Cinematic gore-machines like The Grapes of Death, Tombs of Blind Dead, Junk, Undead, and Re-Animator sport massively decayed and mutilated, black-blood-spewing, boiled-eggs-for-eyes, gray- or blue-skinned corpses. Thumbs-up (or off?) ratings depend on the flick’s gross-out quotient: e.g., severed body parts that won’t die; intestine as boa constrictor; zombies cut in half; a face slipped off its skull as easy as a glove; putting zombies in blender; zombie body applying its severed head to nude woman’s body; ad nauseam.

But fanboys as smart as Quentin Tarantino crave the grisly gruesomes delivered by Italy’s Lucio Fulci. In Zombie, an elegant, apparently unmanned sailing yacht drifts aimlessly past the New York skyline (in shots eerily emphasizing the Twin Towers), as out of place as a racing horse in a traffic jam. Cool opener, but soon forgotten as the plot shifts to some no-name island in the Antilles where zombies drive a huge wood shard into a woman’s eye (in CU, natch) and automatically chow down on anything that moves. Still, you’ve gotta give Fulci props for the scene in which an underwater zombie, deprived of his human meal (a naked girl diver), turns on a great shark, each exemplar of mindless appetite fighting to devour the other.

A dead-faced priest hangs himself in a cemetery in Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, loosing all manner of buried sin and retribution in a town built over witch-burning Salem (sic). Nasty zombie action eventuates—reaching into people’s heads to pull out their brains, making girls weep blood and spit up their innards. On the scary scale, rotting zombies can’t compare to the willies generated by a creepy-looking, accused child molester who sneaks into a decaying farmhouse at the midnight hour, the wind howling like a banshee. The dork flings something neon-pink at the wall—and a body suddenly bursts out of the dark. It's a flesh-colored sextoy, just another brand of zombie!