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In 1979, a hard-working Italian industry regular named Lucio Fulci finally achieved an international breakthrough with Zombi 2 (released as Zombie stateside and Zombie Flesh Eaters in the UK). The film was marketed as a bogus sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), which was called Zombi in the region and, when Fulci’s outrageously gory jungle romp managed to outsell the movie it was ripping off (though, in reality, the two films have little in common beyond their Italian titles), the trend-driven Italian film industry jumped on a new zombie bandwagon. Among these increasingly ridiculous and cheaply-made flesh-eating opuses were a number of movies that were either titled or retitled to imply that they were part of the same faux-franchise as Romero and Fulci’s films.

By and large, these movies are remembered by other names – for instance, very few fans remember Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground (Italian: Le notti del terrore; aka: The Nights of Terror, 1981) as Zombie 3 – but there is a small canon of movies that are generally considered Zombi 2 sequels, in part due to their shared production credits, but also due to the way they were shared and compiled on home video. These are: Fulci & Bruno Mattei’s Zombi 3 (1988), which was actually planned as a direct follow-up; Claudio Fragasso’s After Death (Italian: (Italian: Oltre la Morte, 1988), which was initially retitled Zombie 4 for Japanese home video; and Claudio Lattanzi’s zombie-free Killing Birds (Italian: [/i]Uccelli assassini[/i], 1988), which was renamed Zombie 5: Killing Birds by DVD American distributor Shriek Show. Severin Films has not re-released that last one on Blu-ray, so I will not be covering it in the two-part review below.

Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

Zombie 3


A serum dubbed Death One, which reanimates dead animals, is stolen and unleashed in a small resort community. The army tries to contain the spread of murderous living dead, while a group of GIs and coeds on vacation fight for survival.

The Italian extreme horror wave that Fulci had helped kick-off (along with increasingly violent giallo thrillers and cannibal movies) was comparatively short-lived, because it spawned at a time when grindhouses and drive-ins were rapidly being replaced by home video as the prime market for niche genre titles. Awkwardly, the international fanbase was broadening at the same time that its distribution was shrinking. Fulci, who had already made three superior and reasonably successful zombie-themed movies in the years directly following Zombi 2, was on an industry-driven career downturn and was initially eager to revisit his biggest money-maker. Fan magazines (the internet forums of their era) exploded with excitement at the prospect of the Godfather of Gore returning to his stomping grounds. That enthusiasm was quelled when it was reported that Fulci had been replaced by Bruno Mattei, who had drawn ire with his first zombie movie, Hell of the Living Dead (aka: Virus, [i]Night of the Zombies, and Zombie Creeping Flesh, 1980).  According to Fulci, Fragasso and Rossella Drudi’s script was so bad that he chose to cut the whole thing down to about 70 minutes. Fragasso himself seems to verify this and stated that producer Franco Gaudenzi demanded a longer film. Other versions of the story, sometimes attributed to Gaudenzi, claim that Fulci, who had been suffering from diabetes (some say cancer, which is probably inaccurate), was simply too ill to complete the project. The truth is probably a mix of the two.

What’s more important is how the division of labour worked for the film and the results were troublingly generic. Expectedly, there’s none of Fulci’s early ‘80s era gothic glory, though, strangely enough, it doesn’t really feel very much like the less impressive STV movies he had been churning more recently, either; outside of the foggy, diffused look that was popular for the time. Zombi 3 isn’t even particularly Mattei-esque, but there are some especially tedious slow-motion shots of characters skulking around in white hazmat suits, as also seen in Hell of the Living Dead and Rats: Night of Terror (1984). Given what we know about Fulci’s drastically short original cut and what was said about its tone, I do think we can credit Zombie 3’s incredibly frantic action scenes to the maestro. That said, both directors and writers were clearly inspired by Dan O'Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead, which had popularized the concept of running, cognitive, tool-using zombies a few years prior in 1985 (Umberto Lenzi’s pseudo-zombie Nightmare City had done something similar as early as 1980).

