To tell you about the origins of Zombie Flesh Eaters and the interesting stories surrounding it would be a lengthy post in itself.
Seeing as how this is a review, we’ll cut a long story short. Zombie Flesh Eaters is a previously banned zombie film that was heavily censored and released under various names during the ‘video nasties’ era.
Thankfully, the original version of the film has now been restored and released in its original state.
The story in Zombie Flesh Eaters is a simple one.
When an apparently unmanned yacht floats into a New York harbour the harbour patrol are curious about its origins. Unfortunately the boat isn’t as empty as it seems and the inspection inadvertently releases a zombie, causing mayhem.
A young woman named Anne Bowles is called in for questioning as the boat is connected to her father (with whom she lost contact in mysterious circumstances). Eager to find out what happened to her father, Anne teams up with a local reporter and they fly to some remote tropical islands to investigate further.
They soon discover that one of the islands is in the grip of a nasty disease/curse that’s turning the inhabitants into zombies. As is usually the case, the infection spreads fast and soon the remaining humans have to fight for survival to escape the island and do their bit to prevent the contagion from going global.
Zombie Flesh Eaters is typical of the genre of the period. The acting isn’t great, the script is lacking somewhat, the story has holes and the effects are a tad extreme with attention grabbing gore taking precedence over realism.
Also, being a Lucio Fulci film, it suffers from bad dubbing, which too is characteristic of films of this period from Italian origins. This can be a little distracting to the point of irritation, depending on the film and what kind of mood you’re in.
So, why is Zombie Flesh Eaters so well known? And how did it rank so highly in the Love Horror Top 10 Zombie Films list?
Well, a lot of that has to do with when the film was released.
By modern standards, Zombie Flesh Eaters isn’t original and may look cheap. But given the budget that the film was produced on (around £170,000 according to a very quick calculation) the effects and scenery are very impressive. Particularly when compared to its bigger budget peers.
Story-wise, it’s important to consider that the concepts of a zombie apocalypse were all fresh and new, with only Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Living Dead in existence to influence the tale.
And although the ‘Living Dead’ films are generally attributed to influencing most or even all zombie movies created since the 80’s, it’s pretty clear that Zombie Flesh Eaters has been just as influential – most crucially with its references to voodoo and the unforgiving uber-gore that made it so popular, whilst also condemning it to heavy censorship.
From the terrifying, slow, lumbering zombies to the synth heavy soundtrack and random female nudity Zombie Flesh Eaters oozes classic quality (from a rotting eye socked probably).
The fact that this film is rough around the edges suits the feel and subject matter. And if, back in 1979, you’d been told that this movie had been found on an abandoned yacht, you may well have believed it.
I like to think of Zombie Flesh Eaters at the precursor to every filmic zombie outbreak since… That it was the voodoo curse on Matool Island that spread to the Americas and acted as a catalyst for the events in Night, Dawn and Day of the Dead.
Looked at from this perspective, and through the rose tinted spectacles of a cinema goer from the 1970’s, Zombie Flesh Eaters is even more fun and nasty.
The film is an invaluable piece of horror history due to its great influence and notoriety. Better still, it’s hugely enjoyable to watch, particularly in its fully restored and uncut state.
If you care anything for zombies, horror or classic cinema in general watching Zombie Flesh Eaters is an essential part of your personal development.