Zombie 4: After Death (1988)
Director: Claudio Fragasso
(credited as Clyde Anderson)
2.5 / 5 zedheads
In what is either a clever homage to the way Italian filmmakers used to shamelessly name their films to associate them with unrelated franchises (i.e. Bruno Mattei's Terminator II) or in what was a shameless attempt by Shriek Show to justify a box set, Shriek Show released the Italian zombie film After Death as Zombie 4 although it was never known under that title until now. It has no real connection to the previous Zombi films and was shot by the infamous Claudio Fragasso in two weeks on a budget so small it might as well not have existed at all. That being said, even though Fragasso admits the movie stinks and says it is worse than Zombi 3, I adamantly disagree!
After Death is marginally better.
Yesterday, I called Zombi 3 so bad it's BAD. After Death is definitely worse, don't kid yourself there, but it is delightful in its total lack of logic and sense. With Zombi 3 you could tell people were trying to make a real movie and failing, but when Fragasso began work on After Death he must have said, "You know what? Fuck sense. Fuck sense in the ear."
That is why the film begins with a misleading voice-over that suggests a group of scientists on a remote island unleashed a zombie curse, but then those same scientists (touting semi-automatic weapons) encounter a voodoo priest who blames them for killing his daughter. He is the one who actually releases the curse, then a lot of the scientists die, and after an inexplicable cut later we see a family trying to escape the island. Mom and Dad die after Mom gives her daughter a mystical necklace, and the little girl runs into the bush. Mommy tells her daughter that if she runs really fast and is obedient then Mommy will join her. WTF lady! You know you're going to die, so when you don't show up later the kid is going to assume it was because she wasn't obedient. I guess if you're going to die getting munched on by zombies, why not add an additional layer of trauma to your child's psyche?
Without any sense of transition or time cut, a boat suddenly comes into the harbour. If you blink, you'll miss the fact that one girl on the boat, Jenny (Candice Daly), is that very same girl with the necklace, all growed up. She's traveling with two other attractive young adults (Tommy and Louise) and three scraggly mercenaries. Why a group of mercenaries are traveling with a bunch of floozies is never explained. I think they were all scammed into coming to the island by Zombi Island Timeshares, Inc. They can be very persuasive on the phone. Regardless, Jenny doesn't appear to remember ever being on the island or how she ever got off it when abandoned by her psychologically abusive mother. Her amnesia is probably for the best: I would try to forget the beginning of this movie too if I were her.
Then we are "introduced" to three hikers trying to discover what happened to the scientists from the beginning of the film. The only hiker to survive and meet up with the other group is played by Chuck Peyton, otherwise known in the gay film business as Jeff Stryker. Jeff Stryker is not famous for the size of his roles but the size of something else, which has been immortalized on an erotic action figure and as a dildo. If you Google "Jeff Stryker" without any safe search barriers, you'll see exactly what I mean. Fragasso claims not to have known about Chuck's other work when he was cast, but Fragrasso obviously knew how to emphasize Stryker's assets. Instead of looking at the DVD time stamp, you can judge how close you are to the end of the movie based on how much of Chuck's chest and abs are revealed as his shirt becomes progressively more tattered.
So, before dying, the hikers awaken the zombies (again?) and Jenny babbles on about the Third door to hell. For a woman who doesn't remember shit about her childhood, she sure seems to know an intuitive lot about the occult. Ultimately, her knowledge and necklace do not help anyone. In fact, everyone in this film is completely useless. For soldiers of fortune, the mercenaries are incompetent. Tommy gets himself infected when he spots the first zombie on the island and inexplicably runs after it (yeah ,the zombies run). He throws it to the ground and beats the shit out of it before it bites him. Keep in mind, this is all happening while he's under the assumption the zombie is just a leper. I guess lepers killed his daddy.
Anyways, people are mauled (i.e. smeared with blood) by mute Filipino zombies identically dressed in shrouds and the Caucasian actors who come back as zombies that can talk. And by talk I mean mumble incoherently and talk like drunkards. The whole thing is wrapped up in a brisk 86 minutes with a bleak ending that is illogical and bizarre.
So why is this rash on film better than Zombi 3? Well, I have one word for you: Rod.
No, that's not another reference to Jeff Stryker. I'm talking about Rod the Mercenary (played by Nick Nicholson). This guy makes the movie worth watching. Rod looks like the stereotypically unhinged Vietnam vet who never left the 70s behind although he seems to have lost his teeth back in the 'shit. He goes insane in this movie during one of the most hilariously unconvincing fight scenes ever filmed, then he dies and becomes a goofy-ass zombie. He's more fun to watch than all the cast members of Zombi 3 put together.
The film also makes ample use of its cheesy title song by Al Festa, "Living After Death." It's a Survivor wannabe band, and the song sounds like it's trying too hard to be an 80's montage theme like Paul Engemann's "Push it to the Limit." Yet, it is loveable in an ironic way.
With that in mind, I leave you with a special video presentation celebrating the two best things of Zombie 4: After Death. Enjoy!
The Best of Rod (feat. "Living After Death")
Tomorrow, we turn our attention to Zombi 5: Killing Birds (1987)