For all its superfluous nudity, extreme gore, and memorable imagery, Zombi 2 made director Lucio Fulci into a horror icon of the late 1980’s, earned him the title "The Godfather of Gore", and ignited his career. Regardless of his atrociously bad dialogue and dubious pacing/storytelling, Fulci went on to make such similarly distinguished cult films as The Beyond, House by the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead, Cat in the Brain, and Manhattan Baby. Though he has directed in all genres, horror remained his home and Zombi 2 his magnum opus.
Scoring Zombi 2 was Fulci’s frequent collaborator Fabio Frizzi, best known for his work on Fulci’s horror films. What he produced for this Fulci effort is a strange mix indeed. If you are familiar with anything from this score or Frizzi’s scores in general, it’s bound to be his iconic title theme of Zombi 2. Heard in "Sequence 8", it’s a heavily synthetic, retro sounding piece. Conceived at the beginning of the synthesizer’s incorporation into popular music, the theme draws clear influence from early prog rock and analogue synth work. Led by the bizarre choral tones of the mellotron, the theme has an ominous, downright strange feel to it. Adding to this is its alternation between two main ideas over a constant "thump, thump, thump" beat, the catchy and foreboding choral-led section and a livelier flurry of layered synths. It’s a surprisingly "easy" listen but something about it doesn’t sit right.
This characteristic is indicative of the score’s approach as a whole. Rarely does Frizzi dish up outright horror. Rather, the composer chooses to establish the vibe of a place or produce music that is creepily "off". For a standalone listen, this can be good and bad. Much of the score, for instance, is heavily tied to the island setting. "Sequence 1" features a hard to digest, blatantly tropical piece of music for the main characters’ arrival on the cursed island of Matool. Rather than establishing a sense of foreboding for the island, "Sequence 1" merely connotes sipping piña coladas by the pool of some tacky resort, a misstep no doubt. This is rectified, though, by the identity for the island established in "Sequence 3" and "Sequence 7", a constant, tribal, even ritualistic drum motif. Lurking faintly through large portions of the film, it suggests a ubiquitous voodoo influence over the onscreen events but only comes across as numbingly repetitive on album. Such is also the case with the fast-paced "Sequence 4", another track dominated by tribal drums.
"Sequence 2" fits better in between the two extremes of retro synth work ("Sequence 5") and tribal elements ("Sequence 7"). Heard in the film during the overrunning of Dr. Menard’s mansion and the rising of the iconic, worm-ridden conquistador, "Sequence 2" is both a somewhat hypnotic homage to the structures of Steve Reich and an example of Frizzi’s approach of not directly scoring the film’s horror. The peculiar and abrasive effects of "Sequence 6" are the closest he comes to this and, for that matter, to incorporating traditional suspense elements.
Though the stark, often dreary, and, dare I say, "dead-ish" title theme remains the highpoint of this score, more conservative film score enthusiasts or those without a particular love for horror may scoff at it for its simplicity and datedness. As in the case of the film itself, those with a fondness for Frizzi’s score almost exclusively fall into the realm of cult following. Categorize me as you will but I do believe Frizzi’s main theme is an iconic demonstration of Italian horror music, something that Frizzi would very blatantly seek to recreate in his City of the Living Dead. The rest of the score, as successful at establishing a strange mood as it may be, doesn’t quite hold up to the ominous memorability of the main theme. Though boosted by a superb re-mastering, this is especially true on album.
Recommended Track: "Sequence 8"
Label: Beat Records, Ais, Death Waltz, Various Bootlegs
Availability: Rare, 8 track edition, 20 track edition (including Frizzi's Un Gatto Nel Cervello), Vinyl