Zombi 4: After Death (1988) Featuring The Elite Zombie Styker Force

Yesterday when I was talking about The Horror Show being shoved into the continuity of the House franchise (as if such a thing as that exists in those films), I mentioned Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 which claimed to be a sequel to Zombi, the Argento cut of Romero's Dawn of the Dead. So with zombies on the mind and since it is October 4th, I chose to watch Zombi 4: After Death [Italian: Oltre la morte](1988). Since none of the installments of this pastiche franchise have anything to do with each other, I won’t go much into the long and sordid tale of how they all came to be a string of films. Suffice it to say that somewhere along the line, someone decided that Claudio Fragrasso’s Voodoo action film belonged nestled into the franchise between the Fulci & Mattei’s Zombi 3 mess and Zombi 5: Killing Birds, film with no zombies that came out the year before the supposed fourth installment. Add into the mess that After Death is also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters 3 in the UK, and you’ve got one of those classic cases where Italian cinema  can make your head hurt a bit.

After Death begins when a group of researchers discover a group of natives performing a voodoo ceremony, and naturally, the nervous looking fellow among them with very few lines goes and shoots their priest. To no one’s surprise, zombies pop up out of the ground and start peeling faces off people, and when I say no one’s surprise I really mean it. While the initial idiot gets peeled like an apple, the rest of them stand there neither looking frightened or impressed for far too long for any of them to survive. They don’t, but the daughter of one of them does thanks to a magical amulet given to her by her mother. Years later Jenny (Candice Daly) finds herself pulled back to the island when she hitches a ride with a group of mercenaries. While Jenny and her merry band of men get stranded on the island, a group of hikers reignites the zombie curse, and only the surprisingly acrobatic Chuck (Jeff Stryker) survives. He meets up with Jenny’s group, and together they make their stand holed up in the abandoned research facility, but as they all fall prey to the zombies, their chance of escape begins to look increasingly slim.

The worst part, at least for me, is that I could not have cared less what happened to Jenny, Chuck, and the band of mercs. Given that the movie is basically an island based action romp with zombies, taking time to make anyone a character was just not in the cards. Now this could have been because of the poor American dub I watched, but Fragrasso (who would go on to write and direct the legendary mess Troll 2) is not known for his expertly made and constructed films. What Zombi 4: After Death does include is bakers dozen of buck toothed, borderline offensive island zombies. I’m not even sure how a zombie is supposed to get any quality eating done with its teeth pointed out. Plus for an island that is supposed to be the launching ground of a zombie takeover of the world, the undead could really use to dig up some more numbers.

If Fragrasso’s inept direction and the gaggle of buck toothed zombies done convince you that this film has its share of problems, let me get into the cast a little bit. The Heroine, Candice Daly, must have really enjoyed a homophone of her archetype because other than a few scattered film roles, IMDB’s big claim to fame for her is that she died due to “polydrug intoxication complicated by severe steatohepatitis". If I had a choice between that epitaph and “She was in Zombi 4”, I might choose the former as well. The only other notables in the film are Massimo Vanni, Enzo Castellari’s cousin, who played Chuck’s friend David, one of the doomed hikers and Nick Nicholson as Rod, one of the mercs. He also makes appearances in American Ninja, Apocalypse Now, and Brian Trenchard-Smith’s The Siege of Firebase Gloria among others.  Well saying that those are the only notables in the film isn’t really true.

The real name here is Jeff Stryker though he is billed as Chuck Peyton. Stryker, for anyone that doesn’t know, has been a star of dozens of gay, straight, and bisexual adult films over the course of his career. Once called the “Cary Grant of porno” by John Waters, Stryker has rarely taken on mainstream roles (though Zombi 4 could hardly be called mainstream), but he wasn’t what I would call bad. Actually out of the bunch he’s the best actor, his character has the only interesting storyline, and he handles action well (so many jokes so little time). Stryker had the kind of look that could have made him a star in foreign cinema along the lines of Peter O’Brian or Christopher Connelly, but instead Styker returned to porn and over the years has recorded an album of songs (Wild Buck), been inducted into the Hustler Adult Walk of Fame, and had his “Jeff Stryker Cock and Balls” become a perennial best seller on the adult market.

So if you take what I’ve given you, a low to middling director, a “universally” sexual male porn star lead, and zombies that are in desperate need of orthodontic help, then you can probably guess what I thought of this flick. While I had a good time watching it, I can’t see recommending this one outside of hardcore Italian zombie fans. If you really are interested in seeing what movies got lumped into the Zombi franchise, then you’re going to want to watch it, and if you’re a big fan of Jeff Stryker, well, seeing him in a (pardon the double entendre) straight action role is not to be missed. Everyone else will benefit from a repeated watching of Fulci’s classic Zombi 2 or from checking out one of the other great Italian zombie titles like Cannibal Apocalypse or Hell of the Living Dead.

Bugg Rating 

This isn't really a proper trailer for Zombi 4, but it does show off a little of the action and the theme song "After Death" by Italian pop star Al Festa.Unfortunately I can't embed it so go to You Tube and check it out!

Here's the trailer...

Here's Jeff Stryker in action (not that kind of action)

And just for kicks, here's Jeff singing his song "Bigger than Life" from the adult film of the same name....

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