Say this about the latest installment in the bloody fun saga of the Zombi franchise of movies – It’s gleefully timely in its straightforward plot about a woman (essayed by the always talented Jennifer Nangle) who lands back at home with her missing father (played by the Lon Chaney of his times, Noel Jason Scott) in tow after retrieving him from the exotically named island Matool. Of course there’s a catch to this father-daughter reunion: Dear old dad just happens to be – wait for it – Patient Zero from a deadly outbreak that went down from four decades past (also known as Zombi II and Zombi III). With a backstory like that, you just know this is going to be one awkward conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table.
The timeliness of the story – and it’s the trope in most zombie films and literature that lends the concept so well to just about any time and place you pluck it down into the middle of – of course is the real-world parallel we’re all experiencing right now in the form of a worldwide pandemic. Intentional or not, this provides Zombi VIII a whole new wrinkle it might otherwise lack and because of the seeming relevance to our own reality it adds a fun gravitas to the proceedings. Of course, a corrupt politician (here played by industry legend Mel Novak of Bruce Lee’s Game of Death fame and in fine form) cements the fiction to our own reality as he desperately attempts to hide what is fast becoming a pandemic of epic proportions in the good burg of Los Angeles. Novak is great here in the brief screen time allotted him, and if I had but one complaint it’s that I wish this consummate actor had been given a few more scenes; he’s just that good.
Ferguson (surely one of the busiest folks in Hollywood) is in excellent voice with Zombi VIII: Urban Decay and it shows in every blood-drenched frame. The term popcorn movie instantly came to mind as I settled back to watch this opus and it’s obvious that as the writer and director of this iteration of the Zombi franchise he’s having an unmitigated blast with not just the thrills, but with the sly tongue-in-cheek humor. This is an Ed Wood film in only the best sense of the phrase: Solid directing and writing (something decidedly not Ed Wood-like) decorated by a knowing humor that winks at its audience even as it goes in for the jugular with some truly good scares. Keep an ear and an eye open, too, for a ton of classic horror movie references that range from homages to Romero all the way to Italian horror master Lucio Fulci. The film is a veritable piñata of cheesy horror goodness and is peppered with one of the best scores I’ve come across in a while by Oscar Fogelstrom.
Check out Zombi VIII: Urban Decay today and tell ‘em Vents sent you!