Zombi 3 (1980) (aka “Zombie Holocaust”)

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It’s (not very good) joke time!

Calling this movie “Zombie Holocaust” is like:

 

We’re up to the fourth movie to be called “Zombi 3”, or as my wife described it this morning, “is it the one in the jungle? Or the one in the Peak District? Or the one with the creepy man-child who eats his mother’s breast? Or the other one in the jungle?” Dear reader, I can confirm that this is “the other one in the jungle”, and I can also confirm that had it gone under a more literal title, say “The Idiots, The Cannibals, The Mad Scientist and Maybe Two Zombies”, I probably wouldn’t have bothered watching it.

 

Movies like this are the reason I had a rule of zombie movies – that if one doesn’t show up in the first 20 minutes, unless it’s really really good, I’m turning it off. The first zombie doesn’t show up til 48 minutes into an 84 minute movie; and the first act is entirely different to what comes after, with all sorts of setup which leads nowhere (in other words, padding). What this movie is, of course, is a weak rehash of “Cannibal Holocaust”, perhaps the most notorious of all the “video nasties”, and one which I’d struggle to watch again (especially as I’m a vegetarian now). I’d struggle to watch this again too, but that’s because if someone put it on in my presence I’d assume I was being tortured or had died, and was in Hell.

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The first portion of the movie is set largely at a teaching hospital in the city, where someone is stealing body parts. This bit also features one of my most hated things – the university lecture which operates as exposition, pitched at a level so basic children would understand it, much less medical students (the professor talks about the shape of the stomach, for example. Really?) So a corpse gets wheeled in, missing a hand, and the students make a joke about it, to which the professor gets super-annoyed and tells them a sick sense of humour has no place in a hospital. What? Pretty much the only thing I know about doctors is they have sick senses of humour!

 

Anyway, blah blah blah, they catch a guy in the process of eating a heart, he jumps out of a window to his death, but he’s got a weird symbol branded onto his chest, the same as the symbol on the sacrificial dagger that the movie’s “star”, Lori (Alexandra Delli Colli) has on her wall. Her apartment is like a 70s nightmare, with all the faux-African items everywhere, and is therefore the most amazing set in the entire movie.

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Because the symbol leads them to a jungle island where a cannibal culture still exists, who hate any attempts at imposing Western culture. Or something. Honestly, I was irritated with it by this point, and nothing that happened the rest of the movie improved my mood at all. Lori, Dr Chandler (Ian McCulloch), who I think works for the police?, Dr Chandler’s assistant who I can’t be bothered to learn the name of, and Susan, the reporter (Sherry Buchanan, who was way too beautiful and talented to be 5th billed in garbage like this) all head off to the Caribbean to meet Dr Chandler’s old friend, the definitely-not-a-lunatic Dr Obrero (Donald O’Brien).  That he’s called “Dr Butcher” in the US version, and the movie is also known as “Dr Butcher MD”, might be a slight clue that he’s not on the level.

 

Bloody hell, recapping this is miserable. Anyway, the island has cannibals on it. Dr Butcher is turning some cannibals into zombies with his brain transplant technology (but he only manages two, so the movie tells us). Susan becomes Queen of the cannibals and there’s a big fight between the cannibals and the doctor. I think a few people escape, although I’d genuinely given up by that point. A lot of people will tell you how OTT and therefore brilliant Dr Butcher’s performance is, but those people are liars.

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They copy as much of the gore from “Cannibal Holocaust” as they can manage, and it’s plenty gross – people get their eyes eaten, body parts are flung about willy-nilly, and most of the cast get their chests torn open and their guts ripped out at some point. It’s well done, I guess, and if your sole interest is seeing as much of that sort of thing as possible, this will be an adequate entertainment for you. The zombie makeup is pathetic, though, consisting solely of “masks” of skull and rotting flesh put over the top of peoples’ heads, with no other colouring to the rest of the body or anything like that.

 

One interesting thing is that this movie used the same sets as Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi 2”, which we loved. I didn’t even notice til I read it this morning, which indicates how much I enjoyed Fulci’s movie and how little I enjoyed this. In “Zombi 2”, the jungle looked alien and atmospheric, but here it’s just sort of flat and boring, and even the buildings – although they’re the same buildings – look rubbish. It’s interesting to see how two movies, filmed reasonably close together in the same place, can look so different.

 

The thing that made “Cannibal Holocaust” interesting, on top of the is-it-real gore and animal slaughter, is the central conceit, of it being a discovered film from a group of people who went missing. Sounds unoriginal now, but blame “Blair Witch” for that. With that, there was no real letup from everything trying to kill them, or other things around them being killed; “Zombie Holocaust” just rubs your face in the gore, shouting “look at me! Look at me!” but the stuff in between those sections is tedious. And the first half, especially, is nothing – you could recap it in ten seconds and not miss a thing.

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All this could be related to the director, one Marino Girolami. He retired from filmmaking a couple of years after this came out, and was 66 at the time of filming, which is pretty old for a guy trekking through the jungle filming guts being eaten. Girolami got his start making knockabout comedies (it seems Italy had a thing for movies made up of multiple “sketches” in the early 60s), then followed then followed trends for the rest of his career – westerns, gangster movies, and gore. Until some site is really hard up on articles and can’t write about one of the big directors again, he’s unlikely to have his career looked back on with much fondness.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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