Lucio Fulci's Zombie

Watching Lucio Fulci's Zombie again and trying to compare it with Romero's Dead movies.

Well, you miss the realism of Tom Savini's makeup (which is so crucial to the Dead films he should be credited as co-director--and Romero as much as admits Savini directs the scenes in question). Despite Ian McCulloch's disparaging remark that the undead in Zombie look 'dead' where those in Romero's Dawn of the Dead look like 'actors in rubber suits,' Savini really gets the details and textures and even internal anatomy right (McCulloch probably hasn't seen what Savini could do in Day of the Dead), not to mention there's actually a rationale for the successively more gruesome makeup--as each movie (Dawn and Day) is set some years after the previous one, the zombies rot accordingly.

Then there's the fact that while Romero has always worked with small budgets, Fulci's film has that 'no-money' look (they get kicked out of a newspaper office by Rupert Murdoch when their unauthorized shoot--they had asked a janitor for permission--interrupts a meeting).

Despite which, there's something to Fulci's film. Where Romero does (usually sharp) social commentary, Fulci does frank eroticism--at one point, Auretta Gay goes on a scuba dive in her glorious altogether (with a closeup of her tightening a crotch strap that makes your eyes want to cross), and later has an encounter with a zombie with a rather sensual slant (she struggles with him wedged between her legs, in a slow-motion parody of rape). (SPOILERS) The shark topping off the scene looks uncomfortably real--you wonder if the stuntman they used actually survived the shoot (END SPOILERS).

Then there's that one notorious scene--y'know what I'm talking about--that illustrates all the differences between Romero and an Italian filmmaker like Fulci. Romero's got an unflinching eye--he shoots the most graphic horrors straight on, no frills, with bright lights to catch all the splashing gore. Fulci savors his horrors--when (SPOILERS) arms grab the woman head, Fulci gives you an extended, breathless moment where her eye is suspended before the wooden spike. And he doesn't just film it going in (with accompanying exploitation-flick shriek sound effect--just to make sure you jump, if someone isn't already screaming), he has to show you the eyeball tearing sideways, to emphasize the fact that it's in there and not going out except in the most agonizing manner (SPOILER END).

There's a cruelty to Italian horror filmmakers that outstrips any other nationality I can think of (Hong Kong filmmakers may do lengthy closeups, but you don't get the sense that they're enjoying the blood and pain, at least not to the same degree). Wonderful filmmakers, but with radically different flavors.

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