ZUMA (1985) – Category: Enjoyably bad movie elevated by its obscurity value
There’s an old saying that goes “Once you have a big green bald guy with pythons growing out of his neck you never go back.” Or something to that effect. This monstrous figure is Zuma himself, the Freddy Krueger of the Philippines in the 1980s. Big, muscular and green like the Hulk, bald like Mr Clean and with pythons growing out of his neck like the late Michael Jackson. (Disclaimer: The preceding remark is probably not true)
Originally a comic book character in the Philippines, Zuma took the film industry of the islands by storm with his debut film in 1985 and a sequel in 1987. Copies of these films have been available on dvd since the 1990s, which is when I got mine, but they come with subtitles, not the cheesy, poorly synched dubbing that often adds to the fun of a bad movie.
The two Zuma films are more weird than bad, but the special effects, especially the laughably rendered scenes where the snakes from Zuma’s neck “move” prevent the flicks from ever being considered high-quality.
Zuma is unearthed from a pyramid-like tomb in a Philippine jungle, the tomb looking like the figure used in the Zuma video games, by the way. Zuma escapes after being taken to Manila and begins to live in the sewers. By night he goes looking for nubile young women for nourishment, which is obtained by having his two snake-heads gnaw their way through the women’s bodies, devouring their hearts and then chewing on until they burst out of the women’s backs, covered in blood. These “feeding” scenes are repeated ad nauseum (in more ways than one) while the hunt for the escaped Zuma continues.
After plenty of chowing down on victims (with no real reason for why they have to be female except prurient appeal I guess) and tearing the heads off of men who attack him Zuma winds up imprisoned under a convenient rock fall. But that’s not the end of the first movie. Nope. A female victim that Zuma kept alive for sexual purposes (and to lure other women to him, Judas goat style) discovers she’s pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl, who appears normal except for the two itty bitty snakes growing out of her neck.
But that’s STILL not the end. The girl, named Galema grows up faster than a child on a soap opera (rimshot) and for some reason, when she reaches puberty it causes a storm that awakens Zuma and washes away enough of the landscape imprisoning him for him to escape.
In a reverse from what you might expect, Galema does not get subjected to ridicule because of the snakes on her neck that keep growing as she grows. Instead it’s like everyone she meets has made a pact to not mention them and this casual acceptance is one of the most unintentionally funny parts of the film. You expect the laughs to go further by having someone look her over and say “Hmmmm. Have you lost weight recently?”
Anyway, father and daughter wind up in a battle to the death in the tomb Zuma was uncovered in at the beginning of the flick and Galema nobly causes a landslide (Yes. Another landslide.) to entrap herself and her father, ending his reign of terror and severed heads. This really is the end of the first film. Honestly.
DAUGHTER OF ZUMA (1987) – Like any good horror movie character from Dracula to Freddy Krueger, Zuma returned to the screen. In 1987 Daughter of Zuma was released to eager audiences who apparently just couldn’t get enough scenes of snakes gnawing through women’s bodies (I’m kidding!). In this film, Galema gets rescued from the landslide through a miracle of engineering overseen by her engineer boyfriend from the first film.
The two have twins, one a little human boy and the other a white snake. No, really. Zuma escapes as well, and impregnates a bikini-clad victim, whose belly swells up like Jiffy-Pop Popcorn and then bursts, producing a half-man, half-crocodile beast. The beast grows to man-size in minutes and goes on the prowl for female victims like his father.
In the climax of this movie we get to see Zuma’s subterranean home from before he was imprisoned in the jungle pyramid. That lair is populated by all his other monstrous offspring, including one with a face that is just a vagina with teeth. (“Is it saaafe?”)
I want that monster to get its own movie called Vagina Dentata From Hell or something. He could be opposed by a male/female team -one a dentist, the other a gynecologist. The couple would bicker endlessly but fall in love by the end of the movie.
To wrap up this review, Galema has to fight the whole cave-full of monsters before squaring off with Zuma again and this time kills him with a flame-thrower. She beats him to death with it. I’m kidding! She burns him alive, and sadly for all of us fans of wacked-out movies the big green lug hasn’t been seen on the big screen since.
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