Color, 1988, 81 mins. / Directed by Claudio Fragasso / Starring Jeff Stryker, Candice Daly / Media Blasters (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Vipco (UK R2 PAL)


As the Italian horror industry wound down in the late 1980s, attempts to recapture the glory days (or is that gory days?) of Fulci and Argento resulted in a lot of bizarre genre hybrids, most of which wound up being released only in Europe and Asia. Although Fulci's Zombi 3 misfired at the box office, that film's writer, Claudio Fragasso, took over directorial chores for another Filipino-shot romp with the undead, After Death. Promoted as Zombi 4 (but not titled as such in the film itself), this ramshackle outing delivers bucketloads of gore and an equally rich stream of unintentional guffaws.

The goofiness begins full throttle in the obligatory opening set piece, which finds a hyperactive voodoo doctor fending off a gang of white interlopers by turning his drooling, zombie wife loose on them. The sole survivor returns two decades later as pretty Candice Daly, who for no particular reason tags along with a band of mercenaries led by the stoic Chuck (switch-hitting adult star Jeff Stryker, billed as "Chuck Peyton"). Of course, she isn't aware that this is the same island of doom until it's too late, when they're all besieged by the hungry undead. Our heroes run into a band of inept scientists who have accidentally increased the zombie population, resulting in a claustrophobic voodoo showdown strangely reminiscent of the "magic circle" bit from The Devil Rides Out, only silly. Eventually it all comes down to a handful of survivors and an ultra-moist finale "borrowed" from the "other" Zombi 3, Burial Ground.

Not many people are likely to confuse After Death with a good movie, but zombie and splatter fans can easily get their jollies here. Faces are torn off in lingering detail, chest cavities are turned into impromptu puppeting devices, bullet squibs burst twenty times wetter than any real gunshot... well, you get the idea. Fans of those agile, gun-toting, kickboxing zombies from Nightmare City and Zombi 3 will find more of the same behavior here as well. For some reason the two American leads didn't loop their own voices, but the dubbing stays in sync and is better than average for this time period. Ah, and let's not forget the hilarious synth score by Al Festa, the man who went on to perpetrate Fatal Frames; the theme song alone is nearly worth the DVD's price tag.

Now here's where things get confusing. Most fans first saw this film via Japanese video as After Death; then a passable but somewhat bleary-looking transfer popped up on British DVD as Zombie Flesh Eaters 3 (since Zombi 3 was retitled Zombie Flesh Eaters 2; got that?). The best transfer is Media Blaster's edition, which is called Zombie 4: After Death. The anamorphic presentation is colorful and features nicely rendered black levels (a first for this title), though the deliberate soft focus photography in some shots translates to an erratic presentation wholly dependent on the original elements. The packaging promises a trailer and an interview with Fragasso, which turns out to be a solid, 17-minute discussion which dovetails directly from his interview on the Zombi 3 disc. He explains the genesis of the film and the location shooting in great detail and seems to offer a reasonable presentation of the industry during that period. However, a few unadvertised bonuses turn up as well. Daly appears for a very brief on-camera interview; she seems pleasant enough but her recollections are limited. However, the most unexpected extra turns out to be a 10-minute video interview with Stryker, who looks like he was caught on the way to his car in L.A. He explains how he was hired because uncredited producer Werner Pochath (the late, great Eurosleaze character actor from Mosquito and The Cat o' Nine Tails) was a big fan of his porn work, then repeatedly characterizes his performance as "runnin' around in the jungle, lookin' freaked out!" Along with some liner notes (in illegibly tiny print), the usual Media Blasters tie-in trailers are also included.


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