Zombie Holocaust

01/23/2020 06:22

Film: Zombie Holocaust

Year: 1980

Director: Marino Girolami

Writer: Romano Scandariato

Starring: Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Delli Colli and Sherry Buchanan



Now this was another one I checked out thanks to podcasts. I never heard of it, but I’m not going to lie, one of the alternative titles I thought was great. It seems there was a DVD version released in the United States under the name: Doctor Butcher M.D.: Medical Deviate. This isn’t the version I saw, but I definitely wanted to point that out. The synopsis is an expedition in the East Indies, encounters not only the cannibals they were looking for, but something far more sinister.

I should point out here, I did alter the synopsis as it gives away a major spoiler to the end. Not that this has the greatest storyline, but I felt that I should acknowledge it regardless.

This starts off in a morgue. A person comes in and cuts the hand of a cadaver. It this then placed in a bag. The next day, a class is being taught by Dr. Drydock (Walter Patriarca) along with Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli). The sheet is removed and it is the one missing the hand. It is generally ignored at first, until a student makes a joke. They’re then dismissed and it is acknowledged this isn’t the first body to be defaced.

We then learn we’re in New York City. Lori does anthological research on the side for a Professor Stafford (Romano Scandariato, who is also the writer of this). This is establishing that she knows quite a bit about people and we learn soon that it is focused in Southeast Asia as she as raised there as a child, but it has been years since her time there.

Back at the hospital, another body has been messed with, this time the heart was removed and it was done very crudely. We get a scene where Lori is home and a reporter comes there, Susan Kelly (Sherry Buchanan). She forces her way in and asks some questions. Her attention is drawn to a dagger on the wall with an odd symbol. Lori states that it was used in human sacrifice. Lori wonders how Susan was tipped off as well.

Another attack goes to happen, but a trap was set. It turns out to be Toran (Turam Quibo), an orderly. He jumps out a window to his death and on his chest reveals a tattoo that matches the markings on the dagger. This causes an investigation that leads to a primitive god, Keto. There’s also an island where Lori grew up of the same name. An expedition is set up to figure out why these ritualistic things are happening across the country. It is led by Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch) along with his assistant George Harper (Peter O’Neal). Lori is asked to come and it turns out George is dating Susan who is joining.

Their first stop is to meet Dr. Obrero (Donald O’Brien) and he sets them up with a guide Molotto (Dakar). Dr. Obrero doesn’t seem to like the natives of Keto as they don’t seem to want to accept civilization. Things take quite a turn when they’re heading for the island and they have engine troubles with their boat. It then turns to a nightmare as the cannibals on the island aren’t the worst thing they encounter.

Now I should say, this is definitely an odd film. Italian cinema is something that I’m getting more into and I have to say, the things I saw early just get weirder and weirder as we go. As I’m writing this, I was reflecting on the two titles for this movie and I realize that they’re kind of a spoiler in their own different ways which is interesting. Let me get into this.

The first portion of this does seem to be a Cannibal Holocaust rip-off. It is interesting though as they both came out in the same year, along with Eaten Alive! I bring this up as I find it a bit interesting is that this film it is widely accepted that there’s primitive tribes have cannibals. This is actually not the case, but this film actually has a good reason why they are. There’s an evil doctor at play here that wants the natives to be this way. It is interesting that in NYC, the doctors are harsh in their beliefs of simpler people, it is actually wrong and it is the ‘civilized’ person that is forcing it. Something I have to give credit here is that it takes place in Southeast Asia instead of South America.

Another reason I think things are borrowed was it feels like cannibal and zombie films were really popular at the time. Dawn of the Dead had taken the world by storm and Lucio Fucli’s Zombie had come out. As the title here states, there are zombies as well. It really pops up late in the movie, with something like 30 minutes left to go. I saw a scene once they arrive in the area that looked like Zombie and saw this shared the same locations, which is funny. This part just seemed to be a bit forced in if I’m honest. Going along with this is the aspect of a mad scientist that I did like though, which is why there are zombies. They’re actually much more like the original concept of them and not really just corpses reanimating.

That will take me to the pacing of the film, which I will admit it is good. Even though I think some aspects to the story are forced in to pad the running time, I think the 84 minutes is solid. It doesn’t waste time as the opening scenes show us the hand from the cadaver being cut off. Strange things happen from there while we meet the characters and we learn more as things go. We don’t really get to the island until late and then it’s a non-stop ride. The ending isn’t great, but fine for what we are building to. The problem with it is that it is just abrupt.

As for the acting, I thought it was fine for what we get here. Going back to this being filmed on the same sets as Zombie, McCulloch also starred in that film. I thought he was solid here as the male lead. Delli Colli is quite attractive and we see her nude which I’m not mad about. She is also pretty good as the lead. Buchanan and O’Neal are also both fine in their performances. I also thought that O’Brien and the rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed.

That moves me next to the effects, which are actually really good. If there’s one thing I expect from an Italy film, it is to have some solid practical effects which we get here. The blood is a bit bright, but I have a soft spot for that. We also get some really good effects of people being torn apart or being stabbed. This is one of the strongest parts of the film if I’m honest. It is also shot pretty well in my opinion.

The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. I did enjoy that, even though I did read somewhere that it was ripped off from another film. I haven’t seen that other one, but knowing how much ripping off films from this country in the area did, that does make a lot of sense. I would say it fits for what was needed and I would definitely listen to it again.

Now with that said, this film isn’t great. It really seems like it is capitalizing on things that were popular from the era. We get a cannibal film with a decent reason to bring these people to the island. It then really just shoehorns in zombies and a mad scientist angle late in the film. It does have some really good effects and the low running time keeps it from getting stale. The acting is fine for the product we see so I can’t complain there. It also has a soundtrack that isn’t new, but I did think it fit for what was needed. Overall I’d say this isn’t a good movie, but definitely one I still enjoyed. I think it is above average effort overall.


My Rating: 6.5 out of 10