Zombie Holocaust (1980)
Directed by Marino Girolami

Artistic Value: * ½
Entertainment Value: * * *

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After an orderly in a New York hospital is caught ripping out and eating the heart of a human cadaver, the police launch an investigation, enlisting the aid of Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli), who is both a doctor at the hospital where the incident occurred and an anthropologist specializing in primitive cultures. The detective in charge of the case, Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch), promptly reveals that this is only the latest in a series of similar incidents and shows Lori images of prior victims and of one man who is suspected of having committed some of the crimes. Lori then notices a tattoo of a strange symbol on the chest of this man and recognizes it as being the same symbol as that decorating a knife which had been used for human sacrifice that she has hanging in her apartment. Having, apparently, decided to follow this lead, no matter what the cost, Peter, Lori, and a number of others head off to a remote Asian archipelago where the people using the symbol reside. Before arriving at their destination, the investigators enlist the help of Dr. Obrero (Donald O'Brien), a Western physician living on a nearby island. He offers them a guide, and this person, Molotto (Dakar), takes the group to the isle where, they believe, they will discover a tribe of primitive cannibals. Upon landing on the island, the party does indeed encounter the anthropophagous locals, who promptly attack, kill, and eat several of the intruders. The survivors, however, find out that these savages are not the only danger from which they will have to escape. They will also have to get away from Dr. Obrero, who has been conducting experiments on human beings, turning them into zombies.

Marino Girolami's Zombie Holocaust is a grisly, rambling, often idiotic, and fairly entertaining exploitation film. It is bad, but it is never dull.


Without a doubt, the film's story is not well told. Connections between one event and another are frequently either painfully contrived or just arbitrary (or even incomprehensible). Additionally, the director has added to his tale innumerable fortuitous coincidences, silly thought processes, and other inanities, all of which contribute to the narrative's general awfulness. The story is just what a person would expect from a truly bad B-movie, which, of course, is what this is.

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Fortunately, the narrative's faults hardly ruin Zombie Holocaust. In fact, the story really does little more than provide excuses for the inclusion of numerous scenes of violence and a few featuring a little nudity. The former sequences are pretty gruesome. At one time or another, the director treats the viewer to the sight of a man impaled on several bamboo spikes having his throat slashed and his entrails ripped out and eaten, another man dying when his belly is cut open (so that the cannibals can feast on his intestines and then gouge out and devour his eyes), one of the heroes ramming the propeller of an outboard motor into the face of a zombie, pulverizing the thing's head, the skull of a woman (who has already been scalped) being cut open while she lies, still conscious, on an operating table (shortly after her vocal cords have been removed so that her screams will not irritate the doctor working on her), and so on and so on. Zombie Holocaust's sexual content is not nearly as extreme as is its brutality, but Delli Colli does take her clothes off several times and, towards the film's conclusion, is captured by the cannibals, stripped, painted with flowers, and placed, spread-eagled, on a tilted, round altar so that the whole tribe can ogle her. The movie is pretty sleazy.


Other than its lurid savagery and its leering exposure of Delli Colli's body, there is not much in the film for which it can be recommended. The narrative, as I have said, is atrocious. The sets are cheap. The acting is either wooden or completely over the top. The dialogue ranges from forgettable to goofy. The special effects, which utilize much very bright red blood, can be unintentionally laughable. I especially liked the moment when the cannibalistic orderly who appears early on jumps from a window several floors up; to show this, the director uses a dummy, but, when this hits the ground, its arm pops off. All of this said, Zombie Holocaust is a low budget exploitation movie, and such low quality is just what one would expect to encounter in it.


Zombie Holocaust might not be good, but it is not boring. I enjoyed watching it.


Review by Keith Allen


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