The best-known of Lucio Fulci's films, Zombi 2 (also known as Zombie, Island of the Living Dead, Zombie
Island, Zombie Flesh Eaters, and Woodoo) sparked an obsession with zombie films across Europe and made Lucio Fulci a horror icon. Despite the fact that the title alludes to the film being a sequel to Zombi (which is what Romero's Dawn of the Dead was released as in Europe), the films are not related. When the film was released in 1979, it was scorned for its extremely bloody content but was still a tremendous worldwide commercial success.
Zombi 2 is a pseudo-sequel to George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Dawn was re-edited and re-scored for European markets by Romero's collaborator, Italian horror master Dario Argento. Argento released his new version of Dawn of the Dead as Zombi and treated it as a standalone story, not a continuation of Romero's Night of the Living Dead.
Fulci's Zombi 2 was in actual fact already in production at the time of Romero's success. It was not a film created to "cash-in" on the original Zombi's popularity, however the name was taken in order to show a link between the films.
An apparently abandoned yacht drifts into New York Harbor, and the Harbor Patrol investigates. On board, a huge rotting man (Captain Haggerty) kills Marty, one of the patrolmen, by tearing out his neck with his teeth. The remaining patrolman Bill manages to knock the hulking man into the sea by blasting him with his revolver several times.
A young woman named Anne Bowels (Tisa Farrow) is questioned by the police when it is discovered that the boat belonged to her father (Ugo Bologna). She does not know anything except that her father left for a tropical island to do research. A reporter named Peter West (Ian McCulloch) is assigned by his news editor (director Lucio Fulci in a cameo) to get the story on the mysterious boat. Anne and Peter meet on the boat and decide to work together after finding a note from Anne's father. The note says that he is on the island of Matool and that he has come down with a strange disease. Anne and Peter enlist the aid of a seafaring couple, Brian Hull (Pier Luigi Conti) and Susan Barrett (Auretta Giannone), to help find Matool.
On Matool, Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson) is hard at work studying the island's secrets. Matool is a cursed place where the dead rise to attack the living, and Menard is determined to find out why. Menard's contemptous, highly-strung wife Paola (Olga Karlatos) wants to leave the island in fear of the zombie attacks. But Menard insists on staying to continue his research. When Anne, Peter, Brian, and Susan reach Matool, the island itself seems to come alive, vomiting forth all the dead buried on the island to kill them.
In the end, all of the island's inhabitants and Susan fall victim to the walking dead; Brian is also infected and dies soon afterwards. Peter and Anne manage to escape by boat, taking the now undead Brian with them as evidence for their story. Shortly after the group leaves the island and reaches the open ocean they receive a radio message that, to their great horror and dismay, the undead have attacked New York City. Marty, the policeman killed by the zombie - and his killer itself - have infected the New York population, explosively multiplying the zombie army beyond any hope of control.
The film became infamous for two scenes in particular, aided by special effects. One features a zombie (Ramon Bravo) fighting a shark underwater. The actor scheduled to fight the shark was unable to perform the day the sequence was to be shot, so the shark's trainer was used instead. The other infamous scene is where a character has her eye gouged out on a splintered piece of wood very slowly and painfully. This scene in particular was edited from many previous releases, but is intact on all three current DVD versions. The film is also remembered among fans for its creepy, synthesized opening theme.
Zombi 2 in Europe
Zombi 2's incredible success in Europe re-ignited Fulci's sagging career and reinvented the director as a horror maven. Fulci would go on to direct several more horror films, and Zombi 2 introduced several of his trademarks: zombies, hyper-realistic gore and blood, and the infamous "eyeball gag" (a character is impaled or otherwise stabbed through the eyeball). Although Fulci's detractors labeled the film as a cheap attempt to cash in on the success of Dawn of the Dead, it is interesting to note that the Zombi 2 screenplay was actually completed before Dawn of the Dead premiered (hence the lack of connection between the two films).
