What’s great about a zombie flick is that it doesn’t need much of a plot to be a success. It can just lurch from set piece to set piece until the main cast is winnowed down enough to call it a day. That makes zombies a perfect subject matter for Italian director Lucio Fulci.
Zombi 3 is the 1988 entry in a film series that requires its own Wikipedia page to make sense of. According to the internet, so it must be true, the screenplay was developed by Rossella Drudi, but it was her husband, Claudio Fragasso, who got the credit. Lucio Fulci is the only credited director, but, again according to the internet, he delivered a 70-minute cut that producer Franco Gaudenzi was not happy with. So, Gaudenzi enlisted Fragasso and Bruno Mattei to carry out reshoots, with Fragasso handling most of the work. The result is an 84-minute long film that makes up for its lack of cohesion with a boatload of blood and guts.
Bearing no relation in plot or characters to Zombi 2, Zombi 3 shifts the action from the Caribbean to the Philippines. There, Dr. Holder (Robert Marius) has been developing a serum called Death One, which he hopes can be used to resurrect the dead. It does that, but also turns them into bloodthirsty zombies.
A terrorist group attacks the research facility, and one manages to escape with the serum, but not before being infected by it. Injured and increasingly ravenous for human flesh, the terrorist does the natural thing, and checks into a nearby hotel. There, he infects a bellboy before being recaptured and sent to a crematorium for disposal. The smoke from the crematorium rises into the air, and infects every bird in sight with the undead serum. So, take your pick. Was it the bellboy who spreads zombie-ism amongst the locals, or was it the birds? Doesn’t matter.
Next viewers meet the protagonists of the film, in the form of merry vacationers, and a trio of American soldiers out on a weekend pass. There are more characters than credited cast members in this film, but the principles (that is, the ones with the most lines of dialogue) are Patricia (Beatrice Ring), soldiers Kenny, Roger, and Bo (Deran Sarafian, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, and Massimo Vanni), and Carole (Marina Loi).
The zombie outbreak spreads rapidly throughout the area, sending the group from one location to another as they seek out safety. Meanwhile, the military has gotten involved. General Morton (Mike Monty) has decided that there is nothing to be done to save the local population, so he orders the area of infection closed, and anyone inside it to be killed, whether or not they are infected.
That’s about it for plot. There is some makework for the scientists as they try and craft a vaccine, but that’s just filler. This film is all about the main cast meeting their ends at the hands of the zombie hoard. And a glorious hoard it is.
There’s not a lot of realism in the makeup and gore effects. The sheer volume of ghastliness is what keeps this film watchable. Fulci, and by extension Fragasso and Mattei, never let the viewer sit on their laurels for longer than a couple of minutes. No matter where the cast goes, it’s only a matter of time before some grey-faced and splotched zombie comes rambling out of nowhere looking for a meal. Soon the group will be threatened by a seemingly inescapable slow-moving stampede of the undead, but usually only one or two will be killed before the cast flees elsewhere. Rinse, repeat, until the inevitable final scene. Maybe some survive, maybe everyone dies. I won’t spoil the ending.
I did have an internal debate about whether to add this film to the Shitty Movie Sundays Watchability Index. I had quite a fun time watching it, and the pace was good. However, the high amount of reshoots, the general silliness of action scenes, an earworm of a score by Stefano Mainetti, and a flying zombie head decided the issue for me. That, and the performance from Marius, who was overacting to such an extent that it gave the poor guy dubbing his voice the fits.
My favorite moment of shitty filmmaking, though, is when the beleaguered group arrives at an abandoned hotel and finds a crate of military weapons they can use to fight back the undead. Deus ex flamethrower!
Zombi 3 is very watchable, and completely shameless. It suffers from none of the somnambulism that plagues many other Fulci films. The entire package is not fun enough to crack the top 50, but it ranks high in the index, displacing Maniac Cop at #65. Check it out.