Back in the halcyon days of the sell-through VHS cassette, fans of genre cinema were delighted just to be able to enjoy cinematic delights in the comfort of their own homes. Even when those films were poor quality transfers, presented in pan-and-scan, marred by cuts demanded by the censor, and wrapped in unimpressive artwork, there was still a frisson in simply owning a copy of a much-loved or a much-anticipated title.
Times have long since changed, and the expectations of horror, sci-fi and fantasy enthusiasts have risen exponentially as many “classic” movies have secured multiple re-issues in ever-evolving formats. Re-releases are now judged by entirely different quality standards, with a focus on the completeness of the cut, picture quality, and the range of behind the scenes documentaries and analytical add-ons included in the overall package.
88 Films’ new Blu-ray release of the often-maligned Zombie Flesh Eaters 3 (aka Oltre La Morte, aka After Death, aka Zombie 4) attempts to step up to the expected mark, with a crisp new 2k transfer, a reversible sleeve (allowing you to choose between the original Italian and the most well-known of the English titles), and a solid set of new special features.
The story relies on the familiar zombie catalyst of the ill-advised research trip. A young woman named Jenny returns to the remote island she escaped from as a child, after her parents were killed by zombies. With the aid of a group of mercenaries, she reaches an abandoned medical facility shortly after a group of hapless hikers once again reanimate the dead. Survivors join forces to mount a last stand against the fast-approaching zombie onslaught.
Described by its director Claudio Fragasso as the “last gasp” of his country’s big-screen zombie shockers, this 1989 gore-fest ticks off enough items on the comparative checklist to pitch its bogus claim to be the third entry in a spurious flesh-eating zombie “trilogy”. It’s not that surprising, really. The auteurs of the budget end of the Italian horror film industry copied each other’s plot motifs and storylines shamelessly. Wiley distributors rarely missed an opportunity to promote a film as the “successor” to something that had already proved profitable, which is exactly what happened in the UK market with Fragasso’s Oltre La Morte.
Zombie Flesh Eaters 3 comes with few pretensions. There’s an unrepentant energy and verve in the execution of its gore-soaked horrors. It’s a devil-may-care sense of enthusiasm that helps to compensate for the no frills, no budget production values, the uneven acting talents on show and the frequent and flagrant disregard for plot logic.
Porn star Jeff Stryker (credited as Chuck Peyton) delivers a spirited portrayal of testosterone-fuelled hero Chuck, while there is a vulnerability and a likeability to Candice Daly’s reading of the role of the traumatised Jenny. The upbeat eighties title theme and soundtrack sound like they belong to a different film, but somehow only add to the sense of gleeful go-for-it fun.
This is a good quality presentation of a memorable film from the Italian zombie canon, which treats the source material with respect, but not reverence. Of the extra features, an unguarded (and largely unstructured) interview with writer Drudi and Fragasso, and an unsentimental reflection on the work of the VIPCO VHS horror label, are highlights.
Special features: Limited Edition packaging and booklet notes by Dr Calum "Danger" Waddell, Run Zombie Run - interview with Director Claudio Fragasso and Screenwriter Rosella Drudi, Flesh Eaters, Driller Killers and all-round Video Nasties - interview with Allan Bryce, Trailer
ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS 3 / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: CLAUDIO FRAGASSO / WRITER: ROSELLA DRUDI / STARRING: CHUCK PEYTON (JEFF STRYKER), CANDICE DALY, ALEX McBRIDE (MASSIMO VANNI) / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW