‘Why the long face. Something eatin’ ya?’
An Italian zombie movie is usually a cause for celebration, particularly one from the early 80s. City Of The Living Dead, Burial Ground and Nightmare City are three great examples.
Notice that I did not include Zombie Creeping Flesh among them.
There are several reasons why this film is such a dud, but the main problem has to be director Bruno Mattei, here masquerading under his Vincent Dawn pseudonym. In case you haven’t figured it out from that clue, what we have here is another Dawn of the Dead rip-off. Unlike Fulci’s inspired Zombie Flesh Eaters though, here we have the hack director of Rats: Night of Terror lifting whole scenes from Romero’s film. Not only that, but most of the score is Goblin’s music from Dawn of the Dead! Now, it’s a great soundtrack, but hearing it over this nonsense just makes me want to switch the film off and go and watch Dawn again.
At the comically named Hope Centre, a nerve gas is accidentally unleashed that has the unfortunate effect of bringing the dead to life. This accident comes as no surprise once you meet the brainiacs responsible, a pair of eggheads who we join deep in the midst of the kind of scientific debate that is impenetrable to mere mortals such as us –
‘She may not know much about chemistry, but she knows what to do in bed.’
‘I’m not surprised, that cute little ass!’
‘Ha, I’m more of a tit man myself.’
Jeez guys, can it with the scientific mumbo-jumbo already!
Soon after, we meet our ragtag group of unlikeable heroes, a SWAT team laying siege to a building in a direct lift from Dawn of the Dead, with the exact music that accompanies the scene in Romero’s film playing over the top of this one. I guess Mattei should get points for shamelessness. This elite squad is comprised of some of the oddest looking actors you’re ever likely to see, with one of them looking like Woody Allen, another like Dario Argento’s buff older brother.
Inexplicably, we next find our heroes driving through the jungles of Papa New Guinea, where they meet a reporter and her cameraman. This is incredibly fortuitous, as shortly after they are involved in a brief zombie attack, our intrepid gang happen upon a small village of natives, but fear not! – Lia, our reporter, knows exactly what to do. Luckily, she had remembered to pack her thong made out of leaves, which she promptly slips into. With a bit of paint on her face and, for modesty’s sake, her nipples, she’s ready to blend in. It just goes to show that you can never be too prepared.
And then the film dies a painful, inglorious death. We are forced to sit through a twenty – twenty! – minute montage of stock footage, showing native dancing rituals, animals being gutted and what appears to be a real-life human corpse. It’s incredibly ill-judged and a pretty direct way to suck all the fun out of your goofy zombie movie.
Once the stock footage ends, the team find themselves beset by more zombies and a massacre ensues, with their bullets mostly hitting innocent villagers. They escape and eventually find themselves in a children’s play area in an Italian park.
There is some pretty funny, inventive gore, the showstopper being Lia having her tongue ripped out, before the zombie then shoves his hand in her mouth and pulls out her eyes. But at nearly 100 minutes long, it overstays it’s welcome fast. At one point the heroine says, ‘It’s terrible…those poor people can’t possibly understand what’s going on.’
Could she possibly be talking about us?
I love that the scientists responsible for the zombie outbreak had actually called the experiment ‘operation sweet death’!