Zombie 3 is not good – not even by the specific standards of trashy Italian horror – but, if we separated it from that short-lived golden era of post- Dawn of the Dead Italian splatter and couple it with the faster and dirtier mid-’80s action model, it manages to surpass a glut of uninspired, made for the video market Z-exploitation. Like Fulci’s worst and Mattei’s best, it is propelled past its boringest moments with sudden bursts of insanity and ridiculous violence. The fact that it was cobbled together from at least two different productions makes for a particularly patchy experience, which I suppose is part of the charm. If anything, the boring parts are so dumbfoundingly dull that they kind of circle around to being amusing. And, once you accept that the storyline makes even less sense than the typical Italian splatter thriller (the shortest description is “ Return of the Living Dead meets Hell of the Living Dead”), it’s easy enough to sit calmly and rub your hands with anticipation for the next sprightly action sequence and gooey gore scene. Highlights include a manic bird attack on a Winnebago, a zombie going nuts with a machete only to be blown to bits when he cuts a gas line, and a floating head that inexplicably flies out of a fridge to eat a man’s throat.

Zombie 3 was apparently shot on 35mm, but its foggy cinematography, gritty handheld look, and fact that it was really made for the VHS market set it well below the likes of Zombie. It was never released on tape in the US, though it eventually appeared on DVD from multiple countries, but the only worthwhile versions came from Shriek Show in the US and Another World Entertainment in Norway. Severin’s North American Blu-ray debut is reportedly taken from a new 2K scan and supposedly different from 88 Films’ 2015 UK BD transfer, despite the two companies occasionally sharing sources. I don’t have the 88 Films disc on hand, so I’m only comparing Severin’s 1080p, 1.78:1 transfer to memories of the Shriek Show DVD and old VHS bootlegs. Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised with the quality of the image. Grain levels appear natural, rather than buzzy and chunky, which is an important distinction, given all of the diffused white lights. Sharpness and dynamic quality can shift wildly from scene to scene, but this makes sense, given that two different crews shot the movie. The lush Filipino locations and use of green/red gels ensure that colours are rich and punchy. Print damage is limited to a handful of vertical lines and spots. Compression artefacts are slightly more common and crop up in the form of hot spot bursts.

This disc does not include the original Italian dub, but that doesn’t really matter, since the film was shot without sound (in the Philippines, with a mixed Filipino, American, and Italian cast) and largely intended for an international video release. Also, the English dialogue sits around Mystery Science Theater 3000 levels of hilariousness. You wouldn’t want to miss it. The English dub is presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio mono sound. The track is loud without major distortion issues or volume inconsistencies. Sound range and depth is also decent, considering the single channel treatment. Stefano Mainetti’s energetic, danceable soundtrack is a major highlight, though he recycles a small handful of themes.

Extras include:
  • Commentary with actors Beatrice Ring and Deran Sarafian – This light-hearted track isn’t particularly informative, since neither actor has much knowledge about the production, but it’s still pleasant enough, because everyone is having fun.
  • The Last Zombies (18:49, HD) – Co-writer/uncredited co-director Claudio Fragasso and uncredited co-writer Rossella Drudi talk about the extensive behind-the-scenes issues. Fragasso paints himself as the good guy of the situation – one who refused to do rewrites/reshoots without Fulci’s permission, which is contrary to older interviews, but not uncommon or even necessarily untrue. Drudi is a bit less charitable, which leads to disagreements.
  • Tough Guys (4:55, SD) – Actors/stuntmen Massimo Vanni and Ottaviano Dell’Acqua recall shooting the film on abandoned Apocalypse Now sets, working with Fulci and Mattei, and coordinating/performing the wacky action scenes.
  • The Problem Solver (8:30, SD) – In this archival interview with Mattei, the co-director discusses the logistics of filming the new scenes for his cut.
  • Swimming with Zombies (4:30, SD) – A second archival interview with actress Marina Loi, who recalls working in the Philippines and shooting her particularly spectacular death/rebirth scene.
  • In the Zombie Factory (5:56, SD) – In the final archival interview, FX artist Franco Di Girolamo talks about his work, complete with props – some of which still kind of work.
  • Trailer
  • CD soundtrack (limited edition exclusive)


 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

Zombie 4: After Death


Researchers studying cancer (?) on a remote island are overwhelmed by the living dead when a native witch doctor’s daughter dies and he opens a gateway to Hell. Years later, the surviving daughter of two scientists, now an adult, returns to the island with her mercenary friends (?), where they and an unrelated group of geologists (?) are attacked by zombies.

