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Reviews 31 Days of Horror VI

Zombi 4: After Death

Zombi 4: After Death

After Death / Oltre la morte

Claudio Fragasso

Italy, 1988

Credits

Review by Thomas Scalzo

Posted on 28 October 2009

Source Shriek Show DVD

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Categories 31 Days of Horror VI

Another Zombie flick, another plot unrelated to those of its forbearers, and another unique ghoul-origin explanation. Though Zombi 3 ended with humanity’s eminent downfall in the face of a worldwide zombie apocalypse, the story here begins as though zombies had never been. And where Zombie (aka Zombi 2) offered little more than vague hints as to the source of the revenant undead, and Zombi 3 blamed biological weapons, After Death hinges on a voodoo curse that opens a gate to hell and compels the dead to return to earth and feed on the living.

Part of this inconsistency in series storytelling is attributable to the ever-changing creative teams behind these films. Where Lucio Fulci directed Zombi 2, and co-directed Zombi 3, he’s nowhere to be seen on this project. And although the writer of 3 shows up here to direct, he does not reprise his screenwriting role. But these films were never intended to offer a sweeping, Romero-esque vision of humanity’s future, regardless of who made them. They were created for uncomplicated entertainment and quick profit—the recognizable Zombi name slapped onto muddled living dead pictures to entice customers. (As evidenced by 4’s title card, which contains only the words After Death, omitting any mention of the Zombi moniker.)

In pursuit of this pecuniary goal, 4 borrows heavily from any and all sources of popular zombie fare, including the work of Fulci, Romero, and even Raimi. From a mirroring of Zombie’s isolated island setting, to an abandoned building-siege setpiece that is part Night of the Living Dead farmhouse, part Zombie rural hospital, to the reenactment of Dawn of the Dead’s scene of a solider watching in horror as his dead buddy returns to life, elements of genre classics are brazenly recreated throughout. There’s even an Evil Dead-esque Book of the Dead containing magic spells capable of reviving the deceased and opening a portal to hell.

Despite its unoriginality, After Death is what it sets out to be: a mindlessly fun zombie movie, particularly once the scientist investigating the source of the voodoo curse meets up with a gang of ex-military men ostensibly on the island to further their hazily defined careers as soldiers of fortune. As this ragged band shelters in an dilapidated shack, and takes up arms against the relentless hordes incessantly ascending from shallow graves, we’re treated to several lively sequences of machine-gun zombie slaughter, a few dangerous romps through undulating graveyards, and some truly disgusting special effects, including a strapping zombie using one of his victims as a human puppet.

And lest anyone think Italian gore fests are without heart, I hereby present the following transcription of a rare moment of quiet during the zombie siege:

As Dan stands watch, peering out into a fog-enshrouded field, Louise approaches.

Louise:
I couldn’t get to sleep so I thought I could keep you company.

Dan puts his arm around Louise.

Dan:
Okay, I understand. It isn’t easy to sleep… on a hot night like this… and this fog.

Louise:
Aren’t you frightened?

Dan:
Sure, it’s only natural to feel frightened. It’s fear that saves your life when you’re fighting, waiting for Charlie to drop out of the trees at night. Those are the times that really count for something in a man’s life, when you discover if you’ve got balls or not.

Louise:
And do you?

Dan pauses for a moment to heighten the impact of his next words.

Dan:
I found out one thing: when a man’s afraid he’s going to die, there’s nothing he wants more than a woman by his side. And I want you.

Beautiful.

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