Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Virus or Zombie Creeping Flesh or Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

The Story Goes...
A contaminated rat at a nuclear facility type building bites and turns the staff into zombies, which ultimately spreads across the entire country of New Guinea. It is up to a journalist and some commandos to destroy the zombies, and prevent the zombie virus from infecting the world's population. 

My Thoughts...
There are three things that Italians are most known for throughout the world:

1. Changing the shape of pasta and pretending that it somehow has different flavors in spite of the fact that every shape contains the exact same ingredients.

2. Drinking coffee from tiny glasses whilst discussing various illegal activities, and opera.

3. And, of course, specializing in exploitation films from the 1960s throughout the 70s and early 1980s. With a minor in zombie films.*

Bruno Mattei specialized in two of these three concepts (I'll let you decide which two), and today we will discuss his zombie classic Virus...or Zombie Creeping Flesh...or Hell of the Living Dead. Distributors could not seem to decide what to name this gem, so it is up to old Jack to decide once and for all. And, I choose Zombie Creeping Flesh just because there is another movie titled Virus, and if I have to say "of the living dead" one more time I'm going to flip.

Zantoro has more hatred for zombies than Tallahassee¹
 Should you do a little research into the life and times of Bruno Mattei, you will see that his mastery ranged from zombie films like Zombie Creeping Flesh, to nunsploitation in Guardian of Hell, to rats in Rats - Notte di Terrore (Night of Terror), and of course sharks in the no-way-affiliated-with-the-original sequel to Jaws; Cruel Jaws. 

IIndeed, Signor Mattei was to exploitation flicks what my morbidly obese drug dealer neighbor is cheeseburgers...a master. Assisting Mattei in this epic piece is none other than the legendary Claudio Fragasso, who you no doubt remember as the director/writer of the life changing experience known as Troll II, taking on the credit of writer. Zombies and Mattei and Fragasso, oh my! This has no choice but to be a nut busting experience for those fans of early 80s Euro-schlock.
Much like many of his contemporary Italian exploitation directors of era such as Lucio Fulci, Mattei's films have a dreamlike quality that I have trouble finding the words to describe. Jack find words hard! Anyways, I suppose that surreal would be an acceptable term, but it seems to be with the film itself, and not the just the subject material. It's like there is always a light haze that covers the scene. It really does seem to set the mood for viral zombie flicks. Good job fellows.
Few people are aware of the Mussolini edict that declared that zombie
exploitation films must contain no less than 1 severed arm per 120 minutes.
Quota filled
For fans of the soundtrack of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, you will probably love the soundtrack for Zombie Creeping Flesh...if for no other reason than the fact that Mattei stole it directly from Dawn (oh those wily Italians). The music was produced by Goblin, who you may also remember as the band who composed the music for the Dario Argento classic Suspiria. Even if Mattei used the music illegally, it fits the tone of the film, and I enjoyed it. For some reason the formulaic mix of zombies and progressive rock make me all warm and tingly on the inside. A condition that only Mrs. Plissken can alleviate (wink).

 On a side note, I'd like to point out that Bruno was stealing music before stealing music was cool. There was no Napster, iTunes or Limewire in his day. He had to work to steal his music, and he loved it! The man truly was a trailblazer.

Boy zombie
 We are given a real treat with the voice acting, as it compliments the inappropriate overacting that only vintage Italian actors could provide, rather well. After all, questionable delivery decisions on the part of the actor combined with the often lethargic dubbings of the voice actors are truly a large part of what makes these films fun to watch. Geez, I love passion mixed with boredom.

 Now, I know what you're thinking: "Mr. Inimitable®, this is all fine and good, but are there boobs?" Of course there are! You see, the journalist knows that she must work with the natives in order to learn more about the zombies. But, in order for them to trust her, she will need to take off her shirt and wear war paint. I realize that this is the standard method of gaining trust in most cultures today, and it should go without saying, but I'm here to educate those who may not know. You're welcome.
One of the greatest diplomatic figures of our generation
Yes, the rumors are true. Stock footage is used in Zombie Creeping Flesh, and honestly I would expect no less. If you need to make  a 90 minute film, but only have enough resources to make a 60 minute film, then shortcuts have to be made, son. When you're working with a shoestring budget, you gots to do what needs to be done, cracka. That's called keepin' it real.
Some stock footage from Hell of the Living Dead
If you're a fan of classic zombie movies from the late 70s and early 80s, then Zombie Creeping Flesh is a must see. It's cheesy, hokey, and far from art, but it's an eye popping good time. The pacing is great, and you shouldn't get bored. Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso are a great team, and the two know their audience, and provide loads of entertainment for those individuals.

And yes, the story was influenced by previous entries in the genre, but it doesn't take away from the fun. I'm sure that Mattei would admit that he was influenced by his zombie predecessors, and may even have been proud that you took the time to notice.
The typical reaction to seeing a Bruno Mattei film
Generally I would say that this is a great starting point if you would like to see some of Mattei's work. It gives you a taste of Bruno before jumping into the Emmanuels, the nunsploitation, and the Nazisploitation. If you dislike cheapness, then look elsewhere. But, if you want a fun zombie flick from a legendary director, then check this one out.


*The previous illustration is not intended to offend normal Italian citizens in any manner, and is clearly provided for entertainment purposes. Please keep in mind that this disclaimer is considered void and unnecessary for the Jersey Shore type losers. 
¹Tallahassee is a reference to the zombie hating lunatic in Zombieland. If you haven't seen it, then you should probably reevaluate your priorities.

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