42nd Street Cinema

Zombie Creeping Flesh (1980)

Bruno Mattei's awkwardly paced answer to Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978).
Also known as; Virus, Hell of the Living Dead and Night of the Zombies., Zombie Creeping Flesh initially gained an X rating for its cinematic release in a 1982 Britannia and later, landed a spot on the infamous nasty list.
Starring: Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo (as Frank Garfield), Selan Karay, José Gras (as Robert O'Neil), Gabriel Renom (as Gaby Renom) and Josep Lluís Fonoll (as Luis Fonoll).

Zombie Creeping Flesh serves as Mattei's first dabbling with the undead, he also released it using the pseudonym of 'Vincent Dawn' which is presumably, a nod to Dawn of the Dead (1978). Mattei, would later go on to co-direct Zombi 3 (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters 2) in 1988, with Lucio Fulci. By Mattei's own estimation shot "40%" of the film.

Based on an original film treatment by José María Cunillés and later fleshed out into a large script by Claudio Fragasso, the man behind the infamous Troll 2 (1990). He and Mattei became something of an unstoppable 'gruesome twosome' in the Italian exploitation film market. In reference to certain scenes from Zombie Creeping Flesh, Fragasso once stated "I was the one who insisted Bruno use gore, because without blood and entrails, this type of film would be completely pointless". At least he knew how to appease fans of exploitative zombie films.
Mattei, initially starting out as an editor in the 1960s, claimed to have edited over 100 films between then and the early 1970s, before landing in the director's chair for Armida (1970). A couple years later he helmed two nazisploitation features which would successfully make him a name in the exploitation genre.

Shot in Spain, although actually set in New Guinea. Mattei used his editorial experience and stock footage from a documentary to overcome the lack of jungles while shooting in Spain. According to the film's IMDB page, the native footage is from the film La vallée (1972). Never will you see so much filler stock footage in one zombie movie than this and the repeated idea of 'borrowing' from Romero's Dawn even extends to the film's soundtrack, where Goblin's score for Dawn of the Dead (1978) is frequently used, almost causing legal action as Goblin had not authorized the use of their material.

The plot starts off with a chemical leak at a research facility called Hope, gradually turning the employees into hungry flesh eaters. After that opening sequence, the following introduction to characters plays out in a very similar manner to Dawn. Beginning with a SWAT team led by Lt. Mike London (Gras) exercising orders to eliminate a group of terrorists and save hostages. Once that mission is over and done with, the group of commandos are despatched to Papua New Guinea due to investigate the absence of communication with Hope, as the intelligence suggests it could be down to potential terrorist activity. Soon enough the commandos encounter reporter/journalist Lia Rousseau (Newton) and her cameraman Max (Karay) who're covering a story, pertaining to violent attacks on the native population.
The troop find that the country is overrun with zombies and that the Hope facility is responsible. An experimental chemical had been released which kills people and turns them into zombies and was a sinister plot intended to curb the Third World population. However in the closing moments of the film, it appears that the contagion has spread to the First World and a zombie epidemic is imminent.

For what is essentially a good-bad film, it carries a seriously strong point of Third World exploitation, pollution and overpopulation. Mattei's haphazardly style of filmmaking oozes a strange uneasy uniqueness, this is only reinforced by the laughable amount of continuity goofs and how much it shamelessly borrows from better Italian and American zombie films. Franco Garofalo is great in this and at times, practically carries the film on his facial expressions and crazy antics. Zombie Creeping Flesh has lots of memorable sequences, my personal favourite involves a cat jumping out of an old lady's stomach. It also has enough zombie attacks and gore to warrant it a lot of re-watch value, especially if you throw a friend or two into the mix.


Franco Macabro said...

Sounds like a dumb yet fun film, hey, its from the makers of TROLL 2, that has got to count for something! I dont like the way these particular Italian filmmakers made movies, its like they really didnt care about what they were doing, they simply did them to make some cash, and it shows. Still, they are fun films to watch because they are so bad. Thanks for the review!

Alex B. said...

Totally agree about Garofalo carrying the film on his demented performance!

Nigel M said...

Hi Jim, I think in this instance IMDB may be a little wide of the mark- the stock footage being from Akira Ide's L'isola dei cannibali (1974)

Nickolas Cook said...

This is a horror party fav of mine. I love to show it to people who either have no idea about Mattei's truly monumental ability to make even the worst dreck wonderfully entertaining, or someone who doesn't dig horror so much. The reactions I've gotten have gone from physical illness (the maggot eating scene is great for that) to rolling on the floor with unrestrained laughter. But Mattei, for all his cheapo mentality, still knew how to make his viewers uncomfortable, and even managed to shatter a film taboo here and there.
Plus, for gorgeous bodies on screen, you could do a hell of a lot worse than the beautiful Margit Evelyn Newton.

Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Blog/Magazine

David said...

The zombie rat getting into the guy's hazmat suit at the first is always a crowd pleaser! I liked this movie better than Dawn of the Dead (U.S.) because they play the heck out of the Goblin music, whereas Romero barely uses it amongst his usual sound library cues. BTW, my copy has the title 'Cannibal Apocalypse', so there is one more for the AKA list.

best pharmacy said...

I sincerely do not know why those kind of movies, zombies movies especially catch so much my attention, I do not know really and it is a little bit weird, don't you think??

tay swift said...

I don't understand the phenom either. Then again I don't understand the whole vampire thing either.

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