Friday, October 07, 2005

Day 7: Zombi 3

Roger: Hey, this Blueheart's music is great, huh?
Bo: Yeah, it's making me horny.

Comedy is a subject that is very important to me, something I’ve spent a lot of time pondering for many years now… what is it that makes us laugh, why is something funny and something else tragic? Why do those two intermingle so often? It all boils down to absurdity for me. We laugh because some things defy our expectations as to how the world is structured and, when confronted with those things, we respond by being terrified or laughing (depending, I imagine, on how threatening these things are). I laughed harder watching Zombi 3 than I’ve laughed in response to any movie for quite some time. I’m aware that a few days ago I made clear my feelings about watching bad movies for the purposes of laughing at and feeling superior to them. I am comfortable with the fact that, while I was laughing at Zombi 3 and while the laughter was borne of the movie’s incompetence, what I was really laughing at was its illogic and its absurdity.

I love zombie movies as a general rule and so I am no stranger to the work of Lucio Fulci. The maker of Zombi 2 (here in the States, it’s just called Zombie… the reason for this is that Dawn of the Dead was originally called Zombi in Italy and abroad…Fulci’s Zombi 2 is an in-name-only sequel if I remember correctly.) and The Beyond, he specializes in making films that are like a crossbreed of Dario Argento’s and George Romero’s, though his movies are nowhere near as good as either of those two’s films. Fulci’s zombies are the slowest of the “slow” zombies, moving with the speed of snails and, somehow, becoming ten times as creepy for it. When Fulci brings in a gore scene, it can go on for minutes as the unconvincing effects spill out in a torrent of red before our eyes. It’s rather endearing sometimes, like in The Beyond, there’s a scene in which spiders eat a man’s face for what seems like an hour. Some of the spiders are clearly made of rubber and being bounced up and down on fishing line. The spiders also squeak while they eat the poor man. And their entrance into the movie is quite, um, random. The randomness and the extremity of the gore can lend Fulci’s movies a dreamlike quality not unlike Argento’s.

For the first hour of Zombi 3, I was a bit upset because this movie did not feel like a Fulci movie, though he was the credited director. No dreamlike pacing, the gore was weaker, and the zombies were not Fulci zombies. These zombies were moving super-fast! One of them was involved in a choreographed fight scene in which he menaced a woman with a machete. A lot of zombies leapt down from above the camera just when one of the characters was nearly safe. A couple of them talked. Later, I learned that this was only a half-Fulci movie, that he’d left after shooting 70 minutes, and only 40 minutes were used in the final product. And this shows quite a bit in the movie.

Before I go on to talk about Zombi 3, I’d like to describe to you the following scenes.

  • A woman in an abandoned gas station, looking for water for her soon-to-be zombie boyfriend. She walks around in the darkness for a bit doing the standard, “hello, is anyone there” routine. A zombie, chained up, lunges at her. She screams. It grabs her and she wiggles away, out of its reach. The zombie then lunges forward again, pulling against its chains. A large quantity of debris, seemingly out of nowhere, then falls on the zombie’s head, causing the zombie to fall down.

  • A soldier guy in the jungle is attacked by a zombie. He wrestles with it for some time until they come to a dock by a river. The soldier throws the zombie off of the dock into what appears to be two or three inches of water. The movie then cuts to a shot of the soldier looking relieved, like the fight is over.

  • A group of people (including the soldier from the previous description) have just found respite from constant zombie attacks. They are lying outside in some grass. We hear the noise of a chicken. The movie cuts to a shot of a man in glasses who starts making chicken noises at the chicken and chasing it around, unable to catch it. This is intercut with shots of the others in his group smiling and shaking their head as he struggles to catch the chicken. That guy!

  • At the end of the movie: a soldier is running away from some zombies toward a helicopter where his friends are flying off to safety. The helicopter has ascended a little and he is forced to leap onto the landing strut of the helicopter. As he struggles to climb into the helicopter, a group of zombies emerge from a pile of hay below the man and they get him.

In each of these instances, I laughed and laughed hard. Particularly at the chicken thing, but also at the zombies hidden in hay. I don’t know why they were in the hay, but I believe it’s a new breed of zombie that we can all call the “hay zombie”. The scene descriptions don’t even begin to account for the amount of inanity in the film. There’s a flying zombie head with no visible means of propulsion other than its desire to consume human flesh. There are zombie birds. And, most importantly, I may be wrong, but I believe one character dies at the hands (eh) of the severed flying head, only to come back moments later and then die again at the hands of a zombie-mob. It occurs to me that I haven’t even mentioned the scientist who created the means by which the dead come back to life, whose acting abilities reside in his index finger or the way the main soldier characters in the film start rolling around everywhere.

I’m glad I watched this movie. It’s helped me figure out some of my movie-watching philosophy. I generally like to respect the filmmakers when I watch movies, so if a movie is working in a way that you can tell it’s trying to be scary, exciting, whatever… I will try to engage with it on those terms. When I am given inconsistencies and shoddy craftsmanship, it is fair game for me to enjoy on whatever level I like. Therefore: Zombi 3 is a comedy. Things happen for no reason in this movie and they’re decidedly not scary. It even appears as if it switches from being shot on film to shot on video at random. The movie has no merit as a horror movie. It has no new horror ideas in it, no tension, no scariness. It is structured more as an action movie, with its fast zombies, soldiery shootouts, and pounding score similar to Day of the Dead, but it has no merit as an action movie either. However, it is so shoddily put together that it does have merit (at times) as an absurdist comedy. And since we’ll never get to see The Marx Brothers starring in A Night with the Living Monkeys, this will do just fine.


I've been trying to coordinate some of these movies so that there's a nice linkage between each one. This hasn't exactly worked out. I've been delighted to find some connections in the movies I have watched, though, that were unexpected. For instance: watching Seven Up! I was fascinated at the nature film aspect of watching seven year olds interact with one another and play at being grown ups. The next day, I watched Zardoz and it featured a lot of talk about the evolution of man that felt like a tangental connection to Seven Up. Zadoz features a floating head quite prominently and so I was delighted last night, while watching Zombi 3, when a severed flying zombie head attacked some people. Additionally, there was a scene in this movie where people barricaded themselves in a hotel to escape the zombies, much as the characters in Hotel Rwanda found a hotel to be a safe haven from an overwhelming threat. I began to think that Zombi 3 might contain links to every movie I've watched so far, but, upon further reflection, that would be far too much of a stretch and I don't have the time to engage in those sorts of mental gymnastics.

The most disappointing thing about all of this is that I was planning to follow Zombi 3 with The Passion of the Christ since, as Superman is really an alien, Jesus returning to life after dying would denote him zombie status. Unfortunately, this didn't come to pass and, tonight, I will be inadvertantly finding links between Zombi 3 and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. And then from that movie to The Passion of the Christ. Which is probably better for some reason.