Despite the massive popularity of the film, Zombi 2 was banned in several countries due to the massive gore content, including Great Britain. It was released by Vipco but with a lot of violence edited out. It was finally released uncut in 2005. Lead actor Ian McCulloch, who is British, never actually had the opportunity to watch the film until he recorded a commentary for a DVD release of Zombi 2 some twenty-two years later, and was shocked at the gore level.
Zombi 2's massive European box office take also paved the way for three more sequels, which, like their predecessor, have no relation to any of the other films in the series — they all have self-contained plots. While the Zombi series proved to be incredibly lucrative, Zombi 2 is by far the most recognizable of the European zombie films.
The film was written before Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy, as an action/adventure thriller with no link to George A. Romero's films. The opening and closing scenes (which take place in New York) were added to the script later when the producers wanted to cash-in on the success of Dawn.
The infamous shark vs. zombie scene actually was filmed in a large salt water tank and the shark was fed horse meat and sedatives before filming.
Zombi 2 in the United States
Zombi 2 was released merely as Zombie in America and was considered a stand-alone film with no connection to Romero's zombie canon. The theatrical trailers for Zombie provided the memorable tagline of "We Are Going to Eat You!" and showcased some of the make-up effects, but did nothing to indicate the plot of the picture (although the audience was indeed warned about the graphic content of the film: a humorous crawl at the end of the preview promises "barf bags" to whoever requested them upon viewing the film).
VHS/DVD/Blu-ray release history
The film developed a massive cult following after its release on home video, although a series of public domain releases featured a muddy full screen transfer of the film that angered hardcore fans. In the late 1990s, the film was released on DVD and laserdisc by Anchor Bay and The Roan Group respectively. Both versions used a widescreen print, to the delight of fans. But more complaints were made about the transfer, which was still dark and muddy à la the film's original VHS release. The DVD/Laserdisc version also omitted several minutes of nudity from the film while leaving the film's graphic violence intact.
Five years later, Blue Underground and Media Blasters, the latter of which used their Shriek Show horror banner, struck a deal to release the film on DVD yet again, this time with a newly remastered, uncut version of the film. Now truly complete and no longer muddy looking, the two DVDs were released with Media Blasters using the film's original name Zombi 2 while Blue Underground released the film under the Americanized Zombie name. The Media Blasters release also contained a second disc filled with bonus material, which made their release slightly more desirable as opposed to the less expensive bare-boned Blue Underground release. Worth noting is that despite using the same if not similar print, the Media Blasters and Blue Underground releases differ slightly in their video. The colors appear the most vibrant in the Media Blasters edition, although skintones tend to look a little orange and the image is slightly brighter, while the sharpness of the picture is slightly less than the Blue Underground edition.
Also worth noting are the differences between the 2004 Media Blasters release and the 1998 Anchor Bay release, which often get confused. While Anchor Bay has a history of showing a great deal of respect for the preservation of purity in original director approved and uncut film releases, the 1998 Anchor Bay release of 'Zombi 2' inexplicably has a few minutes of footage omitted which can be found still intact in the 2004 Media Blasters release. Both feature comparable digitally remastered, anamorphic widescreen transfers, as well as the same bonus materials, but only the 2004 Media Blasters release can truly be considered "uncut".
Blue Underground release a various Blu-ray version October 24, 2011, a new 2K High Definition transfer uncut and uncensored camera negative.
Arrow Films on 3 December 2012 released a Blu-Ray (with the UK Zombie Flesh Eaters title) with a brand new high definition restoration of the original negative with optional English and Italian opening sequence. It was oddly missing a few seconds of the yacht in the bay after the opening credits, this was corrected and discs reissued.
Both Arrow and Blue Underground's blu-rays are fully-loaded with hours of brand new extras, it is debatable which has the best extras and transfer.
The other films in the Zombi series made it to America as video releases--none were released theatrically in the States.
- The Canadian band Fake Shark - Real Zombie! took their name as a reference from a scene in this movie.
- The band Send More Paramedics have a song called Zombie vs Shark in homage to this movie.
- Hip-hop producer Necro sampled the theme in the song "Carnivores" on the 2005 self-titled album from his group Circle of Tyrants
- This film was #98 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments for the scene when a zombie pulls a victim towards a spike.
