One of the most notorious horror films of all time, Lucio Fulci's legendary Zombie Flesh Eaters is one of those rare films that actually has the guts (heh) to back up the myth. It's a brutal and gory movie and no mistake, but there's a ton of atmosphere evident onscreen which is the missing ingredient in so many lesser entries into the zombie genre. It's a mixture of the chilling soundtrack (which uses some very clever- and rather sombre - note progressions that aren't really in keeping with the schlock genre), great direction and some very creative cinematography that really makes this flick stand head, shoulders and braaaaaaains above the rest of the herd.
Lucio Fulci's direction is a marvel to behold here. He works some minor miracles on a tight budget and with very limited resources, delivering tension and shocks despite the woeful cast and the substandard script. It deserves its accolades though, as it was ahead of its time and did kick off the billion rip-offs that were to follow. The Italian master of ultraviolence is on fire throughout Zombie Flesh Eaters, giving us lingering shots of zombies getting ever closer, while our heroes fling molotov cocktails at them and shoot them to pieces, but still they come. It's that relentless wave of dead flesh that captured the imaginations of horror fans and filmmakers alike.
Many people see this film as a cash-in on George Romero's legendary Dawn of the Dead, which may well be true to a certain extent, but thankfully Zombie Flesh Eaters (or Zombie, Zombi, Zombie 2 or whichever of the dozen titles you know it by) is very much a film in its own right too. From early on in the film you know you're in for something different to the Romero classic. I mean, ol' George never had a scene in which a ZOMBIE WRESTLES A SHARK UNDERWATER. Yes, that's right. One of the greatest scenes in any movie, ever, is right here in Zombie Flesh Eaters, when a zombie does actually have a fight with a shark. Underwater. For about five minutes. It's a gloriously ridiculous scene that you really won't have seen anywhere else.
But that's not all. Zombie Flesh Eaters has all kinds of mayhem to offer you, with eyes being gouged out, limbs being shot off, guts/throats/faces/innards being chomped on, and some of the creepiest Zombie makeups ever. The colour palette of the film is quite interesting too, with muted greys and browns whenever the zombies are onscreen (and indeed, in their makeups), which contrast greatly with the lush setting that some of the film takes place in. The notorious siege scenes towards the movie's climax are gripping and very well directed and edited.
The acting, well, is bloody awful from every single cast member, but their delivery adds a little camp fun to what is otherwise an incredible violent test of your nerves and stomach. The infamous eye-popping scene (in which a zombie drags a female character's face onto a sharp piece of wood and literally pops one of her eyes) is hideous and unnerving, even though it's blatantly fake. I guess it's that edge of unreality that gives the gore effects an added punch here, and there's plenty of them to chew over (sorry).
The final shots are grim and end the film on a marvellously sombre note, perfectly accompanied by the same few notes that have been playing throughout the whole film, giving the last images of the film a hypnotic and almost sad atmosphere. The film has been available in various cut versions for a long time, but the fully uncut version is the thing to see if you want the full effect of this truly classic film. While Dawn of the Dead is a bona fide masterpiece of cult cinema, Zombie Flesh Eaters may have it beaten in terms of sheer visceral nastiness. Have you got the guts to sit through this badly acted, gloriously directed piece of schlock? maybe, but you might not afterwards.