2 Mar 2016

ZOMBIE FILM RULES - Zombie (1979)

Every genre has cliches, but how well do films with zombies follow the Zombie film rules?

Zombie (1979) [aka Zombi 2 and Zombie Flesh Eaters] is Lucio Fulci's unauthorised in-name-only "sequel" to Dawn of the Dead (1978) [aka Zombi].

The following analysis may contain spoilers for


When Anne Bowles' father's abandoned boat float into New York, she and reporter Peter West head to a Caribbean Island infested with zombies to find answers...

No need to panic, but this happened in Dracula, too.

There will be no warning...

"What is all this about the dead coming back to life again and having to be killed a second time? ~ Peter West.

The film starts in medias res in the middle of events explained later in flashback.

1a.  Eerie - The sudden, mysterious and violent beginning, followed by the Dracula-like abandoned boat floating into a harbour works.  The drums are eerie, too.
1b.  News - Peter West is a reporter doing a story on the first New York incident, but he never gets to publish it.
1c.  Sudden - The attack is, as is the outbreak at the end.

Nothing says you can't be a zombie and a voyeur.


There may be sex and nudity.

"This is all your fault.  You realize that, don't you?  It was his idea, not mine." ~ Anne Bowles.
"Listen to her, Miss Goody Two-shoes.  It wasn't her fault?  It was all my idea?  Whose idea was it to have a romantic setting down by the water?.  I'd have settled for an empty boxcar." ~ Peter West.

2a.  Nudity - Susan Barrett decides to scuba diving a couple of times, and for some reason does it topless.  Dr Menard's wife is watched while showering by a zombie.
2b.  Sex - Anne & Peter pretend to make out to get out of being arrested.  Later they begin to make out for real, but buried zombie hands grab them.

They're not dead, they're mostly dead.


Unknown cause.

"I don't believe in voodooism.  But the phenomenon defies logical explanation.  I've attempted to apply the disciplines of bacteriology,  virology,  even of radiology.  We've performed tests for epilepsy and for catalepsy. Nothing fits." ~ Dr Menard.

3a.  Unknown origin - It is suspected to be caused by voodoo, but most of the white characters refuse to believe it and try to find another answer.
3b.  Vague hints - The drums.
3c.  The originators - Probably voodoo priests, but never seen.

No rest for the wicked.


The Living Dead.

"I spent the day watching over his body.  But I knew eventually I would have to find the courage to release him from the living dead." ~ Dr Menard.

4a.  Dead - Certainly.
4b.  Rising from the grave - In the abandoned conquistador graveyard, a few well places hands reach out of the ground and grab Anne and Peter, and a fairly shallowly buried body rises out of the ground. When the group leaves, a bunch of zombies rise.
4c.  Instant decay - Most of the zombies appear to be well decayed.  However, the ones we know are recent (Matthias and a local) are pale and powdery rather than the caked on grey of the other dead.  The policeman killed in New York is somewhere between the two (and the medical examiners don't comment on it).
4d.  Origin - Probably voodoo.
4e.  Spread - Many living people seem to have some kind of illness, that they eventually die of and then rise.  There are dead seen rising from their graves.  One person killed by a zombie (stabbed in the eye) was eaten and didn't rise.  Another rose almost immediately after being bitten.
4f.  Rudimentary IQ - Some stalking, but mostly just stumbly.
4g.  Rudimentary speech - No sound.
4h.  Lost memory - Seemingly blank.  Unless the zombie that killed Dr Menard's wife was a peeping tom in life and kept it up in death.
4i.  Slow/Shambling - Yes.
4j.  Swarms - Yes.
4k.  Stealth zombies - A few, mostly "waking."
4l.  Feeding - Eating human flesh, no brain eating.
4m.  Destroy the brains - Not stated, but shots to the head (and even possibly just blows to the head) seem to work.
4n.  Exploding heads - Peter smashes a zombie's head with a cross: it was probably four hundred years old, though (still the blood seemed fresh).  Later Brian shoot one in the head, and the trap door it's head is pushing open explodes when he hits the zombie.
4o.  The Z Word - Used frequently.  Other terms like "living dead" are used descriptively.

Ignore the fact that the glass has been cut out.


