Synopsis: Somewhere in an unnamed Southeast Asian country, somebody steals a virus from a biological warfare test lab. It's never clear who's doing the stealing, but the lab is clearly run by the Big Bad US Army (sigh).
The virus is so lightly guarded that the raid seems almost comical. In the ensuing confusion, the soldiers pursuing the thief manage to shoot open the container holding the deadly stuff. The virus is released, causing the local population to turn into ravenous zombies. A group of tourists and soldiers on leave are trapped in the contaminated zone, and must deal with the walking dead on one hand, and military "cleanup crews" on the other.
Incredibly awful horror movie. Lucio Fulci should
never have put his name to it.
-- Palmerini & Mistretta, Spaghetti Nightmares
(Key West: Fantasma Books, 1996)
Lucio Fulci was unable to complete filming of Zombi 3, partly because the Phillipine climate aggravated his health problems, and partly because of his total lack of sympathy with Claudio Fragasso's script. It's easy to imagine why Fulci would want to be involved with the official sequel to the movie that made him famous1, even in the face of such a terrible script. In fact, he may have felt that his input could be enough to rescue the film; unfortunately, the writer objected to Fulci's attempts to interpret the film his own way, and Fulci left the set in disgust. Filming was completed by Bruno Mattei, the director of L'Altro Inferno and other celluloid crimes. It should be mentioned that Mattei's earlier disaster, Virus/Hell of the Living Dead/Night of the Zombies (1980) was also scripted by Claudio Fragasso, is set in a similar location, and has the same theme (exploitation/extermination of the Third World by the US, resulting in uprising and death).
Incredible as it may sound, this movie really is as god-awful as all the reviewers say. It's overwhelmingly stupid, and unlike Zombi 2 it follows the basic "Dawn of the Dead/Day of the Dead" premise slavishly.
What makes it so mind-bogglingly dreadful is its aggressive lack of originality. I don't mean that it simply borrows from other movies; it's always been my contention that regardless of the borrowings, the truly noteworthy Italian exploitation directors were able to create something that was truly their own. No: Zombi 3 is guilty of outright theft, on several levels.
The most obvious thefts are from Return of the Living Dead (which is ironic, considering that Return of the Living Dead, Part 2, the [ahem] legitimate sequel, was also a crass rip-off of the earlier film; and it's even more bewildering when you realize that Return... itself is a just a comic riff on Night of the Living Dead). In both films, a secret government project goes awry, leading to contamination; the contaminant is spread through the air via cremation, and the epidemic begins; one of the protagonists is rushed toward help in his girlfriend's car, but he zombifies before they can arrive; etc. etc. etc. Fragasso's scenario also lifts elements from his own previous effort, as well as the helicopters from Dawn and Day.
But on a more fundamental level, Zombi 3 leans far too heavily on the zombie mythology created by its predecessors. It eats the brains right out of the zombie movie paradigm, and leaves the stinking carcass. For example:
Only a short while after the epidemic has started, every nook and cranny of the affected zone is crawling with badly decomposed zombies, all lying in wait in strategic places. They hide in pools, they hide over wells, they hide in the closets of abandoned gas stations, just in the right places to surprise the protagonists... you'd think they'd read the script or something.On top of all this, we have a cast of actors so inept they wouldn't pass muster in a porn film. What in the world were they thinking when they designed the poster? Over the title, in the big imposing letters usually reserved for "SCHWARTZENEGGER" or "DENIRO" or "HASSELHOFF" or something, we get:
Who are these people?! Am I missing something here? Does the combination
... have some significance I don't know about? Let me try it again:
OK, B-movie actor/director Deran Serafian has some limited name recognition with hard-core Bad Movie fans, but Beatrice Ring truly deserves her obscurity. Still, Serafian and Ring are Bogart and Bacall compared to the non-actor who plays the Troubled Scientist, who helped create the zombie virus. He has three gestures which make up his entire repertoire: he grimaces, he points his finger, and he pulls his hair. He shouts all his lines, and from his stilted delivery you can tell he hasn't a clue what he's saying.
Thinking of shouting, the writer has thoughtfully provided us with a Greek Chorus in the form of Blue Heart, the radio DJ. At various points of the film, Blue Heart comes on and starts expounding his (actually the writer's) half-baked opinions on Not Tampering in God's Domain. Even though he speaks in low, comforting tones, he is shouting.
I still don't get it.
A number of movies have been released (usually to video) with the title Zombie 3, most infamously Andrea Bianchi's Notti del Terrore/Burial Ground. None of them are worth much more than this piece of dreck.