ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS 2 (1988) BY BRUNO MATTEI & LUCIO FULCI

Reviews

Alternative Titles: Zombi 3; Zombie 3
Director: Lucio Fulci / Bruno Mattei
Writers: Claudio Fragasso, Rosella Drudi (uncredited)
Year: 1988
Starring: Deran Sarafin, Beatrice Ring, Ottoviano Dell’Acqua, Massimo Vanni, Gli Reinthaler, Luciano Pigozzi

Synopsis:
Scientists in a government laboratory develop a chemical, aptly named Death One, that turns those infected into pus faced flesh-craving zombies.  The army deal with the initial outbreak but foolishly decides to cremate the bodies, thereby sending the virus airborne.

Review:
Coming so late in the the zombie splatter cycle (it was practically dead) it is important to note the various contributors to the film. In particular, the contribution made by the iconic director Lucio Fulci who began working on the film but quit after around six weeks of shooting. 

Now many conflicting reasons for this exist, with illness being the main reason, although the great man himself claimed that it was in fact due to a terrible script and arguments with the production crew. As always the truth is probably somewhere in the middle especially when Lucio Fulci’s own daughter admitted that the humid temperature was contributing to her father’s ailing health.

Upon his departure, rather than leaving a sellable product Lucio Fulci left producer Franco Gaudenzi with a rough 70 minute cut which had to then be trimmed down a further 20 minutes. As a result of this the infamous second-rate director Bruno Mattei (ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH; RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR; ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING and ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD) was called upon to complete the film.

However due to the contracts expiring and subsequent scheduling issues with the original actors drastic plot changes were required and it is estimated that around 40% of the final film was added in by Bruno Mattei reducing much of that shot by Lucio Fulci to a sub-plot, and giving us the version we have today.

The majority of the lead cast are pretty much unknown in front of the screen, including the American actor Deran Sarafin, who would go on to have a decent career as TV director, and French actress Beatrice Ring. However there are one or two that you may recognise here – Ulli Reinthaler would also appear in Lucio Fulci’s AENIGA, Luciano Pigozzi had several minor roles in popular films while Massimo Vanni got around a bit being credited in the Maurizio Merli Eurocrime flick VIOLENT CITY aka ROMA VIOLENTA, Lucio Fulci’s original ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS aka ZOMBI 2, Bruno Mattei’s RATS:NIGHT OF TERROR, Claudio Fragasso’s ZOMBIE 4: AFTER DEATH not to mention Sergio Stivaletti’s THE WAX MASK. He certainly had good contacts.

Although these pale in comparison to stuntman Ottoviano Dell’Acqua also known to many zombie fans as the wormface from ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS aka ZOMBI 2. However Ottoviano is much much more than that, having been a stuntman since 1973 he has plied his trade in many films including IL GRADE RACKET, STARCRASH, CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE, DEMONS,DIAL:HELP, LA SETTA and THE STENDHAL SYNDROME not to mention bigger Hollywood fare such as LADYHAWKE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE and ANGELS & DEMONS as well as the TV series ROME. Ottoviano, as evidenced in ZOMBI 3 also managed to snag more than a few acting roles himself and can count amongst his many credits ROMA A MANO ARMATA, RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR as well as many uncredited such as in FELLINI’S SATYRICON, VIOLENT NAPLES, NAPOLI SPARA! and NIGHTMARE CITY. 

But what about the film itself? 

We start with some very impatient doctors administering some sort of serum to a green deceased body, the influence of Stuart Gordon’s REANIMATOR is clear from the outset (and becomes rammed down your throat later on) but before you can dwell on this the writer Claudio Fragasso quickly takes us not only into NIGHTMARE CITY territory but also revisits parts of his own ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH.

What will strike viewers almost immediately about the opening few scenes of ZOMBI 3 is that the budget required for any additional material had clearly already been spent as we witness a gun fight without any muzzle flash or exploding squibs. It is just a bunch of guys running around with toy guns and sound effects. Once again Bruno Mattei lives up to his reputation. 

Once we have been introduced to our two groups of characters (and an additional sub-plot established) the movie has a bit of flexibility and therefore variety. As group one (some soldiers and travellers) become embroiled in a vicious zombified animal attack while group two (a girl and her boyfriend) barely have much more luck as they happen upon a seemingly abandoned petrol station. 

