Zombi 3 (1988)

Zombi 3 PosterIt’s a question that’s vexed cineastes for more than a generation, sparking heated debate and rending friendships asunder! Everyone has an opinion on it and most have come to realize that like politics, religion and soccer, it’s just not something to discuss in polite company! I am referring of course to the severed zombie head in the refrigerator scene in Zombi 3!

Zombi 3, the mutant movie spawn of both Lucio Fulci and Bruno Mattei (Fulci quit before the film was finished and Mattei stepped in to finish all the face ripping), is a non stop car wreck of captivating carnage that when it’s not impressing you with its complete disregard of standard movie conventions like a story that doesn’t feel like scripter Claudio Fragasso wasn’t just scribbling down his half-remembered nightmares when he wasn’t busy also writing Cop Game, Robowar and Strike Commnado the same year, is astounding you with strange touches like the hotel that comes equipped with a crate of M-16s and a flame thrower!

But for all its slap-dash amateurish awesomeness, it’s the head in the fridge that gets the most attention. And with good reason! So many zombie movies are so slavish to the undead standard operating procedure that the only creative decision made is whether the living dead will walk, jog or run after their hapless victims. Zombi 3 constantly takes all the rules and regulations and rams a stake through them like some rotting flesh-eating turd’s skull!

The severed head is just the most glaring example. Throughout the film though, we are confronted with slow zombies, fast zombies, zombies who make zombie noises and zombies who speak English in just as poorly dubbed fashion as the regular old human beings! Clearly this is a zombie apocalypse where anything goes!

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Getting back to the head, a human opens a fridge in the resort and there’s this reanimated zombie head staring at us and suddenly that sucker becomes airborne! YES! Flying severed zombie head! Thank you Bruno Mattei! (I don’t know for sure, but this feels totally like a Mattei scene and not a Fulci scene. If you’ve ever seen Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead or Rats: Nights of Terror, you’ll understand.)

Many have criticized this scene as somehow symbolic that Zombi 3 represents the absolute worst the Italian zombie film industry of the 1980s and early 1990s had to offer. Can you zombie snobs be any more freaking absurd?

You’re ignoring two things. First that Zombie 4: After Death and Zombie 5: Killing Birds exist. And even more importantly (because if we’re being honest, those two movies are their own brand epicness as they feature gay porn star Jeff Stryker and attorney commercial actor Robert Vaughn respectively) because with Zombi 3‘s total disregard for anything approaching sanity and focus on throwing as much action, violence and explosions at us as its “shot in the Philippines” budget will allow, it’s the End Times of entertainment!

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The film’s plot is a laundry list of lunacy. A drug named Death One is stolen and the thief gets infected after he drops the case it’s in and it leaks out. The military then cremates his body sending contaminated ash into the air where a bunch of birds get infected and then bite and infect more people.

Human survivors battle the zombies in a variety of situations such as the great “zombie accidentally causes gas leak at service station when it whacks a fuel line with a machete allowing human to blow its fetid ass up” scene and the insanely inventive “we’re pinned down by zombies – wait – there’s a hand grenade under this truck” scene.

There’s even a hilarious stab at an artsy fartsy message as the film periodically cuts to a disc jockey named Blue Heart who babbles about pollution and gives updates on the zombie outbreak. But Zombi 3 even manages to make this trashtastic when Blue Heart reveals a shock ending and dedicates a song to the undead at the end of the movie! That’s a long distance death dedication Casey Kasem would be proud of! And if you’re reminded of DJ Super Soul from the classic Vanishing Point, it may not be a coincidence as Vanishing Point‘s director was Richard C. Sarafian, the father of Zombi 3 star Deran Sarafian!

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And after watching Zombi 3 several times, I noticed something that may explain the severed head gag. Earlier in the film, a woman was wondering around an abandoned resort and out of nowhere a zombie shows up and instead of gnawing on her guts, it just pushes her into a pool. Zombie prank! These guys have their mischievous side just like you or I. Maybe the zombie hid its severed head in the fridge as some kind of wacky joke. And it is able to fly because he was infected by the zombie birds.

In the end though, who cares why any of it happens? With Fulci’s fog machines perpetually fired up, everything has a fuzzy unreality to it anyway. And Zombi 3 is the sort of buffoonish balls-to-the-wall affair where even a goofy scene like getting pushed into that pool isn’t wasted because when the woman is pulled out of the pool by her friend, her legs have been chewed off and she tries to eat her rescuer!

Zombi 3 delivers precisely what its title promises and what you would expect out of the trash titans dream team of Fulci and Mattei. A cruddy classic!

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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