The Living.

"Well, we have to go to Matool.  We're trying to locate Anne's father.  She hasn't heard from him for some time." ~ Peter West.

5a.  Individuals - Susan and Peter meet, but before any major zombie activity.
5b.  Group of survivors - They meet Brian and Susan, again before zombie activity, and Dr Menard and staff before they know what's going on.
5c.  Characters - The main group will include:
  • The hero - Peter West.
  • The heroine Anne Bowles, who does start to get together with Peter.
  • The bossy guy - Dr Menard. maybe.  He asks them to visit his wife and they do.
  • Bossy guy's female companion - Dr Menard's wife or his assistant.
  • The secondary hero - Brian Hull, a little more knowledgable and actiony than Peter, but usually plays second fiddle.
  • The weepy girl - Susan Barrette.  More by her connection to Brain.  Like all the females in this film she's often paralysed with fear.
  • Child - None.
  • The crazy guy - Dr Menard, maybe for continuing experimentation, or his fevered friend Matthias.
  • Unbeliever - Dr Menard, his assistant and Brian don't believe in voodoo.
  • The gang leader - None.
5d.  Man is the real monster - There's a suggestion that the voodoo priests are causing this.  All the human victims are victims of zombies not living humans.
5e.  Steep learning curve - Peter becomes good with guns.
5f.  Final Girl and Final Guy - Peter and Anne.

If you see a zombie heading towards you the best thing to do is freeze and stare at them.



"We can't leave her here alone." - Brian.
"She's dead." - Anne.
"Brian, don't you understand? She's dead.  There's nothing that you can do here." ~ Peter.

6a.  Standing around talking for no reason when endangered - Susan just panics and waits for a zombie to pull itself out of the ground, come over and bite her.  Dr Menard's assistant stands there panicking while zombies advance towards her, until she finally decided to scream - and still remain standing still - which summons help. Anne almost runs into a zombie, begins moaning and shuts her eyes and presents her neck to the zombie, although her moaning does alert Peter who shoots the zombie.  Brain does this when he runs into zombie-Susan.
6b.  Grieving - Brain tries to grieve over Susan, but the others drag him away.
6c.  Making accidental noises - Doesn't really occur.
6d.  Being unable to smell decaying flesh - Probably get a pass because they're mostly new or very old, or the stealth ones are underwater.
6e.  Engaging hand-to-hand combat with zombies - Peter's good at it.  Simple blows to the face with a rifle butt seems to take them out.
6f.  Hiding secret bite - A few are bitten, none really hide it.  Even Brian's open about his bite.
6g.  Unwilling to kill the bitten - Dr Menard administers to them.
6h.  Unwilling to kill the undead - Dr Menard has trouble shooting them (but usually does).  However, two of his patients do rise and kill people.  Peter pauses before following Brian's instructions and kills zombie-Susan.
6i.  In-fighting - Very little.
6j.  Fighting at all - None.
6k.  Having sex - Peter and Susan start making out.  Zombie hands grab them.
6l.  Being cowardly - No one appears too cowardly.
6m.  Betraying the group - No one does.
6n.  Going anywhere they shouldn't go in a slasher film
  • Down to the Basement - N/A.
  • Upstairs - N/A.
  • For a Shower - Dr Menard's wife is killed immediately after a shower (during which a zombie watched her.)
  • Into old sheds or out buildings - Nothing but.
  • Running off to the “safety” of the forest - Crashed a vehicle into the forest.  Ended up in an abandoned cemetary.
  • Anywhere alone - Mostly groups.  Susan was endangered diving alone.  Dr Menard's wife was killed after a shower.
  • Anywhere Remote, Isolated or Confined - Mostly a remote island.
  • Any Old, Abandoned or Presumably Haunted Buildings - They're not abandoned, but they seem to be.
6o.  Relying on anything they shouldn't in rely on a slasher film
  • Communications devices - Don't seem to have them.
  • Lighting - Not an issue.
  • Vehicular Transport - The boat is damaged by a shark.  They crash the jeep.
  • Their Own Legs - Peter injures his ankle in a car crash, which causes them to stop in an abandoned graveyard.  Then he's fine for a while until is slows them down again.  Despite being a horrible open wound, it doesn't seem to slow him down after simple treatment.
  • The Authorities – None available on the island.  The New York ones don't seem to handle things.
  • Weapons – Seem OK.
  • Escape Routes - They make it to the damaged and slow boat.
6p.  Being over-confident - Not really the case.
6q.  Making a plan that is too complex - No real plans.
6r.  Making a plan - No real plans.
6s.  Assume they're safe - How Dr Menard's assistant died.
6t.  Be happy - Peter and Anne making out in an abandoned cemetary.
6u.  Just one last thing - Possibly Dr Menard's assistant grabbing the extra bottles for Brian.
6v.  Never assume anyone or anything is dead - A massive problem in the hospital, causing most of the deaths.  Also caused Anne's biting of Brian, and probably the outbreak in New York.