It is this second scenario that leads to the films first genuinely well shot, creepy and almost supernatural sequence that is pure hallmark  Lucio Fulci. Had it not been for the sped up mad machete zombie attack, this could have been the start of something comparable to the gates of hell trilogy. Although I am sure the phrase mad machete zombie attack will appeal to more than a few people reading this review.

As the film progresses some elements and scenes seem to make no sense at all either in terms of  continuity or logic but this is all irrelevant (and expected due to the production nightmare noted at the beginning) as we are treated to several fast paced rock fuelled set pieces, one in particular being a sequence set in what appears to be an abandoned resort complete with overgrown reeds and decaying furniture but which we are meant to believe was populated just one week earlier. Again, minor details we don’t need to worry about because we are about to get another suspenseful scene broken only by screaming and blood in a true what the hell happened there moment.

Then, as always the film shambles forwards, never quite displaying the consistent development needed but rather one of a cobbled together collection of scenes that never quite knows what it is meant to be, or even what it wants the zombies to be. 

By the beginning of the third act it ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS 2 appears to have settled on the low budget zombie film classic staple of becoming a siege movie but as proven, never one to settle on a single stolen idea this, rather pleasingly, is blown off less than five minutes later for another idea until ultimately the required minimum running time is reached and things are brought to an end.

This film has plenty of fun scenes, some genuinely well constructed, some brutal (a zombie reverse caesarean) and some just down right bizarre (how do zombies get in cupboards or hide under tumbleweeds we just saw moving in the wind?) but ultimately it will be an entertaining watch for any zombie fans.

Claudio Fragasso, Bruno Mattei and Lucio Fulci give us a nonsensical, fun, if extremely derivative, patchwork piece of trashy entertainment that benefits just as much from the references (or should that be stolen pieces) of other films as it does it’s own innovation.

As you would expect with the amount of time that had passed, this film has an entirely different aura to the one that preceded it and ultimately is a sequel in name only (where have we heard that before) but one that is still worthy of adoring your shelf. Also, what a great audio title track.

Furthermore it is rumoured that Zombi 3 was due to be filmed in 3D but both technical and financial limitations ended this plan. Oh what could have been. 

Oh and keep an eye out for writer Claudio Fragasso and replacement director Bruno Mattei both of which appear in the film playing a couple of soldiers who put a corpse into an incinerator.

Version Reviewed:
I watched the 88 Films blu ray release of the film. Benefitting from a new HD transfer the film looks and sounds fantastic, easily the best version on the market while the disc itself also features several extra’s; from the almost pointless Italian opening and closing titles to the interesting interview with the prolific stuntman/actor Ottaviano Dell’Acqua who talks about his time working with Lucio Fulci on this and the original ZOMBI 2, ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS as well as other memories of his time on set.

The 88 Films release also treats us to an audio interview with Beatrice Ring which despite it’s less than engaging slideshow visual actually contains a few terrific anecdotes and stories about how she became an actress and her thoughts on both Fulci and the film. A further interview (we are being spoiled) is also contained, this time with infamous producer and writer Claudio Fragasso (TROLL 2) who gives us an interesting insight into the film and it’s troubled production.

Rather oddly, and it has been discussed online why, but we are also treated to a Q&A with Lucio Fulci video nasty star Catriona MacColl which is an enjoyable watch thanks to her recollections of working alongside Lucio Fulci but doesn’t really explain why it is on this disc. Overall however 88 Films have put together a very strong package and I can’t see how this film could be improved for future releases, not that it even deserves further improvement, but if you are a zombie fan you can’t go far wrong with this release.

Troll 2 (1990) by Claudio Fragasso

Reviews

Alternative Titles: Trolls; Monster Valley
Director: Claudio Fragasso
Writers: Rossella Drudi, Claudio Fragasso
Year: 1990
Starring: Michael Paul Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey, Deborah Reed

Synopsis:
A family vacationing in a small town discovers the entire town is inhabited by goblins disguised as humans, and who plan to eat them.

Review:
Is this a sequel? Well yes and no, it was pitched on release as an unofficial sequel to the 1986 movie TROLLS, although it bears no connection either in terms of plot, production, cast or crew leaving us to surmise that really it is simply a bizarre attempt to cash in on what was a very minor cult success.

What is even more bizarre is that there are no actual trolls in this film but goblins instead, which ties into the original production title of TROLLS. Although why let a little thing like this stop anything, after all I don’t know or care about the difference, and it merely goes to highlight the films nonchalant attitude.

