Coming on the tail end of the Italo-zombie craze, ZOMBIE 4: AFTER DEATH isn’t nearly as disappointing as could be expected. After the viewer recovers from the laughably menacing voice over introduction describing the menace of scientist’s “humanitarian mission” which led them to create a lab on a tropical island to study ways to defeat death, Clyde Anderson’s (Claudio Fragasso) ZOMBIE 4: AFTER DEATH starts off rocking with the zombie movie equivalent to TOP GUN’s Danger Zone, Living After Death. This brief exposition is all the preparation viewers get before they are treated to the most confusing and convoluted opening imaginable. A group of scientists are running through the catacombs of a tropical island trying to stop a plague started by a voodoo priest. The priest sends his wife to hell by having her eat some pink glow in a fairly boring ritual preceding the eventual showdown between the priest and scientists.
Finally the most necessary exposition dump in all of cinema clues viewers into the fact that the priest cursed the island by bringing the dead back to life to feast on the intestines of the living because they were unable to cure his daughter’s cancer. Then what may have been mistaken for principle characters are dispatched by the priest’s badass zombie wife newly risen from hell. A young child is given a necklace and told to run by her mother who is quickly dispatched trying to avenge her husband’s death. Fifteen minutes worth of set up in order to bring a hot blonde back to the island with a group of mercenaries to close the gate to hell opened by the evil priest years earlier.
Maybe now Claudio will make with the gut munching? Eh. Slowly. One of the mercs gets a slow festering bite and they hole up in a house. Though this is 20 years after the beginning, judging from the blonde chick that was a toddler ten minutes prior many of the candles are still burning on the island and a blood transfusion bottle is still dripping…I’ve been to Italy once and I have to admit time does seem to flow differently there but nothing like this. The mercenaries nebulous mission and the quest of the the three students or researchers (it never really says what they are…) are never clear. Jenny (Candice Daly) wants to close the circle of Hell, which seems to be a circle of candles on a table in a house… but things go to shit quick as the zombies show up and start munching. Chuck (Jeff Stryker) is the sole survivor of the smaller group after they read the magic words and had their first encounter. The mercenaries become zombfied one by one and finally Chuck and Jenny trying to stop the zombie onslaught leading up to a surprisingly satisfying bleak ending that can be expected of most Italian gutmunchers.
It may be true that AFTER DEATH has a few problems. It may also be true that the sun is going to come up tomorrow. As shitty as some Italian zombie movies can be I find most of them to be better than the worst American zombie flicks. The faults of this one can be counted on two or three hands: the plot is incomprehensible, the directing is haphazard, the characters are undeveloped, the dialog is stilted, the acting is wooden, Jeff Stryker is the most ineffective lead, the theme song is repetitive, the mythology is convoluted (are they voodoo zombies or the bitey zombies? Oh, it seems kind of both), some of the zombies talk, some of the zombies are fast, some of the zombies shamble, some of the zombies use machine guns, and th two groups seem to be on the island “because.” Lastly it is a sequel in name only. It was titled AFTER DEATH and ZOMBIE 4 was tacked on to cash in.
Some of the pluses are it starts off at break neck speed and doesn’t slow down, if you’ve seen TROLL II then the director is a known quantity (the zombies even look like taller versions of T2’s goblins), the gore ranges from cheap to pretty good, and the ending somehow makes sense thought the rest of the film doesn’t. Other laughs include “BOOK OF THE DEAD” being scribbled on the cover of a dictionary in Sharpie. You’re going to see a lot of filtered back light and a ton of fog to help add atmosphere to this ‘Pines lensed schlock-fest.
The Shriek Show DVD of ZOMBIE 4: AFTER DEATH is shockingly loaded considering its movie that would only appeal to fans of shitty flicks. Four visible trailers for AFTER DEATH, ZOMBIE 3, HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK, and EATEN ALIVE plus a hidden easter egg trailer of Fulci’s original ZOMBI 2. There are liner notes on AFTER DEATH, a bio on Claudio Fragasso and interviews with Fragasso, Candice Daly, and Jeff Stryker. P.S. Who is that chick at the beginning that plays Jenny’s mom? She is hot.