acting, editing and make up effects work, is set in a graveyard and depicts a freshly revived corpse, with a hideous rotted visage, slowly rising, like an erecting penis, from the soil while a young girl observes visibly transfixed with intense amazement, revulsion and horror ( which is very convincingly conveyed by her facial expression ), the viewer cutting repeatedly between the two subjects all the while.
Another very creepy and well done scene has a terrified woman urgently attempting to push a door closed, while another, yet unseen force pushes simultaniously from the other side. Then the viewer pans over to a close up of the doors gape, through which a rotted human hand, pressing against the door, is barely visible!
In this same previously related scene, the zombie, having punched it's arm through a wooden vent in the door, grabs the womans hair and pulls her by her scalp. Then a large jagged splinter ( formed by one of the busted and protruding wooden shingles ) pierces her eye ( graphic close ups of the jagged wood puncturing and slowly demolishing the soft moist orbal tissue ),then breaks loose and remains deeply embedded in the eye of the now screaming woman! This scene is not only grisly and explicite ( which it certainly is indeed ) but, moreover, it also effectively demonstrates the zombies utter lack of pity and humanity ( they'll stop at nothing to gain their victim and sate their hunger, and will commit the cruelest enormity in the process of same ), thus making them more sinister and terrifying!
The scenes depicting the plague victims ( set in a rather crude makeshift hospital converted from an old spanish mission ) are also very creepy, grotesque and disturbing. Particularly a scene in which a heap of bloody, bound and shoud-covered corpses are collectively dumped into a large grave, to the aural accompaniment of loud, ominous, haunting and very authentic sounding native chants, wails and drumbeats.
Now, this movie gets routinely dismissed, by many reviewers, as a "rip off" or "imitation" of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead for the obvious fact that it features the same basic theme of contagious cannibalistic zombies but, none the less, this film really is a classic in it's own right. And, despite that standard old "rip off" allegation, it actually does have some elements which do distinguish it from Romero's zombie movies,.. like the island setting, voodoo theme, the rotted look of the zombies and much grimmer over-all tone. I've always thought that Fulci did basically the same thing with flesh eating zombies that Hammer studios did with the old Universal monsters ( Dracula, Frankenstien, The Mummy, Werewolf, Phantom of the opera,.. etc. ) or that Sergio Leone did with the western,.. . that is he took the basic theme and gave it a completely different and unique look, ambiance and mood,.. recaste it into a whole different meilieu, so to speak. And for that he definitely deserves his fair share of admiration and acclaim.
The gore and make up effects ( by Gianetto DeRossi ) are certainly one of this films strong points. The zombies ( in divers states of disfigurement and decay ) are very realistic and frightening looking. They are also even better portrayed than in most other films. Though they ambulate very slowly ( as other reviewers have already noted ) they're also completely silent with no expression. They don't leer or stagger and make allot of noise ( grunt groan or go "Ehhh!.. Ehhhh!! .. Ehhhhhhh!!" ) like in other zombie flicks. These zombies actually seem to sort of sneak up on their victims. Approaching them very slowly, silently and sedately ( in a seemingly mesmerized or somnambalised state ), then suddenly BITING real quickly them when they get near, which makes them more creepy and frightening to me.
The soundtrack and original musical score ( by Fabio Fizi and Giorgio Cascio ) is another of this films noteworthy qualities. Truly eerrie, nightmarish and, at times, even sensual,.. almost like a more macabre version of Tangerine Dream. And it perfectly suits the mood and imagery of this film. And, even despite these many alLegations, made by other posters, about "poor writing and bad acting", it actually does have some interesting plot elements and a few interesting characters and decent performances from some talented actors among it's cast. In particular, Richard Johnson as the scientist character who's trying obsessively to determine a "rational cause for the phenomenon" ( right,.. he is NOT a mad scientist "creating" the zombies, as some other "reviewers" have erroneously stated ) while scoffingly dismissing the natives assertions about "voodoo" and "demonism", and being driven increasingly perplexed and frustrated by his own futile efforts ( "Nothing fits!!!" ), and his terrified and distressed wife ( played by a certain Olga Karlatos, most recognizable from the 1980's blockbuster hit Purple Rain ) who just wants to depart the "damn island" before the ever-amassing menace overruns the place and claims her victim,. .. which it indeed does eventually ( she's the victim of the grisly eye puncturing related previously )!
If you want a creepy, atmospheric and, oh yes, gruesome horror film ( and THOSE are qualities which I certainly value and admire in a horror flick ) then this is a flick that I would definitely recommend to you.
"Too late!! Too late!! It's a waste of time to lock the doors!! For they will be here soon, . . to destroy us,.. . ALL!!!!