A yacht is adrift in New York City harbour, getting in the way of the ferries and other boats, so a patrol boat is sent to investigate. The two patrolmen think there might be something worth salvaging if there really is no one aboard, so they climb on and find the yacht apparently deserted, but there are signs of a struggle.
Suddenly, a huge man bursts through the connecting door of a cabin and attacks one of the patrolmen, taking a bite out of him. News about this modern Mary Celeste travels fast, and it’s not long before reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch) is onto the story – but he’s going to get closer than he would ever want.
West bumps into the daughter of a research scientist, Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow, the less famous sister of Mia Farrow) when he goes to the dock to check out the yacht.
They both have the same idea, to get to the source of the mystery, but Anne has a personal interest – the yacht has sailed from the Caribbean, where her father is working, but has not been heard from in over a month.
The duo hitch a ride with two Americans, Brian Hull (Al Cliver) and Susan Barrett (Auretta Gay), on their boat trip to the area, although the island in question proves difficult to find.
Upon reaching the island, Peter and Anne discover that Dr Menard (Richard Johnson) is struggling with a unique “medical problem”: the dead are returning to life to chomp on the living.
All hell breaks loose with the effects and makeup department going to town to create some of the grottiest zombies you’ll ever see.
It all leads up to an apocalyptic climax that finds the zombies marching across New York’s Brooklyn Bridge as a hysterical radio announcer screams “I’ve just been informed that zombies have entered the building! They’re at the door! They’re coming in!”
George A. Romero’s hit Dawn of the Dead (1978) was known as Zombi in Italy, so it made financial sense to name this otherwise unrelated horror Zombi 2 for the audience to make favourable comparisons. Elsewhere it was simply called Zombie, and in the United Kingdom the film was called Zombie Flesh Eaters.
When it was released on home video in the early 1980s, it became one of the most notorious examples of the video nasties hysteria and was quickly banned.