It takes a special kind of person to be a horror fan — I mean a real horror fan, the kind of guy who will sit through every crappy film he can get his hands on in hopes of finding a gem. It takes an even more special person to be a zombie fan, a real die hard zombie aficionado, to sit through all of the horrible zombie movies that come out each year. I do not claim to be as die hard as many, but I am willing to put myself through a lot in the search for a good zombie movie. All of that said, Zombie 4: After Death is not a good zombie film; it's not without some certain charms, but it is not a good zombie film. Hell, it isn't even a good movie, but here it is, and here I watch.
What appears to be the subtitle on the DVD, After Death (original Italian title: Oltre la morte), is actually the real title of the movie. the Zombie 4 tag was added as a marketing gimmick, tying it in with the other Zombie coming out of Italy, in the UK it is called Zombie Flesh Eaters 3. In actuality, it has no connection with the other Zombie films, most are in name only. I guess they figure if they add the Zombie tag, they will fool enough people into making some connection to Lucio Fulci's Zombi (aka Zombie 2, an unconnected sequel to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, released as Zombie in Italy). Ugh, making sense of the Italian zombie family tree is enough to make your head hurt. All you really need to know is that none of these films are connected by anything more than the fact that they contain zombies.
Zombie 4: After Death opens on some unnamed island (presumably in the Caribbean, but actually shot in the Phillipines). In the caves beneath the jungle, a group of scientists (with the presence of mind to bring automatic weapons) are seeking to reason with a Voodoo priest upset with them for killing his daughter. They were actually looking for a cure for cancer and a way to defeat death. The priest, in retaliation, sacrifices his wife to hell, only for her to return as a zombie (looking more like a demonic possession) and kill all of them. There is one survivor, a young girl, perhaps four years old, who is able to outrun the fast-moving zombies and get away to some boat that is said to be waiting.
Fast forward some twenty years, a fact you will have to figure out on your own due to the lack of any narrative device to clue you in. A boat containing some mercenaries and a blonde woman (the grown child from the opening) are back in the vicinity of the island. An unknown force draws them to the island, and they're ready to become zombie fodder. At the same time, on the other side of the island, a trio of explorers find an item called "The Book of the Dead." Faster than you can say "uh-oh" they read the magic words, and the island is once again infested with the living dead. With some regularity, the groups are whittled down to the core characters that we will follow through to the end.
The filmmakers did not seem to know what kind of zombies they wanted to have. They are all dressed in black ninja outfits, and to make sure you are looking at a zombie, they all spit blood and goo from their mouths. Some of them are the slow, shambling zombies, while others are fast moving and possess kung fu skills. They also die pretty easily, generally the standard shot to the head works. Oh yes, there are also zombies that retain the use of speech and the ability to fire weapons.
If you are looking for a story, forget it. There are brief mentions of the scientists' research, but no one ever has any focus on finding anything, or even getting away from the creatures. The blonde woman, Jenny, doesn't even know what happened on this island, or why they shouldn't be there in the first place (you would think that she'd remember the death/murder of her parents). When it gets to the end, you will be left scratching your head as to what just happened, but still be a little happy with the best gore of the feature.
The movie is rather dull; none of the characters are likable and the whole thing is rather forgettable. Still, it is a zombie movie, and it is always fun to watch where they went so horribly wrong, where the film just flew off the rails. It happens pretty quick here, and the end result is still fun to watch if only to make fun of it along the way. Take, for example, two of our heroes fighting off a hoarde of zombies — cut to the next scene and it is daylight, and the two are sleeping in the same open area. What? You just have to laugh at the absurdity. Be on the lookout for more wackiness throughout.
After Death was directed by Claudio Fragasso (under the name Clyde Anderson) in two weeks, shooting primarily at night with equipment from another film he was working on. It stars porn star Jeff Stryker (using his real name of Chuck Peyton), and Candice Daly (who was only there because her boyfriend missed her and said there was a part for her).
Audio/Video. Considering how cheaply it was shot, and how poorly the negative was probably treated, it looks surprisingly good. It will never be confused for a Hollywood picture, but we should already know that going in. The dubbing is awful, adding to the comedy. Still, Shriek Show has done a good job delivering this little known flick to an unsuspecting public.
Extras. There are a couple here, text liner notes and a biography of Fragasso that are near impossible to read in their tiny fonts, as well as video interviews with Fragasso, Candice Daly, and Jeff Stryker. Rounding out the extras are a movie trailer for the feature, as well as a few other Shriek Show releases, and a hidden trailer for Zombi.
Bottom line. This is a bad movie, there is absolutely no getting around it. The effects are poor, the acting atrocious, what else can be said? The fact that I was able to watch it, and would not be surprised if I reach for it again in the future? Perhaps that is all that these things need to do, offer up cheap entertainment that you find yourself drawn to, flying in the face of all reason.