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City of the Living Dead

This is the first in Lucio Fulci’s unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy and was even released under the alternate title The Gates of Hell. The three movies, City of the Living Dead, the Beyond, and the House by the Cemetery aren’t actually a real trilogy, more like three unrelated films by one director with very similar themes like nefarious powers animating the dead and the threat of them walking the earth.

City of the living dead

THE POSTER:
This is a great poster image for any living dead movie. It has the sort of funky air of decay that befits the stink of death. The gas and glow add a sort of disgusting atmosphere that reminds us of poison, fumes, gas, death, rot, decay. If I didn’t know better I would say the smog and toxic waste of the city had killed and reanimated the corpse just from the picture. I love it.

I am a bit put off by the sort of half smile and lazy eye. It makes the face seem sort of dopy and lazy on one side. But it’s still brilliant.

THE GOOD:
This movie, like several of Fulci’s films, blends an interesting mix of the living dead with the demonic, mysterious or witchy. As there is a magical element to the walking dead anyway, it’s something he plays on quite well.

This film kicks off with a seance revealing a priest who commits suicide in a cemetery which opens a gate to hell and awakens the dead. The psychic  at the seance dies only to reawaken in her coffin, fully alive and is rescued by a reporter. The two are told they need to travel from New York to the town of Dunwich where the priest hung himself and must close the gates of hell before All Saints Day. I.E. before midnight on Halloween. It’s sort of a nice way of avoiding saying the whole thing happens on Halloween since All Saints Day is November first. At the same time, why avoid saying it takes place on Halloween? Because that sounds cheesy? If you think it sounds cheesy, why not just set it on a different date?

Despite some plot holes it’s still a great setup for a classic horror movie.

THE BAD:
For me a big falling off point in this movie is the dialogue. Maybe it’s because I’ve got some experience teaching English but the dialogue just doesn’t sound natural. It’s just not how real people talk. Which makes me wonder how language like that ever got written in the first place, was allowed in the movie, and was spoken by actors. I mean at some point didn’t somebody say they sounded ridiculous?

Example:
Poor Bob. He’s a sick and lonely kid. I don’t see why people hate him so.
His mother was what you would call a woman of easy virtue. No husband. No morals. Here in Dunwich anyone like that is also branded a witch.

There is some seriously shaky camerawork in this movie that tends to distract me from some scenes and to top it off, the music is horrendous. I can accept music that is dated. Watch Scarface with Al Paccino and you’re going to hear some SERIOUSLY dated 80’s synthesizer music. But I can deal with that. The music in this film is occasionally moody and fits well but in tense moments like the climax it tends to fall short.

There are a few other things that sort of bother me. When I was looking around at information about this movie I found a review at Horrorfanzine that pointed out some great things like why the Psychic Mary wasn’t embalmed before burial and didn’t have an autopsy despite dyeing under mysterious circumstances.

THE UGLY: 
This movie shows us one of the most horrifically rotten looking corpses I’ve ever seen. Wet horrible covered with worms. Fulci shows corpses like nobody else. WOW! That’s nasty!

AAAAAND you’re also going to see a young couple puking their guts out. Literally. How does THAT even happen! Ok the effects were nasty but not entirely convincing.

Favorite Quotes:
You’re a comic book version sergeant.

Saw this porno once, this guy got carried away. Humped himself to death.
Yeah, but what a way to go.

1 Comment so far

  1. Pingback: The Beyond | Surviving the Dead

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