Friday, March 27, 2009

The Final 2 by Bruno Mattei: Island of the Living Dead (2006) and Zombies: The Beginning (2007)

Bruno Mattei is a god, little g. By far one of my favorite Italian film directors with a distinct flavor all of his own. The last two films directed by Mattei before his sloughed off his mortal coil in 2007 are Island of the Living Dead (2006) and Zombies: The Beginning (2007). His litany of sins is as follows:


1. Plots: I have a profound dislike for plot synopses and hate writing them. Mattei must hate writing them also, because he often takes the scripts for his films from preexisting ones.

2. Dialogue: In addition to plot lines, Mattei had no problem cribbing the characters' dialogue right off the page either. In either English or Italian, only a translation was necessary.

3. Footage: From page to screen, if it was filmed before by someone else, Mattei's magical pair of scissors would borrow it for his own flick.

Stealing? Cheating? Not quite. Stealing often implies surreptitious action and a malicious heart. Cheating is also out of the question. Cheating implies that one through nefarious and fraudulent means achieves the level of success of one through honest means. No claim can be made for Mattei of either.

Island of the Living Dead shares the basic plot framework of Steve Beck's mediocre Ghost Ship (2002). However, instead of a group of salvagers on a large luxury liner, Mattei's disparate group arrives on an island to encounter supernatural events and zombies. Lots of them. Of particular interest is the wardrobe. Seemingly whatever clothes an actor wore to the set on the first day of shooting became that character's wardrobe. A favorite is a grey Snoopy t-shirt worn by one.

All jokes aside, the zombie and gore fx are quite competent. Also for a low-budget, shot-on-video production, it looks quite nice. Although Mattei did not edit this one or Zombies, it moves at a steady clip with little filler. Mattei often edited his own films, brilliantly I might add. He would edit from the perspective of a director who didn't fall in love with his footage but rather from a viewer's perspective, sacrificing the boring for the explosion.

The ending of Island serves as perfect beginning for Zombies: The Beginning. James Cameron's Aliens (1986) provides Mattei the plot, a lot of the scenes, some of the dialogue, and maybe a little bit of footage. No aliens, though, but zombies. Island's Yvette Yzon returns for Zombies as a would-be Ripley. The same wonderful zombie fx returns with a whole lot of ineptitude and machine-gun action. Both films are tremendous fun.

I believe that I've suffered quite a bit of brain damage watching Mattei's movies. However, like a vegetative hospital patient, I am defenseless against the horror. God bless you, Bruno Mattei.

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