Don’t let that poster art fool you : it may be a direct swipe from Lucio Fulci’s City Of The Living Dead (or, if you prefer, The Gates Of Hell) ,but 2007’s Zombies : The Beginning —Bruno Mattei’s second of a planned direct-to-video, Filipino-lensed undead trilogy— concerns itself solely with ripping off James Cameron’s Aliens once the (video) cameras are rolling. Which, yeah, is kinda weird considering it’s a zombie flick, I suppose, but what the hell, Bruno (or “Vincent Dawn,” as the credits once again tell us here) had done it before — specifically with his 1990 production Shocking Dark — and if there’s one thing he was an old pro at by the time of this, his final film before a brain tumor took his life, it was doing the same thing over and over again. I’m not even one to rock the boat much when I’m feeling perfectly healthy, so far be it from me to knock a guy who was at death’s door for his steadfast refusal to break from old habits.
More or less functioning as a sequel to the previous year’s Island Of The Living Dead, we begin here by completely contradicting the ending to that film and discovering that Sharon (Yvette Yzon — who, we learn in due course, is actually a “doctor” of some sort) is, lo and behold, alive and semi-well, after all, except for these nightmare visions she’s having of being attacked by hordes of shambling corpses. As luck would have it, though, she’s both back on her feet and back at work soon enough, thanks to the fiercely amoral Tyler Corporation, who rescue her from her new life at a Buddhist (I think, at any rate) monastery when they tap her to lead an expedition to find out what happened at an island colony they lost contact with that was beset by some “unknown” tragedy.
Of course, Sharon already knows what that tragedy was, the suits at Tyler already know what that tragedy was, and, crucially, we already know what that tragedy was — but if everybody just gave up at this point, they wouldn’t all decide to go find out what happened, and we wouldn’t have a movie to watch. So, it’s time to get a paramilitary crew together and go get killed by zombies!
It’s all here, Ellen Ripley fans : zombie fetuses ripping out of their less-than-willing mothers/hosts, zombie babies on bloody murder sprees, secret corporate labs harvesting zombies as bio-weapons, evil company overlords who would much rather see everybody die than have their secrets revealed — all done with far less style, panache, and, most importantly, money than Cameron had at his disposal. If Aliens is, in the words of its director, “40 miles of bad road,” then this is 40 miles of really bad road. Quick question — can you guess how Sharon finally lays waste to the entire zombie “hatchery” at the end? Sure you can.
None of which should be confused for me saying that Zombies : The Beginning isn’t all kinds of shitty, low-grade fun. It absolutely is. In fact, whether due to its higher body count, more free-flowing bloodshed, or more bald-faced thievery (actually, it’s probably down to a combination of all three), I had more fun watching this than I did Island Of The Living Dead. It almost feels like Bruno was determined to go out with as much bang as his limited bucks would allow, and you have to respect him for that.
As is the case with its prequel (yeah, I know, the title here makes this one sound like it’s the prequel, but it’s not), Zombies : The Beginning has recently been released on DVD from Severin Films via their InterVision Picture Corp. on-paper “subsidiary,” and features a nicely-remastered anamorphic widescreen picture and stereo sound, along with the original trailer, a roughly five-minute promo reel, and an on-camera chat with screenwriter Antonio Tentori rounding out a small but welcome package of extras. I grabbed a copy off Amazon Marketplace brand new for ten bucks, and at that price, I really have absolutely nothing to complain about here. Sure, Mattei was just fulfilling his role as consummate Italian cinematic “borrower” one more time with this one, but he gives it his all, and I freely admit that’s plenty good enough for my (yeah, low — you got a problem with that?) standards.