Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Night of the Zombies (1980)

...aka: Cannibal Virus
...aka: Hell of the Living Dead
...aka: Virus
...aka: Zombi 4
...aka: Zombi 5: Ultimate Nightmare
...aka: Zombie Creeping Flesh
...aka: Zombie Inferno
...aka: Zombie of the Savanna

Directed by:
Bruno Mattei

Bruno Mattei, the man responsible for such cinematic classics as S.S. EXTERMINATION LOVE CAMP and WOMEN'S PRISON MASSACRE, used the alias "Vincent Dawn" for this dreary, dull and dire mess of a zombie flick, which was released on video and DVD under about ten different titles to throw you off. Hope Center 1, a secret laboratory on a secluded island working on a new form for population control, instead accidentally release a toxic green gas into the air that cause the dead to rise from their graves. The zombies, just like in almost every other post-Romero movie, feast on human flesh and are killed by smashing the brain. The make-up designs alternate between being acceptable to downright awful. After an extremely blatant rip-off of the tenement scenes in DAWN OF THE DEAD (complete with soldiers in blue uniforms versus unlawful citizens with guns against the same exact Goblin score used in DAWN!), four television reporters show up in a deserted town in New Guinea. One of the guys is eaten by a zombie kid and a woman is killed and strung up. Only Max (Selan Karay) and Lia (Margit Evelyn Newton) survive, they are joined by four of the blue garbed infantrymen and venture off toward Hope Center 1 to find out what's going on. On the way, they come across a primitive tribe and Lea (with formal native training) opens her top, paints her body and goes undercover to investigate. This is when we get lots of mondo footage like real dead bodies (scenes were snagged from the documentary DES MORTS/OF THE DEAD), a real alligator gutting and real maggot eating (it's brief, dark and hard to see). Yum!

We also get nonstop nature footage of monkeys, lots of birds and other animals doing their thing in slow motion to pad out the running time. After lots of close calls, the group (who behave like morons the entire time) finally make it to their destination only to be slaughtered by zombie lab technicians. There's lots of gut munching and one memorable scene involving a face getting ripped apart. Euro horror regulars "Frank Garfield" (Franco Garofalo) and Victor Israel pop up in small roles, and the highly annoying José Gras, star of the appallingly awful biker/gore/rape-revenge "classic" MAD FOXES (1981) is one of the infantrymen. Writer Claudio Fragasso claims to have directed at least half of this... and I believe him! The best thing about this movie is the reused Goblin music (some of which came from Luigi Cozzi's ALIEN CONTAMINATION). Anyway... Why not just go for the real deal and rent DAWN OF THE DEAD again?
One more thing - This one's not to be confused with the American Nazi zombie film of the same name that was made around the same time. That film actually changed its title to NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES II for the video release so it wouldn't be mistaken for this one, while this one possibly changed its original release title VIRUS so it wouldn't be confused another 1980 release called, you guessed it - VIRUS. Got that?

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