Night of the Zombies

Night of the Zombies ★★★½

A chemical leak at a secret research facility in New Guinea causes people to turn into flesh-eating zombies. Believing that eco-terrorists are behind the takeover of the plant, a team of commandos arrives on the island and encounters a journalist, played by Margit Evelyn Newton, and her cameraman, both of whom are investigating a series of inexplicable attacks in tribal villages. The soldiers are compelled by necessity to partner with the reporters when they realize that the entire country is being overrun by the zombies.

I first saw the 1980 Italian film, Hell of the Living Dead (Virus), almost 30 years ago when I rented it on VHS at a rental store while it was being marketed under the title, Night of the Zombies. The film shook me up, not only because it is extremely gory in the way that many over-the-top Italian ripoff films are, but also because of its foreboding atmosphere and its use of stock footage. Most movies in this genre make zombie apocalypse scenarios look like fun, but the rough-around-the-edge grittiness of this film and its no-holds-barred approach lend a harrowing aesthetic to the proceedings.

Director Bruno Mattei, who also helmed Rats: Night of Terror, cobbles material from a number of earlier zombie movies, taking cues particularly from the George A. Romero films, but this story, although nonsensical at times, stands up on its own terms as an interesting, yet sleazy, entry in the genre. The main strength of this movie is its third world location settings, which convey the notion that nothing in the area is safe.

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