RV!: Zombi 2 (1979) Dir: Lucio Fulci Date Released: July 1980 Date Seen: April 5th, 2009 Rating: 3.25/5
After recently watching City of the Living Dead (1980), director Lucio Fulci succeeded Zombi 2 (1979) with, I feel like I can appreciate what in the latter film, upon first view, seems like guileless and unintentionally abrupt pacing. Fulci uses that jarring and seemingly slipshod technique to illustrate Elisa Briganti’s screenplay’s fixation on ritual as unthinking action. To put it another way, the horror in Zombi 2 is not in being able to see any of the numerous, gratuitous make-up effects, but in seeing them without warning or explanation.
Zombi 2 fittingly enough cannibalizes this theme of the zombie as inexplicable terror from George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), a key influence that Fulci acknowledged by claiming that his film was a sequel to Romero’s. In Zombi 2, the only explanation for the zombie outbreak comes from one character’s repetition of Dawn’s evocative but otherwise meaningless explanation about Hell having no more vacancies, which, incidentally, is taken directly from Revelations.* There’s no virus, no experiment gone wrong and no voodoo incantation to make sense of what’s happening. Bad shit just happens.
By chucking logical narrative explanation out the window, Fulci indirectly has justified making his film a loose collection of scenes that start and stop with all the grace of a bumper car. He’s only interested in action, violence and emotional responses as instinctual, automatic responses. In the infamous eye-busting scene, we don’t get to find out what happens to the girl after her cornea’s been raped by a jagged splinter. We’ve already seen that scene’s climax as the body is unfathomably and inexplicably violated. In his (pardon the pun) eyes, Fulci’s Buñuelian homage is justified because it, like the rest of the film, can be there. Intellectually, it makes sense but emotionally, it’s still just a wondrously unsettling bit of post-Hitchcockian bloodletting.
At the same time, Zombi 2’s giddily unfathomable violence makes the film’s final shoot-out, the most exciting part of the film, just a little more boring. As a tableau of violence, Fulci shows us in traditional shot-revere-shot fashion how and why blood gets shed (we see a zombie, then the guy about to blow him away and then the zombie getting blown away). After seeing all that violence come and go out of the blue, sensible action just seems like such a letdown, even if it’s presented in the film’s most consistently paced scene.
*Note: I lied.