BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Island of the Living Dead (2007)

When the rest of the world makes zombie movies that are either boring or sub-Troma winks at the camera filled with humor that breaks the tension, Bruno Mattei remains single-mindedly devoted to making the kind of undead movies that made me love the genre.

In short, in the sad world we find ourselves in where zombies have become boring, Bruno Mattei alone reminds us that these kinds of movies can remain incredibly fun.

After a team of adventurers loses their gold, they go through a fog bank and end up on an island of the living dead. There, nearly everyone dies as they’re pursued by shambling, blood puking monsters that never stop. Oh yeah, there’s also another higher caste of zombies that act like a cross between the Blind Dead and vampires, hypnotizing unwilling victims into becoming their thralls, even if they have to charm them with flutes!

I’ve come away from Mattei’s late period — he made this movie a year before his death — digital video films with great fondness, particularly for Yvette Yzon, who has taken over for Laura Gemser in his movies, starring in this, Zombies: The BeginningThe Jail: Women’s HellA Shudder on the Skin and two Segreti di Donna films for Mattei.

Here, she’s Sharon, not only the final girl but the Lara Croft of this story. The rest of her crew is pretty worthless, except for Snoopy, who gets his name by always wearing a Snoopy t-shirt. This is an astonishing choice for a zombie film and one that I applaud. He’s played by Jim Gaines, who has been in plenty of Mattei films like RobowarZombie 4Strike Commando and even shows up in The One-Armed Executioner.

Want an even better name? The leader of the ship is Captain Kirk (Gaetano Russo, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats and Trhauma, which he wrote)!

Screenwriter Antonio Tentori has been there for the dark night of the soul that aging Italian horror filmmakers must endure, being the scribe for everything from Argento’s Dracula 3D to Fulci’s Cat in the Brain and D’Amato’s Frankenstein 2000.

Only Sharon survives, but it appears that she becomes a zombie. No worry — she comes back perfectly healthy in the sequel, Zombies: The Beginning. Yes, only Mattei would name the second movie — or third, if this is in the same universe as Hell of the Living Dead — with a title like Zombies: The Beginning.

What are we to think of a movie that has not only the Necronomicon but also the De Vermis Mysteriis and the Cask of Amontillado? A film willing to rip off The Fog, Night of the Living Dead, Ghost Ship, Fulci’s eyeball scene in Zombi, the Blind Dead movies and even Mattei’s own Hell of the Living Dead? A movie that outright steals footage from The 13th Warrior, Interview with the Vampire, Deep Rising and House of the Dead?

We are to celebrate it. Thank you, Bruno Mattei, for always making it cheap, gross and upsetting, but never ever boring. The spirit and flame of 1980s Italian horror was kept alive by you longer than anyone.

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