Zombie 4: After Death (1989)

Well, I guess you could say 2019 on B-Movie Enema was “the year of Zombie” as I talked about Lucio Fulci’s first Zombie movie from 1979 back in January and then Zombie 3 from 1988 came along in April.  Before we close out this year of Zombie, I should get to Zombie 4: After Death (also just known as After Death).

What makes this movie noteworthy is that it’s the first Zombie movie that goes without input form Lucio Fulci himself.  You can say that Zombie 3 didn’t seem to be that much of a Fulci flick itself, due to Fulci leaving the production due to illness, but he’s still given credit for the movie (whether or not he wants to have it).  What is a holdover from the previous installment is the duo that brought us the amazingly disastrous masterpiece that is Troll 2, Claudio Fragasso (listed as the director) and his wife and co-conspirator Rossella Drudi (credited as lone screenwriter).

So I guess you can say that we might be heading down a pretty interesting path in today’s B-Movie Enema.

But, wait!  There’s more!  Supposedly, this film was made under duress.  As the story goes, Fragasso was basically sharing space with Bruno Mattei.  Mattei was making an action movie during the day.  That meant if Fragasso wanted to make Zombie 4, he had to film entirely at night.  What’s interesting about this is that Zombie 4 was NOT a planned movie by the studio.  There was practically no budget, but, at the end of the day… er, night, the studio had Zombie 4.

Drudi and Fragasso will claim, and they are probably right in saying this, that they created a new style of zombie.  The zombies in this movie were fast moving.  They could run, they could think for themselves.  They could even defend themselves.  It was a fairly new take on the zombie.  Drudi thought of it as a mutation, or possibly even evolution.

But, about that duress.  Fragasso was making that action flick with Mattei.  So in the course of the two or so weeks of making Zombie 4, Fragasso pretty much couldn’t and didn’t sleep.  Not to mention, the action movie, had additional stunts, explosions, etc. that led to Fragasso and Mattei having a particularly scary incident in a helicopter that flew through a typhoon.  Beyond that, he once took dinner with the Zombie 4 crew of Filipino production people and stuntmen.  They got him drunk on some coconut liquor that made him hallucinate and feel like shit for a couple days.  So, yeah, Fragasso had an interesting time on set.

Zombie 4 stars Jeff Stryker.  Stryker is pretty well known as being a gay porn icon.  However, Stryker says his sexuality is “universal” because he also did heterosexual porn as well.  In fact, famed porn studio Vivid Entertainment lists Jamie Loves Jeff as one of their highest selling movies at the time it came out.  But my favorite thing about Jeff Stryker?  He has a dildo fashioned out of his genitalia, as you’d probably expect.  But the name of the sex toy (that I think is still available today) is The Jeff Stryker Cock and Balls.

That’s just the best, and most fitting, name for a licensed dildo ever.

Okay, so out of the gate, a narrator tells us that there is a group of thinkers and scholars, you know, your general science dork loser types.  So these guys, much like the Intellectual Dark Web guys, have gone off to some secret hang out to try to solve all the problems facing the very existence of humanity…

Anita Sarkeesian.

Nah, just fucking with you.  These science guys are trying to figure out how to either bring people back to life, or preventing death in the first place.  Then we see this voodoo dude, and it should be noted that this was filmed long after the movie was complete and Fragasso and Drudi really didn’t care for having to add in this completely unconnected voodoo shit and they really didn’t like the guy hired to be the voodoo man.  Fragasso’s words when talking about him was to call him a “real artist type”.  I guess he was just full of himself and a bit of an asshole.

This opening scene does accomplish two things, even if it isn’t that much of an achievement.  First, it gets the movie to nearly 90 minutes in length.  Second, it maybe creates some sort of sacrifice or curse or something that might unlock the zombie situation?  Maybe?  Anyway, some guys show up with the intent of shooting the voodoo artist prick asshole.  I guess the priest was pissed at the scientists on the island because his little girl had cancer and the scientists couldn’t save her.  So then he was like, “Fuck these guys…  ZOMBIES BITCHES!”

One of the scientists kills the voodoo priest and out of the ground, like directly from hell itself, comes his wife, who the priest sent there in the very beginning of the movie, to exact her revenge.   She makes short work of some of the guys there – even going so far as to ripping one dude’s motherfucking face off his motherfucking head!

Two of the researchers escape with their little girl.  However, as they run, they are being chased by evil voodoo demon queen and some random zombies just hanging out in the jungle around the voodoo guy’s home base.   This whole escape sequence really starts to carry on for far too long.  It ends up being the first full 15 minutes of the entire 95 minute runtime!  I do have to wonder exactly what all was added after the production came back to Rome.  How much was voodoo lady demon in that scene?  Was it all added later?

Outside, the father of the little girl gets his ass eaten by a zombie.  The mother sends the little girl away and goes to kill the zombies.   But she’s outnumbered and over matched.  The little girl just runs off.  We are then introduced to another whole group of mercenary dudes.  I guess this will be our lead characters from here on out.  They are headed to the island where all the zombies and shit are.  I guess the blonde with these dudes is the little girl grown up?  She’s wearing a necklace that I think the mom gave to her and she says it will help keep the door to hell locked.

There is another group of people on the island.  This trio (two guys and one girl) is exploring the island and trying to find the remnants of the lab or the voodoo guy’s home base or something.