Production and Release
- The make-up effects were done by renowned Italian Giannetto De Rossi. The make-up for the zombies was "caked" on in several stages and Lucio Fulci, the director, constantly referred to the extras as "walking flower pots".
- The newspaper office scene was filmed in a busy office building, and at one point the cast and crew inadvertently interrupted a meeting held by Rupert Murdoch, who angrily kicked them out.
- Several of the actors playing the zombies were actually brothers. They look so similar that some people have speculated that all the zombies were played by one man.
- As shown in trailers before the film was released, airline "barf bags" were handed out to theater moviegoers due to the unusually high amount of violence and gore for a horror film of that time.
- Enzo G. Castellari was asked to direct this film early in its development, but turned it down.
- After the four heroes escape from the cottage, the camera cuts to a closeup of the jeep window. Reflected in the window is the arm of a crewmember, and when the camera pulls away you can see the head of a crewmember wearing a hat.
- When Dr. Menard is driving and discussing the zombie plague with the visitors, the "clean" part of the jeep's windshield (i.e. the path of the windshield wipers) appears to be cut out of the glass (probably to provide a better view of the actors and prevent the camera being reflected on the glass).
- In the last scene, the radio announcer in New York City states that the governor has declared a state of national emergency. Only the President can declare a national emergency, not a governor of a state.
- During the underwater scene where the zombie is fighting with the shark, the zombie's arm is bitten off by the shark. However, we see him with the arm after he loses it, and without the arm before it is bitten off.
- In the end scenes in the church, our heroes can be seen throwing bottles of kerosene at the zombies. The first one explodes into flames on the floor, but the following three bottles are all thrown into space where there is no fire. The fire has vanished.
- Paola Menard is in the village cottage alone, when the zombies begin to threaten her safety and attack. She then pulls the large wooden cabinet from the wall and pushes it against the door. However she pushes the dresser up against the door twice between shots.
- When Brian fires a rifle at the shark from the boat, he fires the rifle multiple times very quickly. The rifle he is using is a bolt action rifle, which must have a bolt part moved before each fire. He does not touch the bolt.
- In the last shot of the film, the zombies are walking across the bridge to New York City. Below, there are cars on both sides of the bridge driving to and from the island with absolutely no concern for the chaos that is supposedly taking place. This is not necessarily a goof, as it is revealed on the DVD special features that the crew did not have permission from New York City to make the shot, and did so by illegally flooding the bridge with actors. Because of this, they were unable to completely clear the bridge.
- After Brian has killed the zombie that had attacked him he has a small drop of blood on the right armpit of his shirt. When he arrives at the hospital, his shirt has been doused with blood. After dispatching the first zombie, his shirt has a lot less blood splatter on it.
- When the yacht is seen from the harbor patrol boat at a distance, it is stern on to the yacht. However, when the yacht is viewed through binoculars by one of the boats crew, it is side on.
In the series, Sealab 2021 in the episode, "Green Fever" Quinn and Shanks are talking about the situation of everyone becoming a zombie. From outside, a zombie diver appears tapping on the glass when a shark attacks him. Seconds later, the same shark reappears as a zombie. This is much like this movie, except the part where the shark becomes a zombie.
Zombi 2 was released in the uk in the early 80's as "Zombie Flesh Eaters" It was passed with nearly 2 minutes of cuts for Cinema Exhibition. It was later released in the same "X" version on Video. Some time later the distributer decided to release a "Strong Uncut Version" on video, which caused it to be placed on the DPP's list of "Video Nasties". It was later released in it's cut form in the early 90's. The video's sleave notes were misleading and described the film as uncut. It was re-submitted in 1999, and an "Extreme version" was passed, with only minimal cuts to the eye gouge scene, and the Zombie Feast Scene. Apparently, the BBFC didn't have a problem passing the movie uncut, but as it was still classed as prosecuted for obscenity, they couldn't by law. In 2005 it was finally passed uncut, and released as a box set with a few other of the Video Nasties.