Saturday, 31 December 2011

Celluloid Sounds - Zombi 2 (1979)

This edition of the ever popular and world famous Celluloid Sounds will investigate the musical contribution of Fabio Frizzi and Giorgio Cascio to Lucio Fulci’s gore soaked zombie opus Zombie 2 (aka too many different names to list). For pure entertainment I don’t think Fulci ever eclipsed this film, and it remains a firm favourite of mine. Intellectually I find myself gravitating to more nuanced and layered productions such as Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) or A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971), but for sheer enjoyment then look no further than this wonderful film. Crucially it lacks the dream like and hallucinatory feel of his later horror films, and is subsequently able to tell its story with efficiency and economy. I often find that adjectives such as ‘dream like’ or ‘hallucinatory’ are normally used in Fulci’s cinema to explain away the terrible and shoddy lack of continuity, and to ultimately forgive incompetently plotted screenplays.

Zombi 2 is wonderfully free of such barriers, and it is also wonderfully free of the adolescent social commentary that so blighted George A. Romero’s infantile zombie pictures. Like the best horror films the primal terrors are created through music. Frizzi had contributed musical offerings (along with his frequent collaborators Franco Bixio and Vince Tempera) to several earlier Fulci productions, including Four of the Apocalypse (1975), Seven Black Notes (1977) and Silver Saddle (1978). Although Cascio gets a credit on Zombi 2 I’m not certain as to the extent of his contribution. I shall open this out to my tremendously knowledgeable readership, and hopefully someone can leave a comment telling us more about this man. Easily the most successful composition to grace the film is the eerie primal shuffle of the main title theme. The slow and plodding nature of this piece resonates with the laborious progress of resurrected corpses. It was clearly impressive enough to function not only as the title theme, but as a leitmotif whenever the zombie hordes appear.

One of the stylistic elements that binds a great number of the films outlawed in the United Kingdom as ‘Video Nasties’ is their use of electronic music. Undoubtedly this was partly attributable to the low budget nature of the production. But the use of synthetic instrumentation in so many of these films was a serendipitous side effect of a forced economy, and the results were often more impressive than the films themselves. The stark and clinical sounds only added to a sense of dislocation and alienation; a sense of the unnatural invading the natural world. One of the pleasures of Zombi 2 is its unabashed embracement of the voodoo culture upon which the myths of the zombie were born. This had become increasingly unpopular in the post 1968 Night of the Living Dead conception of the zombie. But Fulci and his collaborators were seemingly uninterested in using the zombie motif as an allegorical or metaphorical device. This is represented in musical terms by the deft combination of electronica and tribal drums.


  1. Good stuff, Shaun. I first saw ZOMBI 2 as a teenager in the '80s, and enjoyed it for its ridiculous gore. Watching it again many years later, it leapt to a special place in my horror-haunted heart, and I found I much prefer it to DAWN OF THE DEAD... which I too was never a particularly huge fan of. The main score is just one of my favorites ever!

  2. Quote: "Zombi 2 is... wonderfully free of the adolescent social commentary that so blighted George A. Romero’s infantile zombie pictures."

    'Zombi 2' is also free of pacing, tension, acting and any discernible degree of cinematic intellect.


    Don't get me wrong - the film is dumb fun in its own stupid way (especially when playing to a cinema audience), but after Fulci's much more accomplished gialli, 'Zombi 2' feels like a near-indifferent act of cinematic contempt: Fulci is much smarter (and a much better filmmaker) than 'Zombi 2' suggests, and I can't help but feel that his 'gore epics' ultimately obscured (and cheapened) his considerable talent.

    And, I must say: ranking 'Zombi 2' over 'Dawn of the Dead' is akin to booking Frank Sinatra to open for Michael Buble. ;)

  3. "Although Cascio gets a credit on Zombi 2 I’m not certain as to the extent of his contribution."

    This link to an interview with Frizzi might help somewhat, Shaun:

  4. Cheers Johnny, I knew I could rely on you for further information regarding Cascio's involvement.

  5. I guess I'll be booking Michael Buble then! :-)

  6. I don't know that I agree with Johnny about the lack of tension... but I do feel that Dawn is a better movie overall.

    REGARDLESS, the music in Zombi 2 trumps the music in Dawn, I don't care what anyone says.

    Great post.