Now…  Here’s where this movie struggles considerably.  For the first 30+ minutes of the movie, we’ve had a voodoo priest, his wife, and some guys to get their shit torn up because the voodoo guy sacrifices his wife knowing she will return as the evil zombified voodoo queen and take her revenge.  But really from here, it’s been nothing but people running away from zombies.  We’re now on our second group of people to come to the island and what are they doing?  Trying to get around this island and away from zombies.  This movie is shockingly BORRRRING.  This is made by Claudio fucking Fragasso.  The guy who had a heavy hand in Zombie 3’s kookiness and is not too far away from making Troll 2, a goddamned national treasure.

I guess you can see how this movie was made on the super cheap, during the off hours of another movie being made.

So the trio who are investigating the island and seemingly there for a purpose (as opposed to the mercenaries looking for a party) find where the voodoo peoples hung out and find the fabled “Book of the Dead”.  The girl in the group is all like yeah, I don’t think we should read from it.  The main guy basically makes Chuck (Jeff Stryker) read from it.  He begins but stops just before the incantation that should seemingly “close the gates to hell.”  When the main guy takes it and finishes it off thinking they’ve done the world a favor by putting an end to all that business from years ago, guess what happens.   Just take a guess…

Zombies.   Of course zombies.

So with Valerie and David now dead, thanks to zombies, Jeff Stryker has to… heh… STRYKE out on his own.  See what an incredibly boring and dumb movie makes me have to do?  I have to pun this shit up.

Meanwhile, over in the part of the story with the mercenaries, one of their guys who got attacked previously turns into a zombie, but not before another zombie sneaks into their place and attacks them.  Jeff Stryker comes to save them from their zombie issue and lets them know only a shot to the head can take them down.  As the hordes approach, the mercenary who turns opens his eyes and kills one of the girls that came to party with the group.  While the girl from earlier tries to use her necklace to stop the zombies, the transformed guy attacks her but runs away after she stabs him with scissors.

The horde of zombies outside stops when she started using the necklace but the ones inside still attack her.  Not sure exactly what the rules are here, but that’s where we are.

Now, I will say during the all out action of the mercenary guys fighting against the zombies, there is one pretty cool scene.  One of the mercenaries, Rod, was there with his girlfriend, Louise.  She was attacked by Tommy when he turned and started causing all sorts of shit inside their little hut shack.  He says something to her about being careful or something and she asks why he left her alone and didn’t take care of her.  You only see a half of her face and when he reveals that the other half is all fucked up zombified, she attacks.  I like that.  I’m not against the idea of talking zombies.  I’m not against the idea of smart or fast zombies.  That is something Drudi definitely was going for, but I just wish it was in a little bit better of a movie, ya know?

With a lull in the action, it’s time to compare notes.  Jeff Stryker explains how the zombies came to be.  Jenny, the all grown up version of the little girl from the beginning of the movie explains her necklace and that’s what the zombies are probably really after.  So I suppose they have to combine the incantation from the Book of the Dead and the necklace.  I dunno.

Anyway, as these things go, we’re losing our mercenaries.  They are dying off like, well…  Like mercenaries in a botched military operation that was poorly handled by a dumb general and possibly even dumber war department.  Flies.  They are dropping like flies.  Each of the mercenaries ultimately turn into zombies too until the last one, Dan, decides to grenade these motherfuckers.

Meanwhile, I guess Jenny and Jeff Stryker are gonna put the book of the dead together with the necklace and end the zombie problem or something.  I will say I’m not sure how “smart” these zombies actually are.  They don’t do anything to stop Dan from blowing them all sky high.  Outside, with what zombies were left, Jeff Stryker and Jenny are struggling to escape and put an end to this business.

The next morning, somehow they survive the remaining bunches of zombies while just sleeping outside under a tree, because sure…  They get to the cave where the voodoo dude was and Jenny reads from the Book of the Dead.  She sees this hole that is probably, like, Satan’s asshole or something and plans to toss the necklace in to close it up.  Well, she tosses that shit in there and Satan’s asshole farts in her face which cases her skin to start melting and shit.  Also, Jeff Stryker is getting his chest fisted by a zombie.

Eventually, Jenny’s eyeball comes out.  Her face melts a whole bunch.  Stryker is dead.  It’s all fucked up.  And I guess it ends with Jenny now being the new Queen of the Zombies or some such shit.

Look, I’m not going to come down too hard on Fragasso and Drudi for this movie.  It sucks for sure, but they were limited by funds and time.  I do think they have some ideas.  Smart zombies, fast zombies, and this slightly different take for the series to not have a disease but something a little more supernatural are all fine ideas.  I’m behind them on that.  Plus, it’s hard to argue against making this extra little movie on little to no budget and being able to sell it for almost an entire positive return.  That’s great of them!

But it lacks the voracious insanity of Zombie 3 and Troll 2.  I will clear one thing up…  This movie isn’t really called Zombie 4.  It really is just called After Death.  The name Zombie 4 comes from the Japanese distributor.  As with any of the sequels to Zombie or going all the way back to Dawn of the Dead, this movie has nothing to do with any of the others.  The fact that it still gets the Zombie 4 title is a testament to who made the movie, what it is, and where it came from.

I think I need a pallet cleanser after all this business.  So next week, I’m going to take a look at the newly restored R-rated cut of the 1994 bizarre sci-fi/horror/action/romance film Tammy and the T-Rex!

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