Ian McCulloch, Zombie Slayer, Part 1 - Zombie Flesh Eaters

The Italians are a strange people. During the 70s and 80s, they released a whole raft of completely-unlicensed sequels to Hollywood movies. Somehow they got away with this, and the results were so awesome that many of the films were released internationally under different names.

The most successful of these was a string of sequels to Dawn of the Dead, which, of course, had nothing in common with Romero's movie other than the Italian name. For a full run down of the situation, check out the Hypnobobs podcast at (run by the very-talented Mr Jim Moon). In the meantime, hit the jump and we can explain what makes two of these movies, and their star Ian McCulloch, so infamous.

Zombie Flesh Eaters, originally released as Zombi 2, begins with some expository rubbish about a boat crewed only by a chubby, undead bloke drifting into New York. You will likely completely ignore this, only glancing up when the action starts, as you should. Legend has it that the beginning and end scenes were only included to tie in to Dawn and they're not only completely unnecessary, but also tonally different from the rest of the movie.

You will not be bored for long, however. You see, Flesh Eaters, by a happy co-incidence, is directed by the the Francis Ford Coppola of horror B-movies, Lucio Fulci, an auteur of monumental proportions. You see, this is a film where women do not go diving in wetsuits, no, they wear nothing but G-strings and an airtank; and no-one will just shoot an assailant when they could smash their heads into a soggy pulp with a shovel. Fulci, however, is the kind of schlock merchant who can take this tomfoolery to a higher level.

Early on in the film, the aforementioned scuba diver with a penchant for skimpiness is assailed by a shark and, in her flight, manages to run into an aquatic zombie. She proceeds to slip out of the way, leading to a shark vs zombie showdown that you will find it hard to believe actually exists outside of your own twisted imagination. Of course, she fails to be perturbed by this and is still surprised by the existence of the undead later on.

Further epicness can be found in the film's other famous setpiece, as a zombie breaks through a door, grabs a defenceless victim and ever... so... slowly... pulls her towards the sharp fragments of the door until one pierces her squishy eyeball. The acting is terrible and the effects, despite being a remarkable achievement on such a miniscule budget, look anything but realistic; however, Fulci's direction is so brilliant that you can't help but flinch as the splinter digs in.

The zombie effects themselves are achieved in the best possible way, without effects. The crew had so little cash and such minimal time that they had no choice but to hire any random hobo from the street, plaster them in mud, and maybe a handful of real maggots, and tell them to lift their arms and shuffle at the camera. The result is far more effective than nine out of ten CGI monstrosities.

Of course, with all these terrors on the loose, someone needs to step up to the plate to oppose them; that man is Ian McCulloch. The Scottish actor is best known for his role in cult UK series Survivors, but his other claim to fame is his trio of Italian schlock movies. Here and in Zombie Holocaust, he plays a modern-day Alan Quartermain; a gentleman survivalist who gets rough and ready to save the day. In this incarnation, he's a journalist who's trying to get to the bottom of the zombie love boat incident. McCulloch's investigation brings him up against a voodoo curse that's causing the dead to rise from the grave. This outbreak could, theoretically, be seen as a prequel to Dawn, if you squinted a little.

It is a widely-pondered miracle that a film with this much rubbish and this low a budget can still be this entertaining. While the nonsensical plot is really just a framework to support a string of setpieces, those scenes are more than worth your attention, which was Fulci's whole philosophy of cinema. Of course, Fulci's method parallels quite well with the midnight-with-beer-and-pizza philosophy that we abide by here at The Day Hollywood Stood Still. You have to love happy coincidences.

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