We have all seen the classic zombie films Night of The Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, etc. However there are literally hundreds of other zombie films that have been release in the last 50 years. In my opinion the zombie films (and most horror films) coming out of the European market in the 1970s and 80s (Italy specifically) shine above the rest. They seem to have a particularly high level of respect for the subject type, audience, and the medium of film in general. These are by no means zombie films being produced by Antonioni or De Sica. The films contain plenty of gore and other horror trimmings much like American films yet they retain a distinctly European flavor.
One film that stands out particularly in my mind is Lucio Fulci'sZombi 2. Where is Zombi 1 you ask? George A. Romero's classic film Dawn of The Dead was released internationally as Zombie (or Zombi for our Italian brothers and sisters.) Dawn and this film (or Zombi 3 and Zombi 4 for that matter) actually have no connection what so ever. To many this was seen as a quick way to cash in on Dawn's success. But to me, and many others, Zombi 2 stands on some strong merits of its own.
By the way, just to further confuse things, Zombi 2 was released in the US as Zombie. Go figure.
An abandoned boat drifts into New York harbor, the police investigate and are attacked by a zombie hiding in the closet. The police contact Anne Bowles, the daughter of the boat's missing owner, and soon she and Peter West, a handsome reporter, are on their way to the island of Matool where her father was last seen. The two meet up with a boating couple, Brian and Susan, and soon they are on their way to the island. During their journey they witness a fight between a zombie and a shark...
The group ends up facing a cursed tropical island full of zombies in what I see as a fresh approach to the zombie genre. It provides an interesting mix between scientific explanation and voodoo myth that leaves the viewer unsure of the causes the zombism. David Menard, a doctor living on the island, attempts to understand and rationalize what is happening with science to the disapproval of his island native assistant who claims the horrible outbreak is a curse. Eventually even the doctor gives up hope on his research and kills his remaining patients as they turn into the living dead.
A majority of the film takes place during the daylight hours on the lush tropical island of Matool, a move I feel is a departure from most horror films that use darkness to up the "suspense" factor. Even the scenes that take place at night are able to retain the hot, sweaty, sticky feel of the tropics. Ah, beautiful!
For a more detailed synopsis of the film, notes on its production, release, and re-releases please visit Wikpedia, this fan page, and a very detailed review here.
Zombi 2 has a great electronic heavy soundtrack provided by Fabio Frizzi. The film's score is a strange mix of island rythms, minimal synth percussion, and eerie organ chords. When I found the soundtrack available in a double release with 1981's Cannibal Ferox I had to get it. To my surprise Frizzi's work on Cannibal surpassed that of Zombi 2.
In light of this I have provided samples from the double album release.
Zombi 2 aka Zombie
01 Frizzi, Fabio - Main Title 02 Frizzi, Fabio - The Dead On Main Street / VooDoo Rising