Zombi 3 (1973) (aka The Hanging Woman)

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This is, as far as I can tell, the last of the part 3s. To recap for those of you reading this site for the first time (weird review to choose to join us on, but whatever), “Dawn Of The Dead” was released as “Zombi” in Italy and elsewhere in the world, a version edited by Dario Argento. Since Italian law allowed movies to claim themselves as sequels to whatever they liked, the distributors of “Zombi” immediately knocked out a “Zombi 2” (the genuinely brilliant “Zombie Flesh Eaters”), and since then, it’s been pretty much a free-for-all. There’s an “official” part 3, 4 and 5, but for reasons which I’m now beginning to regret, I decided to review every movie that’s ever claimed to be part of this series. This is the sixth “Zombi 3” (behind “Zombie Flesh Eaters 2”, “Nightmare City”, “Nights Of Terror”, “The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue”, and “Zombie Holocaust”), and much like all of them – deep breath – is known by a variety of titles.

 

AKA – Beyond the Living Dead; Dracula the Terror of the Living Dead; Bracula The Terror of the Living Dead (not a misprint, there’s a minor character called Bracula in this); The Orgy Of The Dead; Beyond The Evil Dead, and these are just the English-language titles.

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The curiosity doesn’t stop there. Made in Spain under Franco’s fascist dictatorship, but filmed in Macedonia (if the few road signs I saw were to be believed) and according to a few other reviewers, set in Scotland? I’m not sure anyone who was involved this movie had ever been to Scotland, seen a photo of Scotland or were aware there was a country called Scotland before production started, but never mind that, as the locations are one of the unqualified wins for this movie – what looks like a preserved medieval village is the backdrop, and there are some superb ruins used as backdrop near the end. It’s the sort of landscape and building you really rarely get in modern horror cinema, which is more bothered about being as cheap as possible, artistry be damned, so kudos to “The Hanging Woman”.

 

So it’s a real shame when the rest of the movie doesn’t bother supplying the same atmosphere. Serge Chekov (what a wonderful Scottish name) is off to his Uncle’s house for the reading of his will, and if you’ve ever seen a Hammer horror film, you’ll know exactly what comes next. Weird characters behaving in red-herring-y ways, mysterious beautiful women, an odd fellow with his own lab in the cellar – okay, that’s not too common – and an odd-looking servant who knows more than he’s letting on. That servant, Igor (yes!) is played by a fellow called Paul Naschy, and he’s beloved among fans of Spanish horror for a lifetime of creepy performances like this one. He’s the only really interesting character in the whole movie, with his, er, “closeness” to the female corpses in the family mausoleum. I’m happy to report that the title of this movie is entirely correct – Serge does encounter a hanging woman on his way to the house, the daughter of the dead man (Igor seems to enjoy having her around, as it were).

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A lot of people will defend this sort of thing as “gothic” horror, but unless “gothic” has changed meaning to “stultifyingly dull” in recent years, I’d have to disagree. When you’ve seen one set of overdressed late-Victorian people arguing in a drawing room, you’ve seen em all, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a BBC costume drama or a Spanish “zombie” movie, it’s equally boring. Static shots, ugly rooms, actors hampered by poor dialogue and dubbing – it’s embarrassing how little actually happens in this movie.

 

A quick word about women, once again. By the way, I’ve seen so many European 70s / 80s horror movies recently that I think I accidentally turned into a sexist. There are two women in this movie, one’s a slutty gold-digging witch (literally, in the case of the witch thing), whereas the other is absolutely useless and exists solely to be saved by Serge. I’m sick to death of movies that treat women like this, and while they’re more likely to just be the object of lust these days, there’s still many more decent parts for women than there were – I think the “Final Girl” trope is problematic, but wow is it ever better than this.

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For absolutely no reason that I can see, as it makes him a villain from even a casual viewer’s standpoint, Serge (who’s inherited the house by this point) demands that the sweet, innocent girl takes her clothes off in front of him, because she said she’d do anything to allow her father (the scientist fellow) to stay in the house and continue his research. He sits there, casually smoking, while this extremely distressed girl gets topless in front of him, then when he’s done so he reveals he’s already agreed to let the father stay, and she should put her clothes on and get out, as she’s making him angry. You know, like heroes do! The entire scene takes place with no music, which makes it even weirder, as there’s nothing to distract you. That the two of them fall in love later is a pretty dumb development.

 

I’ve barely recapped the plot, have I? Or talked about zombies? Well, in the first case, it’s a simple “who’s killing everyone in the house?” and in the second, it’s because the zombies don’t show up til…63 minutes in. 63 minutes! Screw you, movie! The last ten minutes or so is pretty good fun, as Serge keeps burning zombies, only to have the police show up seconds after they stopped moving, making him look guilty as hell. If you’re interested, it’s to do with a capsule implanted in the brain which gets the corpse walking round again, but leaves them blind (doesn’t touch those nerves). If you’re wondering how scary it is to have blind zombies slowly chasing you, the answer is “not very”. No matter how much melodramatic music they slap on these scenes, it’s just “run round them, try not to make any noise, and you’ll be fine”. Oh, and it’s got one of those garbage “they’re not all dead!” endings that flies in the face of the logic the movie bothered building to that point. Ho hum. Although I did like the permanently drunk soldier, clearly slotted in for comic relief.

 

Director Jose Luis Merino knew what he was doing with his exteriors, which look fantastic and very unique, and I suppose the rest of the movie is shot fine, with the exception of day and night changing almost constantly, which even my wife (who had stopped paying attention quite early on) noticed. it just feels really old fashioned. With a few minor edits for nudity, gore, and – I suppose – strongly implied necrophilia, it could easily be one of those deathly dull TV movies that always seemed to be shown on rainy Sunday afternoons. It feels much more like a very weak Hammer movie than it does a sequel to two of the greatest horror movies of all time.

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I think, most of all, the blatant false advertising annoyed me. Calling this “Beyond The Evil Dead” is an absolute joke, and the distributors (no doubt tricking some people, with a copyright-mocking VHS cover) are scum. Let’s stop pussy-footing around, we deserve better than this, and every time we allow people to make money from tricking us, and then play it off as fun or a bit cheeky, we allow money that could have been spent on something good into the hands of people whose sole interest is that money, and not decent entertainment.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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