Typical woman injuriing her leg... wait, that's an injured man.


Standard Plot.

"Let's find that hospital and get the hell out of here as quickly as we can."  ~ Peter West.

7a.  Normal life - The normal life of Peter is shown, and to a degree Anne and Susan & Brian.
7b.  Sudden outbreak - Not sudden, but it escalates suddenly.
7c.  Meetings - Yes.
7d.  Civilisation will collapse - Not until the end of the film.
7e.  Looting becomes scavenging - Doesn't happen.
7f.  Gangs/bandits/cannibals - Doesn't happen.
7g.  Finding a place to hole up - The hospital at the end.
7h.  Avoiding contecting to people - Doesn't happen.
7i.  Suicidal - Doesn't happen. 
7j.  Undead loved-ones - Susan returns right at the end and kills her partner, Brian.
7l.  Limited food/water/bullets - Doesn't happen.
7m.  Escape from a placeThey escape to the boat from the hospital
7n.  Armoured vehicle - Just a standard jeep.
7o.  Don't let me turn/save a bullet - Dr Menard kills them immediately after they turn.  Brian does mumble something about not wanting to become a zombie, but Peter and Anne ignore his wishes.
7p.  Injury - Peter is injured slowing the group down and making them rest in the abandoned cemetary.
7q.  Heroic sacrifice - None.
7r.  Death of the last survivor - Doesn't happen.

Meet the locals.


There will be social commentary.

"I mean, voodoo's just plain superstitious horseshit.  Basically, it's a mixture of two religions.  One- Catholicism, brought here by the Spanish conquistadores.  And two- African tribal rites that were brought here by the slave trade." ~ Brian Hull.

8a.  We are already zombies - N/A.
8c.  Racism - A little colonial, not really against racism, 
8d.  Working together - Happens, but not a theme.
8e.  Man is the real monster - Possibly.
8f.  Zombies are people, too - No.
8g.  Other - N/A.

New York, New York.


There is no happily ending.

"The zombies are everywhere.  There seems to be no way to stop them.  The city is at their mercy.  Barricades have been thrown up throughout Manhattan." ~ Radio announcer.

9a.  Downer ending - Seems to be heading to a happyish, until the outbreak.
9b.  Sudden end - Sudden but also drawn out... 
9c.  Disaster porn - Zombies on the Brooklyn Bridge probably counts.
9d.  No cure - No cure.

RULE #10


"Well, I'll make sure that he's safe.  We've got to take him back with us.  He's the only proof we've got that this all happened." ~ Peter West.

10a.  Sequels - The film is in production when Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy as Zombi.  To cash in on the film's success, some changes were made and it was named Zombi 2.  So, while labelled a sequel to Dawn, it is in fact unrelated.  Story-wise, it could only ever be considered a prequel, ending with a US outbreak (already underway in Dawn.)  By connecting to Dawn, it is where of a complex series of over 50 related films joins to a lot of other films.
10b.  Remakes - Not remade.
10c.  Adaptations - Not adapted from anything.

Extra.  Versions - Mostly just censorship cuts, and even then mostly in the UK.

Warning - this film contains blood.


"The father of my father always say, when the earth spit out the dead, they will come back to suck the blood from the living." ~ Lucas.

  • Rules that are followed in this film: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10.
  • Rules that are partially followed, or not clear, in this film:  1, 7, 9.
  • Rules not followed by the film: 8.
~ DUG.

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