Zombie (1979)

We’ve covered Zombi 2 before. If you’ve spent any length of time speaking to me, no doubt you’ve probably heard me go on and on about either this movie or another Lucio Fulci film. But the truth is, Blue Underground new 4K version of Zombie is the absolute best looking version I’ve ever seen, making it feel like I’m seeing one of my favorite movies for the very first time.

There’s a fact covered by both Stephen Thrower and Guillermo del Toro on the bonus features of this blu ray that sum up why this movie is so essential: when other horror films only promised shock, this is one of the first times that it was truly delivered. Even though Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is packed with Tom Savini’s trademark gore, the zombies therein are blue and colorful, the blood is neon red and there are moments of slapstick and humor. There is none of that in Zombie. From the moment the police arrive upon the boat, everything is filthy, covered in grue and worms and festering decay. The dead here are truly dead, continuing to rot, spreading their putrefaction onto the living as they rise from shallow graves, mouths full of insects.

The collectible booklet features a new essay by Stephen Thrower that highlights a very important point. No matter how successful this film is — both artistically and financially — it has never been appreciated. Even an Academy Award-winning filmmaker like del Toro can proclaim that this is one of his favorite films, one that features an economy of art and storytelling while feeling like it emerged from another world, a film that could not be, made by a borderline insane director who has “gotten high off his own supply.”

How much do I love Zombie? I have three copies of it: on DVD, then I upgraded to Blue Underground’s 2K blu ray a few years ago and now, this 4K reissue. The first time I saw it was at the drive-in and a pivotal moment sold me on the film: during the infamous moment where Olga Karlatos meets a giant shard of wood eye first, someone opened their car door and puked all over the parking lot. That’s the kind of review that means more than any of the horrible reviews that appear in Thrower’s essay.

There are moments of sheer bliss here. What other movie has the audacity to include a zombie fighting a shark underwater, in a scene of breathtaking stuntman bravado? Even hardened gorehounds have to pay respect to this film that doesn’t flinch from horrific moments of flesh being devoured. Where Herschell Gordon Lewis promised a camera that did not look away and showed you the fakest of blood and guts, here realism and disgust rule the day.

Zombie is the movie that reignited Fulci’s career. It is the film that created the golden age of Italian splatter cinema. And it’s proof of one of my maxims: in a world of elevated horror that desperately wants to escape the exploitation ghetto, this is a movie that can never and will never be embraced by the mainstream. It is too raw, too brutal, too slick with blood.

Blue Underground’s new 4K version looks as gorgeous as a film about zombies tearing out peoples’ throats can look. I’ve always been in love with the look and color tones of Fulci’s late 70’s and 80’s output. The effect is multiplied here, looking at once clearer and grimier than it ever has before.

This three disk package includes new commentary by Troy Howarth, author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films, as well as the Ian McCulloch commentary track, trailers, TV and radio spots, gallery and del Toro intro from the 2K blu ray. A second disk contains the extras from that package and a third disk contains the soundtrack to the film. Best of all, there are three different covers, with your choices of a zombie’s face, the zombies on the bridge or the injury to Paola’s eye.

My only negative — and it’s incredibly minor — is that the enclosed book is difficult to read with its white on black type. Several of the pages appear to have printing that is off register, resulting in thin and difficult to read type. If you have older eyes, reading Thrower’s essay is near impossible, which is a shame because its packed with valuable insights and information, much like his interview on the disk itself.

If you are a horror fan and this movie isn’t in your collection, you don’t have a collection. If there were a word stronger than essential or mandatory, that would be the one I would use here. Other than a crowded theater or drive-in with an engaged, appreciate and loud audience, there is no better place or way to watch this film than this new edition.

You can grab it for yourself on Blue Underground’s site.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Bue Underground and their PR team for sending us a copy of this set. That has no bearing on this review, as obviously, we were going to love it no matter what.

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