Producer Franco Gaudenzi, after the success of Fulci's Zombi 2 (unofficial sequel to Romero's Dawn of the Dead), wanted to get another zombie movie into theaters. He approached Lucio Fulci about making Zombi 3. He agreed. The end result is a film that is only partially Fulci's and one that he has said that he does not particularly like. Now, if the director doesn't like the film, why should we? The answer is we probably shouldn't, and it really isn't all that good. Still, there is something about it that holds an unexplained attraction.
That unexplained attraction may have a lot to do with the basic fact that it is an Italian zombie movie. That may not mean a lot to many of you, but back in the 1970s and 1980s the Italian horror directors were on one heck of a roll, crafting their own bizarre corner of the horror verse. Also, I do love some Italian zombies!
Zombi 3 opens with a man a highly dangerous experimental chemical called Death1, being developed as a chemical weapon that turns those who come into contact into zombies. They can, in turn, infect those they come into contact with (well, those they don't eat anyway). The infected and injured thief takes refuge inside a resort hotel, where he infects more people before dying in a rather bloody fashion.
Before long, soldiers clad in white decontamination suits are sent to "cleanse" the area, meaning find the initial source and kill the rest. Following the cleansing, the military decides the best way to dispose of the body is to burn it. However, just like in Return of the Living Dead, it is just a convenient way to spread the infection, ensuring a much larger outbreak of zombie-itis. Of course, this leads to arguments between the military leaders and the scientists who developed the concoction. The funny thing is that the scientists were seemingly not aware it was to be used as a weapon. Umm, guys? It is called DEATH 1!
There is another side to this story, and it centers on party hunting soldiers on a day pass who meet up with a group of girls in an RV looking for a good time. All the fun and games are put on hold when they are attacked by a flock of zombie birds. Yes, you read that right, birds. They take refuge in a nearby hotel, apparently the same one that played host to the thief. The only difference is that now, for some unknown reason, it is deserted and overgrown even though there has been no indication of time passage. I guess it just looked cooler to have the extra foliage.
Wherever they go, they run into zombies, including a cool disembodied, flying head. Meanwhile, the white suited soldiers are under orders to shoot anyone and everyone they come into contact with. This while a radio alert encourages everyone to run to these soldiers, that they can help you with a cure for the infection. Yes, the cure is a bullet to the head.
The story is thin but there is an odd amount of fun to be derived here. It does have a suitably apocalyptic conclusion, it has plenty of deaths, and plenty of inexplicable events and sights to offer up some comedy. Is it a good movie? No, but it still is fun with some weird zombie fun. The zombies themselves, are a mix of the shuffling style and a faster style that are quite assertive in their desires to inflict harm on our heroes.
The screenplay is attributed to Claudio Fragasso (the man behind the infamous Troll 2), although it was primarily written by his wife, Rossella. Fulci took the script and shot what he wanted to without input from Fragasso. The resulting movie clocked in at one hour and ten minutes and was deemed too slow, and subsequently another twenty minutes was edited out making the final movie a much too short fifty minutes. Fragasso and his frequent partner Bruno Mattei were brought in to write and direct more scenes, since Fulci was uninterested in working on it any longer. As uninterested as Fulco,was in it, Fragasso and Matteo were not interested in expanding what was Fulci's film wrote a second story that could be blended in. This was also due to the original stars no longer being under contract. So, the story about the thief and the soldiers in white suits, and the argumentative scientists tale was written and shot. Neither Fragasso nor Mattei are credited, both agree that this was Fulci's film and did not wish to take that away. I suspect no one really wanted to take credit for this mess.
The fact of three directors, and two different stories are the reason why the film has shifts in quality and tone. It is also a testament to some strange filmmaking practices employed while making this film, such as giving credit and who is responsible for what. It is like the shuffling of multiple stories into one incoherent mess. Just watch and you can see that it is not much of a Fulci movie. There is a mass of times, some serious, she goofy. A case of too many cooks in the kitchen. I am actually curious to what the original movie looked like, the one only made by Fulci. It would have to be better than the real thing, right?
Zombi 3 is not a good film, but does deliver some entertainment for zombie film fans. There are much worse titles in this genre to watch. It is recommended that this, and movies like it, be watched with a group of like minded friends ready to be dipped into the wacky world of Italian zombie films.