Fragasso was given a chance to put his own stamp on hyper-violent zombism shortly after Zombie 3, though his film, Zombie 4: After Death, was not designed to be part of any greater franchise. After Death has the strange distinction of being almost the same movie as Zombie 3, yet a more thematically compatible sequel to Zombie or even Fulci’s own follow-ups, City of the Living Dead (Italian: Paura nella città dei morti viventi; aka: Gates of Hell, 1980) and The Beyond (Italian: L'aldilà, 1981), since all three involve characters opening literal gates to Hell. The similarities are tied back to the fact that Fragasso worked on both scripts and was disappointed in what Fulci had done with his ideas. It also helps that the two movies were shot on the same Filipino locations.

First things first, Fragasso’s reputation as an infamously bad filmmaker is well-earned. This notoriety extends beyond Italian horror fanbases thanks to Michael Stephenson’s Best Worst Movie (2009), which chronicles the making-of and cult reaction to Troll 2 – a particularly awful family film Fragasso wrote & directed a couple of years after After Death was released. Fortunately, as that ‘best/worst’ reputation suggests, Fragasso’s work isn’t entirely without its charms and, when he actually applies himself, his ambition sets him apart from the rest of the rabble. Compared to Troll 2, After Death is arguably the superior sampling of his inept, yet fully dedicated technique, though its graphic violence makes it a slightly less inviting viewing experience.

One of After Death’s biggest strengths is the way it tosses the audiences directly into the middle of a budding zombie holocaust. The intended effect is to create a sense of chaotic momentum, but the actual consequence of this choice is a muddled backstory that requires extensive exposition from every single character. Fragasso and returning co-writer (and partner) Drudi continue to complicate the issue by introducing more characters with completely different motivations and vaguely implying a substantial time skip that reframes the entire plot. This sounds bad, but it’s actually quite funny and a good way to pass the time between action and gore scenes. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of dull filler, perhaps even more than seen in Zombie 3, but it still makes for a good party movie experience, assuming your guests have the stomach for the gross-out effects. Fragasso’s gore is far less imaginative than Fulci’s (even on a bad day, ol’ Lucio could crank out a mind-bending set-piece), but there’s definitely not a lack of blood & guts.

After Death was completely unavailable on (legal) North American home video until Shriek Show’s DVD hit the market. Severin’s 1080p, 1.85:1 Blu-ray debut is a huge upgrade, not only because it features a new 2K remaster, but because it is a complete international cut of the film, adding something like seven minutes of footage that was otherwise only available as a non-anamorphic extra on X-Rated Kult’s OOP PAL DVD. The results are similar to the other transfer, though Luigi Ciccarese’s cinematography is even smokier, grimier, and grainier than Riccardo Grassetti’s work on Zombie 3. The chunky grain and soft textures lead to occasional clumping and posterisation effects (some of the church-set scenes toward the end of the movie are particularly snowy), but I’m not sure if we can blame this on compression. The colours aren’t quite as vibrant, either, but Fragasso and Ciccarese do still manage to squeeze in some vivid green, orange, and purple gels during key scenes. It is very likely that this is the best this particular movie will ever look on video.

Again, Severin has only included the English mono dub in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio. The mix is relatively enthusiastic and doesn’t scrimp on the sound effects work during its wackiest moments. The dialogue exhibits minimal hiss and high end distortion is not a problem, unless you count the zombie ‘growls,’ almost all of which are always mixed way too loudly. Again, the music is a big highlight. Composer Al Festa approaches the score from a pop-friendly angle, similar to Mainetti, but also incorporates spooky synth motifs that would fit alongside Fabio Frizzi’s original Zombie score.

Extras include:
  • Run Zombie Run! (31:50, HD) – Another new interview Fragasso and Drudi, guest-starring their giant orange cat. Despite more behind-the-scenes issues, they had more creative control over this particular production, so even their difficult memories are reflected upon in a brighter light than those of Zombie 3. They also dig into their opinions on zombie fiction, from Night of the Living Dead to The Walking Dead, while including some, we’ll say, ‘problematic’ political opinions.
  • Jeff Stryker in Manila (9:32, HD) – Actor Chuck Peyton talks about his prolific career as a gay/straight porn icon Jeff Stryker and his brief bout in Italian genre cinema.
  • Blonde vs Zombies (2:18, HD) – A final and short interview with actress Candice Daly, who has some amusing anecdotes about the awful working conditions. Quite tragically, she was found dead under suspicious circumstances in 2004.
  • Behind-the-scenes video footage (3:43, HD)
  • Trailer
  • CD soundtrack (limited edition exclusive)


 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature

 Zombie Pseudo-Sequel Double-Feature


* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-rays, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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