Zombie movies push the boundaries pretty far with their one central premise. Filmmakers have to be genuinely creative if they are to push gore beyond what audiences expect when audiences already expect hordes of the living dead to hunt for brains and human flesh to feast on.
With his first masterpieces Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, George A. Romero – widely regarded as “the godfather of the zombies” – established that the best zombie films use their simplistic and gory narrative framework as a vehicle for satire and social commentary.
Instead of focusing on satirizing Romero’s work, Lucio Fulci took inspiration from horrific imagery and found a way to transport blood and guts to places even darker and more wicked than Romero. As his clumsy peers peddled half-baked and fisted comments in a futile attempt to emulate Romero, Fulci discovered a new way to make an unforgettable zombie movie: by pushing blood, violence, and terror far beyond all the others. .
One of Fulci’s Most Notorious Horror Movies – 1979 Zombie flesh eaters – has moments as shockingly violent as a zombie impaling a woman’s eyeball on shattered wood (done in gruesome detail), swarms of maggots springing from the decaying flesh of the living dead, and , most infamously, a zombie battling a shark.
Zombie flesh eaters is just one of the many titles in this film. It was first released in Italy under the name Zombie 2, because it was conceived as a continuation of Dawn of the Dead, which had been released in Italian theaters a year earlier with the title Zombie. However, since Dawn of the Dead was not known as Zombie in most other countries, Zombie 2 had to be renamed in just about every foreign market. All over the world this film is known as Zombie flesh eaters, Zombie: the dead walk among us, Zombie Hell, Gli Ultimi Zombi, Woodoo, Sanguella, Nightmare island, and Island of the Living Dead.
Dardano Sacchetti wrote the script to serve as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead (or at least the version of Dawn of the Dead this Suspiria director Dario Argento cut together for the European market), but Zombie flesh eaters is really his own beast. It is as much a sequel to Dawn of the Dead like Dawn of the Dead is its own official predecessor, Night of the Living Dead. It revolves around new characters in a new location dealing with the same zombie apocalypse. If anything, it’s more of a spiritual successor to Romero’s genre-defining masterpiece.
Set in a world that is already in the throes of a zombie apocalypse – especially on a Caribbean island where a voodoo curse brings the dead back to life – Zombie flesh eaters is arguably a better trio for Romero Dead trilogy than Romero’s The day of the Dead.
When it was first released in 1979, Zombie flesh eaters has met with widespread controversy – particularly in the UK, where it has been called a “nasty video” for its graphic content. The film was dismissed by contemporary critics as a schlocky B-movie, but it has since been reassessed as a cult classic and a misunderstood horror gem.
Fulci is one of the most daring filmmakers to ever grace horror cinema. The director has worked across all kinds of genres over his nearly half-century career, including comedies and spaghetti westerns, but he’s always been most famous for his horror films. Thanks to its zombie infested gems like The beyond and giallo classics like The New York Ripper and Murder Rock, Fulci shared the nickname “The Godfather of Gore” with fellow director Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Zombie flesh eaters isn’t Fulci’s best movie, but it’s one of his wackiest and most inventive efforts (which says a lot, considering one of his other zombie films has a dozen or so tarantulas coming out of the shadows to chew on a guy’s face). The aforementioned eye tearing scene is particularly gruesome. It’s even more disgusting and stretched out than John Wick ramming a henchman’s face into his knife.
The chilling score for the film was provided by Fabio Frizzi, frequent collaborator of Fulci, one of the greatest horror composers of all time. Along with Goblin, Frizzi is one of the famous zombie film composers whose music has been pastiched in Shaun of the Dead by Pete Woodhead and Daniel Mudford. The crushing rhythm of the wall of sound he draped over the bloody action of Zombie flesh eaters was inspired by “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles. Frizzi even mixed some Caribbean musical styles to juxtapose the on-screen horrors with the sounds of the tropical paradise they take place in.
As annoying as the mind-boggling scene is, the most infamous moment in Zombie flesh eaters is, without a doubt, when a zombie fights with a shark. Tribute to Jay Baruchel’s t-shirt in It is the end, this scene manages to bring together all the characteristics of exploitation cinema in one sequence: gore, nudity and pure B-film absurdity.
In this setting, which can only be described as “Russ Meyer’s Dawn of the Dead meets Jaws“, a shirtless diver meets a hungry great white shark in the middle of the ocean, then gets attacked by a zombified human corpse at the bottom of the sea. The diver escapes when the zombie tries to bite the shark and is killed. tear off the arm. As the end of jurassic park Featuring the T. rex and the velociraptors, this sequence sees two relentless monsters cancel each other out as they abandon their pursuit to fight long enough for the protagonist to escape.
This footage was not shot by Fulci himself. It was designed and directed by Ugo Tucci, then shot by Giannetto de Rossi without Fulci’s approval. Filming took place in Isla Mujeres and the zombie was played by a local shark trainer.
Zombie flesh eaters is by far the best zombie movie. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Romero’s double whammy that defined the genre’s tropes, set the bar very high. 28 days later has a refreshing dose of gritty realism, while Train to Busan use the train cars to explore the class division.
Same Shaun of the Dead, which is primarily a parody, has more than enough memorable characters, unexpected plot twists, and fiercely effective jump fears to be considered one of the genre’s greatest entries that it disparages. With all this competition, Zombie flesh eaters is not even in the top 10 of its kind. But, with its shattered eyeballs and shark fight, this may be the craziest zombie movie ever made.
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