Saturday, 12 January 2008

Zombi 4 (aka Zombie 4 aka After Death) (1988)

"Does this look infected to you?"

At the end of my review of Zombi 3 I mentioned the never-ending rabbit hole of bad films. Just when you think you've found the worst that cinema can offer, you'll stumble across something that will lower the bar even further. Such is the case with Zombi 4, or After Death as it's actually called, the name Zombie 4 was retrofitted to tie it to the Zombi series. In Zombi 3, Claudio Fragasso was writer, but in this film Fragasso was elevated to the position of director and if you thought he sucked as a writer, well, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

At this time Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso were busy shooting Strike Commando 2 in the Phillipines. In order to recoup some of the costs of filming, they decided to shoot Strike Commando 2 during the day, and use the same sets and cameras to shoot Zombi 4 at night. They even flew out (star of Strike Commando 2) Brent Huff's fiance (Candace Daly) to play the main role, simply because he missed her. The results are just as rushed and sloppy as you'd expect, probably moreso.

The film opens on a tropical island with a bunch of scientists trying to track down a chubby voodoo priest as he performs some sort of voodoo ritual. Apparently the scientists were working on a cell regeneration serum but they didn't get results quick enough and the voodoo priest's cancer-riddled daughter died. An argument ensues and priest is killed, but not before the ritual is completed and his wife changes into a drooling demon. In the ensuing melee all of the scientists are killed except for one women and her little girl. She gives her daughter a necklace and tells her to run, then is quickly killed by, I don't know, zombie ninjas or something.

Flash forward twenty years, and the girl is now a sexy woman named Jenny on a boat with a bunch of hairy mercenary stereotypes. I don't know if they're on a mission or what, but they've got a bunch of chicks and beer with them. The woman suddenly remembers that this is the island where her mother was killed (must have slipped her mind), so they all decide it's a good idea to wander aimlessly through the jungle until they are attacked by zombies.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the island, three scientists (one of whom, Chuck, is played by gay porn star Jeff Stryker!) stumble across what I suppose is the old voodoo site, complete with candles, still burning after 20 years. Of course one skeptical scientist starts reading voodoo incantations aloud, thus raising some more zombies (I guess the zombies already on the island weren't enough). So are the zombies caused by the regeneration serum or the voodoo? I don't know and I suspect neither does Fragasso. Chuck gets torn up pretty bad, which should turn him into a zombie, but luckily Fragasso is too incompetent to remember.

The mercenaries and Chuck hole up in the remains of the facility. They find some weapons and more still-lit candles, which Jenny remembers are supposed to protect them from the zombies. Naturally, one of the guys blows them out because he is an idiot. One of the injured mercenaries dies and comes back as a zombie, complete with ability to speak and fire automatic weapons. Zombies amass outside and the remaining people are picked off one by one. Jenny and Chuck almost escape but Chuck ends up dead and Jenny is turned into some sort of demon thing. Cue terrible Euro rock song and roll credits.

Like in Zombi 3, the zombies are maddeningly un-zombie-like, often leaping through windows or staging ambushes. Actually, the whole film shares a lot more in common with Lamberto Bava's Demons, or Raimi's Evil Dead than any zombie film. I wouldn't have imagined it possible to dumb down the Zombi series, but this entry easily limbos under that bar. At least Zombi 3's stunning incompetence was fun to watch.

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