Grindhouse Double Feature - Episode Four : Zombie and Cannibal Holocaust

Zombie (aka Zombi 2)

Zombie is probably the best known of legendary Italian director Lucio Fulci's films. It revived his sagging career and firmly planted him as a main stay in the Italian Horror genre. Zombie or as it was originaly titled Zombi 2, although it is not a direct sequel to any film. After Dario Argento's extremely successful European release of George Romero Dawn of the Dead under the title Zombi, Fulci and his producers decided capitalize on it by adding the opening and closing scenes in New York on to their existing script and re-titling it Zombi 2. Though marketed as a sequel in Italy, it shares very few links or similarities to Romero's film, for going any clever metaphors for consumerism in favor of a simple straight ahead exploitation action/adventure narrative.

The Story starts with two harbor patrolmen investigating an abandoned boat sailing recklessly off the New York Harbor. While searching they are attacked by a zombie. The daughter of the boats owner teams up with an investigative journalist to find out what happened to her father. Their investigation leads them to the Island of Matool. Along the way they enlist the aid of an experienced sailing couple. On the island they meet her father's medical partner, and find out that he and her father were working on a cure for a strange disease that causing the island's dead to rise from the grave.

Fulci was never one to skimp on the gore and Zombie is no exception. The film became infamous for two scenes in particular. One features a zombie fighting with a shark. The other depicts a characters eye being gouged out on a splintered piece of wood. To be fair, the dialog, the pacing, and the continuity are all a little off. What Lucio does bring is a manic energy, mixed with some decent atmosphere, some nicely gory effects work, and a trademark Fulcio apocalyptic ending.

The success of Zombi 2 in Europe paved the way for more sequels, all of which with completely self-containing stories; None baring any plot links to the other. It also unleashed a plethora of imitators to the Italian cannibal/ zombie genre.

Cannibal Holocaust

art of the Italian cannibal film sub genre of the 70's and 80's. Arguably one of the most controversial movies ever made. The target of bans and censorship throughout the world for it's over the top gore, sexual violence, and animal cruelty. Shot in the actual Amazon Rainforest, it tells the story Prof. Harold Monroe's trip into the jungle to determine the fate of four missing American documentary filmmakers. His subsequent recovery and viewing of their lost film footage reveals exactly what happened to them. This "found footage" concept and cinema verite style have been copied in recent films, such as The Last Broadcast, The Blair Witch Project, Quarentine and Rec, and even the recent box office hit Paranormal Experience.

After premiering in Italy, Cannibal Holocaust was seized by Italian authorities, and director, Ruggero Deodato was arrested on obscenity charges. Rumors that actors had actually been murdered in the filming of their death scenes began to circulate. This belief became so wide spread that even the courts began to think that Deodato had made a snuff film. To make matters more complicated, some of the actors had signed contracts prohibiting them from appearing in any type of media, motion pictures, or commercials for one year from the release date of the movie, in order to promote the very idea of the films authenticity. This created questions as to why none of them had been seen in anything else after the filming. Finally, in order to avoid a life sentence in prison, Deodato voided the contracts and brought the four actors who portrayed the ill fated film crew onto an Italian television show. This satisfied the courts, however he still had to explain how one of the movie most graphic and memorable scenes, the impalement of a native tribal woman, was achieved. The murder charges were dropped, however, Deodato, the producers, screenwriter, and a representative of United Artists were all convicted of obscenity and animal cruelty charges, receiving four month suspended sentences. The movie remained banned in Italy till 1984, when a rating certicate of VM18 was granted for an edited print.

The film was also banned in the United Kingdoms, Australia, Norway, and several other countries for it's graphic gore, sexual violence, and genuine on-screen animals killings. Unconfirmed accounts claim the movie to have been banned in over 50 countries. Though many nations have since revoked such bans, it still remains controversial to this day. In 2006, the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) in New Zealand banned the film in it's entirety. For his part Deodato has condemned his past use of real animal torture in his films saying " it was stupid to introduce animals."

Despite it's infamy, some critics see the film as a social commentary on the contrasts, and contradictions of the idea of civilized society. Mark Goodall , the author of Sweet Savage: The World Through the Shockumentary Film Lens, contends that the film themes concern the rape of the natural world and the exploitation of primitive cultures by the modern world. After seeing the film, director Sergio Leone wrote a letter to Deadato calling the second half a masterpiece of cinematographic realism.

Due to it's graphic nature, there have been numerous cuts of the film in circulation. Even uncut releases of the film can differ in content as there are multiple versions of a segment known as "The Last Road to Hell", which includes footage of genuine political executions. While over the years, Cannibal Holocaust has had many imitators and unofficial sequels, the most notable being Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox (aka Make Them Die Slowly), it wasn't until 2009 that Deodato officially announced that he intended to direct a companion piece entitled simply Cannibals. Unfortunately, financial disputes with the project's producer have led to it's cancellation.


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