Now the film itself opens with Grandpa Seth reading the story of ‘Davy and the Goblins’ to his grandson, Joshua. He tells us of how Peter is tricked and eaten by the goblins. Wait, the story titled ‘Davy and the Goblins’ is about a guy named Peter? If that seems a little off, then next twist will certainly surprise you (don’t worry it is not really a spoiler) – it transpires that Grandpa Seth is actually dead and only Joshua can see him. His mother is aware of this morbid imaginary friend and tries to comfort her son with dialogue that you can only find in an Italian B-movie.

With this brief introduction to the goblins and the supernatural grandpa aspect over, we are quickly informed that the whole family, well the living ones at least, are off on a home-swap holiday with a family from the small rural town of Nilbog. Nilbog, immediately with this creative naming we know that things will not end well and young Joshua starts to suspect it too.

Finally before the road trip to this delightfully named town we are introduced to a ‘too cool’ teen sister, her immature boyfriend his friends, giving us with near certainty our first batch of goblin food. If this all sounds like the film has settled into a period of relative normality that is only because I am leaving out further odd dialogue and a peculiar family car sing song will leave you puzzled as a cacophony of sound makes its way out of your television.

Arriving at their holiday home, the family discovers a veritable feast laid out for them and although everything is green or layered with some green paste they don’t seem to mind. Not only does this look suspicious to us but also young Joshua, who seeing his grandpa again realises that something must be done to stop his family from eating the food and so he does the only thing that any of us would do in this situation and needless to say ruins the feast. Thankfully this part was not shown or at least on the version I saw.

Despite its (many) faults TROLL 2 actually has a pretty enjoyable first act but things step up a gear as the film introduces the resident town druid Creedence, whose family lineage can be traced back to Stonehenge, which is a little odd being a monument rather than a town or city, but this is just a technicality and as Creedence begins to chew the no doubt papier-mâché scenery you find yourself just going with it.

With things now in full swing and we are further treated to more great lines such as “She is one with the vegetable world, now she is food for my children” you start to get a greater understanding that there may be a little more substance or at least a message behind the story than the narrative to this point would have had you believe.

So it is a shame that so many things here are inadequate so often making TROLL 2 comes across as a GOOSEBUMPS style story, not that this is necessarily a bad thing. Putting any issues aside, and the film certainly does, the momentum continues to build and the wider context begins to come into frame and we learn that not only is Nilbog a vegetarian-only town but the townsfolk all have an almost pathological disgust towards meat products and the effects it has the anatomy.

It is rumoured that writer Rosella Drudi came up with the story for TROLL 2 when several of her friends became vegetarian at the same time, and rather than being a positive message for the lifestyle it seems more of a send-up of it and the way in which some people preach their new lifestyle towards those who do not adhere. Taking this approach then, perhaps to a certain extent that underlying criticism works and dare I even say it is a clever b-movie satire. Dare I say it out aloud?

Of course all good (and bad) things must come to an end and with another plot twist involving the ghostly instigator Grandpa Seth, a bit of violence and one of the strangest seduction scenes you are ever likely to see committed to celluloid everything is brought together but not fully explained leaving you wondering what you had just spent the last 90 minutes watching…but somehow at the same time glad that you did.

There is so much wrong with TROLL 2 that it is difficult to know where to start. For example despite being shot in Morgan, USA – where they actually held a TROLL 2 festival back in 2007 – and having an English speaking cast the dubbing is all over the place but this rather quaintly lends the film that Italian trash feel paradoxically adding to its charm.

So despite this, its continuity errors, abysmal dialogue (which it has been reported the suggestions in terms of grammar and accuracy by the native cast were rejected out of hand by Claudio Fragasso) and just nonsensical story this is an entertaining and (often unintentionally) hilarious movie that does exactly what you would expect from something that has the involvement of Claudio Fragasso and Joe D’Amato – that something is purely to entertain.

Essentially TROLL 2 is budget trash but fantastically so and as a result when people call it one of the worst films ever they do so with endearment rather than derision and is a must watch for any fan of low budget horror.

As a final point of interest I was slightly surprised to see that the costume designer was none other than the black Emmanuelle herself Laura Gemser (BLACK EMMANUELLE; EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD; CAGED WOMEN)  – that certainly must have made for an interesting time behind the scenes for the cast.