The 1989 Italian zombie film, After Death, takes place on a Caribbean island. I’m not sure if the island was actually given a name in the film. If they mentioned it, I either didn’t hear it or I didn’t bother to jot it down in my notes. But, to be honest, the island doesn’t really need a name. If you’ve ever seen an Italian zombie film, you’ll recognize the island immediately. It features the same lush tropical jungle that was used in Hell of the Living Dead and there’s the usual voodoo-loving island natives. Whether it was in Zombi 2 or Zombie Holocaust, you’ve seen this island before.
Years ago, Jenny grew up on the island. Her parents were scientists, working to discover a cure for cancer. But, after one of them shot and killed the local voodoo priest, all of the scientists on the island ended up getting eaten by zombies. Jenny would have been eaten as well, except for the fact that she owns a magic necklace.
Now an adult, Jenny (Candice Daly) is returning to the island with a group of mercenaries. We know that they’re meant to be mercenaries because they have guns and grenades and headbands. They’re not exactly the most impressive paramilitary crew that’s ever appeared in a movie. I mean, if this was a Predator movie, it would be a contest to see which one of them ended up getting killed first.
Jenniy and the mercenaries are heading to island to discover why her parents were killed. As soon as they arrives at the island, their boat’s engine dies, which is really rotten luck because now they’re stranded. Of course, their luck is about to get even worse….
But first, we cut to some hikers. They’re hiking the island and you have to wonder why Jenny and the mercenaries were acting like this island was so isolated when apparently, anyone can just hire a guide and hike it anytime they want to. Anyway, the hikers stumble into a cave that they shouldn’t have stumbled into. This leads to the zombies once again coming to “life” and proceeding to attack anyone who they perceive as not belonging on the island.
Only one of the hikers survives. Fortunately Chuck (played by Jeff Stryker, a porn star who appeared in this film under the name Chuck Peyton) manages to find the mercenaries and together, they all hide out in a deserted laboratory. Unfortunately, one of the mercenaries has been injured by the zombies and is slowly dying. Soon, everyone is under siege as the undead surround the lab….
So, After Death is a totally ludicrous film that I can’t help but kind of like. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of being a guilty pleasure but, for the most part, the cast fully commits to their thinly-written roles and, from the minute the dead come back to life, the action is nonstop. These aren’t your typical mindless zombies, just wandering about and randomly eating people. Instead, these zombies are on a mission and their determination makes them a bit more menacing than the typical decaying cannibal. While director Claude Fragasso never creates the type of ominous atmosphere that distinguished the zombie films of Lucio Fulci, he still keeps the action moving at a steady pace. Even the fact that the ending makes no sense adds to the film’s weird charm.
After Death is also known as Zombi 4: After Death. When Dawn of the Dead was released in the Italy, it was called Zombi. It’s success led to Lucio Fulci making a film called Zombi 2, which, while being a fantastic horror film, had nothing to do with George Romero’s classic. The success of Zombi 2 led to Zombi 3, which was started by Fulci but completed by Claudio Fragasso’s frequent collaborator, Bruno Mattei. (Fragasso also wrote the screenplay for Zombi 3.) Beyond the undead and the island setting, After Death has nothing to do with the previous Zombi films. It has even less to do with the subsequent Zombi 5: Killing Birds. However, you have to give the Italian exploitation film industry some credit. They never allowed a good title to go to waste.