Dr Holder (Robert Marius) and his assistant have been experimenting in a top secret laboratory on this Pacific island to see if they can create a cure for death itself. They have one deceased “patient” who they apply the special gas to, and at first it doesn’t appear as if anything is happening, but then he stirs – and begins to cough up blood just as the scientists were preparing to celebrate. Something’s wrong, and as the living dead test subject’s features mutate they begin to panic, especially when it smashes through the protective glass in dramatic fashion, but worse is to come as a helicopter arrives containing some evildoers who are determined to get their hands on a sample of the gas – and will kill to do so.
The story behind Zombi 3, which was effectively Zombie Flesh Eaters 2 and sometimes named as such, was an unfortunate one as it was intended to be director Lucio Fulci’s triumphant return to the walking dead genre, but he supposedly suffered a stroke part of the way through filming and was unable (or refused) to complete it. Faced with most, but not all, of the footage necessary for an entire feature, the producers turned to the screenwriter Claudio Fragasso and a director even trashier than Fulci, Bruno Mattei, to shoot some extra scenes to wrap it all up, and the reports of how much ended up in the final cut that was theirs or Fulci’s differ; if you really wanted to you could try and spot where one ended and the others began.
Not that there were any huge, crunching gear changes, as it was much of a muchness for an Italian zombie flick, though it would be necessary to point out the heyday of that nation’s horror movies was winding down by the time this was made, not that their industry ever stopped trying to put the wind up audiences, but they did endure an undeniable decline as giallo went out of fashion and the more traditional gory efforts were superseded by other markets’ productions. Couple that with the fact that many of the Italian works were deeply silly for all their gratuitous violence, and you may not have high hopes for Zombi 3, and… well, you’d probably be right not to, it was a stupid movie. Yet not unentertaining.
Actually, unless you had a low threshold for incredibly ridiculous shockers, you might find yourself chuckling along here quite amused. This took an ensemble cast on the tropical island (actually the Philippines) and essentially picked them off one by one thanks to a combination of the zombie attacks and the white hazmat-suited military who are exterminating living and undead alike in the name of wiping out the threat before it goes global. So a combination of two George A. Romero works in Dawn of the Dead and The Crazies, then, and since they were variations on a similar theme, not meshing together too awkwardly, as they left the awkward business to the plotting, setpieces and acting. The disc jockey who comments on the action whose running order is visible as simply “play Beatles song” was possibly unique in his way, however.
The main focus was not on the scientists (the overemphatically gesturing Dr Holder didn’t even see the actor playing him receive a credit) but on the tourists and three army chaps who are out for a good time in their jeep and on following some likely ladies on the road they stumble straight into the escalating crisis, as meanwhile a couple elsewhere make the mistake of stopping for some injured birds. This Alfred Hitchcock element introduced an environmental message that was swiftly dropped in favour of concentrating on the bloody violence and lots of it, not that you would miss it particularly as the effects were more reminiscent of the turkey to come in the following millennium Birdemic. Mostly there were unintentional laughs, as with the flying disembodied head that emerges from a fridge, or the final scene that sees a helicopter take off rather, er, prematurely, though there was one solitary not bad shock when one girl falls into a pond. So not great, but diverting for aficionados. Music by Stefano Mainetti.
Italian director whose long career could best be described as patchy, but who was also capable of turning in striking work in the variety of genres he worked in, most notably horror. After working for several years as a screenwriter, he made his debut in 1959 with the comedy The Thieves. Various westerns, musicals and comedies followed, before Fulci courted controversy in his homeland with Beatrice Cenci, a searing attack on the Catholic church.