Opening with a splendid shot of New York Harbor with an abandoned boat being searched by two patrolmen; one is killed by a zombie, the other kills the zombie. At that point no matter what I have heard about the film can keep me from getting excited; I had this sudden rush of hope that at least a portion of the film would take place in the always fascinating New York City. But I was wrong, what a shocker. Right after that satisfying start the film becomes distasteful, situational camp.
Zombi 2 is a perfect example of exploitive marketing -- using the technique of presenting it as a sequel when it isn't, and pawning off the success of zombie master George A. Romero's classic, Dawn of the Dead (1978) -- released as Zombi in Italy. Over time is has become widely known that direction Lucio Fulci wrote his script after the release of Dawn of the Dead, even using it as an inspiration for his own script. In many ways those were all genius tricks, but what makes it seem pathetic is how lousy the film is that gained success of those tactics.
Tisa Farrow and Ian McCulloch lead a pack of terrible performances; Farrow playing Anne Bowles, the annoying daughter of the opening boat's captain and McCulloch playing Peter West, who is simply, an annoying, wimpy reporter. Among them there is the cliche masculine presence played by Al Cliver and Auretta Gay's perpetual dumbfoundment and casual nudity. They all go on a search for Anne's father and after a ridiculous, yet undeniably fascinating scene where a zombie fights a shark the group reaches a remote island. The most unfortunate performance of all is Richard Johnson's as Dr. David Menard. Dr. Menard is the physician of the island who is desperately looking for a "scientific" solution to what the natives are calling a voodoo ritual that is bringing the dead back to life. His character should be the deepest, but Johnson's poor acting and the lack of development creates just another wooden character.
Italian director Lucio Fulci had been directing for around 20 years, with an exhausting filmography, prior to this film. Zombi 2's popularity in Europe helped Fulci become a respected name in horror and its success helped finance future films. His complete lack of plot creating and his desperate attempts and stylization reduce the film to rubble. Strong visual effects are hurt by excessive and poorly moderated gore. What the film becomes is just a bunch of forced situations where the bloodiest of deaths are able to occur, quite predictable. The now famous "Eye Splinter" is an example of the distasteful use of violence that Fulci ever so relies on.
It is the political subtext and studying of paranoia that make George A Romero's zombie films work so well -- not to mention he gets strong performances out of little-known actors/actresses. Romero takes the time that Fulci uses to come up with overly gruesome, pointless set ups for his violence to create relatable caricatures of everyday people that bring a horrifying realism to his films. Fulci's directs a completely ridiculous plot filled consisting of voodoo rituals and mad-scientist schemes with characters to idiotic to relate with. Another director he has been compared with is the master of giallo horror, Dario Argento. Argento's style mocks Fulci; the way he lets his hyperactive camera movements toy with viewers and corrupt out minds with intense scores that work in perfect unison with shocking violence. Two superior directors, whom you could watch their films -- Romero's Dawn of the Dead and Argento's Suspiria preferably -- and then watch this film and instantly notice the superiorities.
Style over substance isn't even the right way of explaining this film since the style isn't much better. It isn't until the final showdown that cinematographer Sergio Salvati is able to utilize any sort of chilling atmosphere, even then the same out problems arise again (what a pun!). Anyway, by then you will want the surviving characters to die more than the zombies. To see directors like Lucio Fulci getting major success, mostly from weird cult followings, and then to watch the films that brought them such popularity only to watch a pathetic film is quite infuriating. I guess his use of violence had some strong points and their definitely is talent in the creation of his zombies but that isn't much. A gang of dedicated supporters will probably torch my house for what I have said. Although, by torching my house they would be destroying one more copy of this film. It is futile to think like that, films like this always find somebody to love them, and I guess everything also deserves to be loved.