  7. I think I mentioned once before - on some long forgotten bend'o The Highway, that I haven't seen ZOMBI 2 yet. And I must admit, though I love the horror genre (and have seen more than my fair share of nightmare inducing gems, cult favorites, chop-shlock, rape-revenge-flicks, et-al), it's not the genre I seek out most. That is to say, I'm not one of those horror fans that's seen every notable and obscure horror film under the sun. I like to be frightened, shocked and appalled, just not on a daily basis. If I were to watch a horror picture every time I sat down to watch a flick, I'd probably have a post dramatic stress disorder!

    That said, I'm very interested to see what kind of blood soaked zombie action accompanies Track 3! Maybe it's just that I haven't seen the film, but what an entirely odd track for a zombie flick! It definitely congers up that Haitian voodoo vibe your were talking about, and I'm sure it accompanies a lighter moment - a post human escapes zombies scene perhaps. That said, I still keep picturing flabby middle aged zombies all guised up for a night out in Key Largo - shuffling around on the dance floor (beside the pool - there, the odd topless zombie hooker wades) with orange tinted lanterns aglowing! Instead of empty coconut shells, they're all sipping brain Mai Tais from scalped human heads, complete with those little colored umbrellas sticking out the top!

  8. Oh, and Johnny's Sanatra/Buble crack: classic!

    Nice write up, too, shaun.

  9. @ Kev D - I don't agree with Johnny at all on the tension or lack thereof in ZOMBI 2. The opening sequence aboard the boat, the sequence in the Conquistador graveyard, and the lead up moments to the infamous splinter in the eye scene are all great moments of tension. I think the distinction I would make regarding DAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBI 2 is that Romero's film is a more professional looking movie, a better movie? Not at all in my view....thanks for the comment!

    @ Greg - I'm with you on the horror genre, for some reason I get perceived as a horror fan. This couldn't be further from the truth in fact. I review a lot of horror movies because I find it a genre that is incredibly easy to write about. Yes the third track is a wonderful piece of music, I had a feeling you might like it. Your conception of a zombie night out is vivid, and I now have visions of cadaverous female zombies shuffling around in bikinis! Is that a nose I see in my cocktail!

    Buble has been booked :-)

  10. Why, yes that is indeed a nose in my cocktail! My nose in fact, by the looks of it. Must of fallen off during that last game of Pinochle. Now what do ya say we shuffle our bones on over to the dance floor, muffie, they're playing our song: The Monster Mash!

  11. Quote: "The opening sequence aboard the boat, the sequence in the Conquistador graveyard, and the lead up moments to the infamous splinter in the eye scene are all great moments of tension..."

    That's certainly nice if they work for you in that regard.

    Personally, I tend to laugh hysterically at the splinter scene, akin to the 'drill through the head' moment in 'City of the Living Dead' (and the other notorious moments in Fulci's later gore outings). Those gags are so hilariously milked for effect in the edit that I can't help but giggle at how shamelessly contrived they are.

    Gore certainly peppered Fulci's earlier films (and, indeed, 'The New York Ripper'), but at least there the set pieces had some measure of narrative motivation. The gags in 'Zombi 2', 'City of the Living Dead', 'House by the Cemetery', etc., could happily be accompanied by a cheap Carnie screeching "Roll up! Roll up! SEE a woman puke her guts out! HEAR a man scream as he is drilled through the head! FEEL the touch of a splinter through the eye!" ; )

    There's some fun to had in all those films, to be sure, but for me personally they are totally bereft of suspense or pacing (and thus tension). Their charms lie elsewhere, at least for me.


  12. @ Greg - I would join you in bopping away to the monster mash, but I'm too busy eating someone!

    @ Johnny - You may have a case for the sequences you mention in CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and HOUSE BY THE CEMETARY, but the scenes under discussion from ZOMBI 2 I believe have a certain power and impressiveness. I think you're getting ZOMBI 2 mixed up with the EVIL DEAD, which is an extended gag reel..the horror equivalent to a cream pie in the face. ZOMBI 2 works on a different level. It is clear to me that the film has a serious intent. I accept that the examples that you quote from other Fulci flicks do support your opinion, but I think ZOMBI 2 is a special case. I'm always willing to defend this film, there is something special about it....well at least to me. I am one of Fulci's most stringest critics, especially of his horror films, but ZOMBI 2 really does work for me.


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