Aka After Death – Oltre la morte, La vendetta degli zombi, Zombi 4, Das Bose ist Wieder
Original running time: 83 mins
A Flora Film production
Distributed by Avo Film
Director: Clyde Anderson [Claudio Fragasso]
Story: Rossella Drudi
Screenplay: Rossella Drudi
Cinematography: Luigi Ciccarese
Music: Al Festa
Editor: Daniele Alabiso
Art director: Mimmo Scavia
Cast: James Gaines, Alex McBride [Massimo Vanni], Chuck Peyton, Candice Daly
Dear oh dear. If you want to see the depths to which Italian genre cinema had sunk by the mid to late 1980s, you could do a lot worse than checking out Claudio Fragasso’s Zombie Flesheaters 3, a film so amateurish and imbecilic it makes the likes of Ratman and Patrick Lives Again look like veritable masterpieces. Despite the title, this wasn’t any kind of official follow up to the hugely profitable, decently made Zombie Flesheaters, although it does share a certain lineage with it’s moribund sequel, Zombie Flesheaters 2, which was shot at around the same time, was also based on a script by Rossella Drudi and was similarly produced by Franco Gaudenzi for Flora Film. Both films were also shot in the Philippines, a popular and extremely cheap location for Italian filmmakers at the time, and share a handful of performers (Massimo Vanni, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua etc). Although credited to Lucio Fulci, Zombie Fleasheaters 2 was actually part directed by Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso, who are executive producer and director here, and they manage to make just as much of a hash of it as they had done with the previous film.
A lengthy introduction fills us in on the background: a number of talented scientists join together to found an institute dedicated to curing cancer and, heck, finding the secret of immortality while they’re about it. Unfortunately, their research – which involves fiddling around with voodoo and conducting experiments on the locals – succeeds only in causing dead people to continue walking around, albeit with increasingly raggedy clothing and a taste for human flesh. Oh yes, and there’s also a crazy voodoo priest involved with it all, and he seems to be reanimating people as well. Suffice to say, it all ends in a bloodbath.
Anyway, once that’s all out of the way, the meat of the story begins. A group of mercenaries – Dan (Jim Gaines), pot bellied, snaggle toothed Rod (Nick Nicholson) and Frederick Forrest lookalikey Mad (Jim Moss) – somehow end up on the very same island, along with a bunch of hopeless archaeologists and a couple of floozies, including Jenny (Candice Daly), who just happens to be the sole survivor of the previous massacre (she’s conveniently forgotten all about it). After reading a spell from a book, the dead rise yet again – although other zombies had been wandering around in the bushes anyway – and the assorted characters have to try and fight them off using a convenient chest full of guns that they just happen to find.
The plot, needless to say, is a mess. It takes a considerable chunk of Zombie Flesheaters, as well as disperate elements from other Fulci movies, most particularly The Beyond. None of it, though, it meshed with any kind of logic or imagination, with just about every element treated in the most rudimentary fashion possible. Characterisation and dialogue aren’t really things you associate with Italian horror films of the 80s, but even by their level this falls well short of the required standard. I suppose if you were going to look for positives, you could mention that this has the novelty of having zombies who run (although this was also true of Nightmare City (81)) and even shoot guns. But that’s pretty slim pickings in exchange for ninety minutes of your life.
Production values are, well, modest, which given the chepaness with which it was possible to make films at the time in the Philippines counts as something of an acheivement. In fact, it was shot using cameras and equipment from Strike Commando 2, which Bruno Mattei was making at the same time in nearby locations. It seems probable that Fragasso was left with an inadequate amount of footage, so additional shooting was conducted in Italy (on the sets built for Michele Soavi’s The Sect). As a result, the introduction sequence and scenes with the archeologists are played primarily by Italian performers (such as Massimo Vanni, Ottavio and Alberto Dell’Acqua), while the rest features Philippines-based actors. The only person to feature in both the Italian and Philippines lensed sections is Jeff Stryker, aka American porn star Chuck Peyton, who was making a brief attempt to move into legitimate cinema in Europe at the time. Apparently, Fragasso knew nothing of his background in porn, although if that’s the case you do have to wonder why he was hired in the first place… it certainly wasn’t for his thespian skills.
It should be acknowledged that, while this is dreadful stuff, it is at least better than Zombie Flesheaters 2, which stands as possibly one of the most boring films ever made. This is partly down to Fragasso, who directs with more vim than Bruno Mattei could ever manage. He actually handles some of the action scenes rather well, giving perhaps an indication of the success he’d later acheive after moving into the crime thriller field with Palermo Milano solo andata in 1995.