Taking a look at the poster art we get a really good feel for some of the strange events that take place in this movie. It does a good job of making us curious without giving too much away and satisfying people who have seen the movie already. We’ve got everything here, the mysterious blind woman, the crucified a zombie, the wasteland and the hotel. We also have some of the creepy Biblical text and a weird witchy symbol you’ll have to watch the movie to find out more about. I actually really like this whole poster image, the heavy darks at the bottom leading up to the top of the image with a hint of a zombie horde in silhouette where the darkness meets the wasteland. The central figures are Christlike which fits into the Biblical mythology of the story. We are dealing with a gate of hell after all.
This is a good example of text being used really effectively to move your eye around an image. Particularly the biblical quote at the top of the page in white lettering. It really allows the eye to move up from the Hotel and the crucified zombie, past the blind girl, up to the face in the upper left-hand corner straight across so that your eye doesn’t jump off the page over to the main characters and the witchy symbol. The main characters form the right angle bringing your eye back down the right side of the woman’s face to the Zombie Christ figure again. This is really nicely handled and I’ve highlighted it below.
Actually the red highlight could even have included the flat line beneath the title but I felt the Yellow sort of pushing my eye up and wanted to leave that visual tension where it was.
The one thing that sort of put me off though is the fonts and color on the title of the beyond. It just seems a little wishy-washy or watery to me and almost reminds me of Beyond the Poseidon adventure.
– In City of the Living Dead we were introduced to Fulci’s idea that a terrible act could open a gateway to hell. It isn’t until this second installment that we are given a bit of context and explicitly told that there are seven gateways hidden in seven cursed places. In fact Fulci’s intention wasn’t to make this a zombie film at all but simply a piece about the worlds of the living and the dead bleeding together in a sort of surreal way. Zombie movies were still popular at the time though and the distribution company Fulci was with asked him to make a number of changes so ghosts and demons became walking corpses. Here again, Fulci’s zombies are a bit different in the Gates of Hell series in that they are more like possessed things that kill, rather than consume.
– The effects are pretty damned amazing for their time. Only a few minutes in and I’m already impressed with cuts, blood running and dissolving flesh. No one does horrifying gore like the Italians.
– The camera work and images in this film seem the steadiest and of the best production value I’ve seen so far for a Fulci film. There are a number of not only disturbing images blasted onto our corneas but some really beautiful shots throughout the movie of people and places that just look gorgeous. Even simple shots of a girl against a white wall in the hospital are more nicely framed than in his other movies.
This movie, like a lot of horror movies, seems to defy most forms of logic and reality.
– Was the artist in the beginning of the film actually a warlock? I guess so because years after he’s horribly murdered he comes back as an undead horror. At first I thought it was a case of an innocent being the victim of a witch hunt and was sympathetic, but later got the feeling he really was a villain and the villagers were right to do him in. But if he was bad, why did the gate to hell stay closed and quiet all those years? Just because he was sealed in the basement? If I were one of the villagers, I would have done a lot more to ensure that gate stayed closed. I mean, it’s kind of a big deal right.
– A woman is driving along bridge and finds a blind girl and her dog standing in the middle of the road waiting for her specifically. That would freak mot people the hell out but she just brings her home with her.
– Two corpses are found in a basement, one, a contractor working on the building who apparently died violently and another that had been down there since, we the audience know 1927. There doesn’t seem to be much fuss about it at all. In fact the woman who finds them barely reacts to the mans face oozing brains all over the place despite the fact that it’s her husband!
– The corpses are taken to a hospital where they should receive autopsies. But one of the doctors just happens to have a brain wave machine that he wants to hook up to the older corpse. Why? Didn’t he go to medical school? I mean I know it’s a new technology he’s trying but a brain that’s been dead for several years isn’t going to have ANY brainwaves. Did he need to double check the obvious?
Ok, ok, so to be fair it DID actually turn out to have brain waves but only because it was a murderous bloodthirsty ghost corpse. The doctors had no way of knowing that. And the point of the whole convoluted machine was to tell us the obvious, that thing is going to get up and start killing soon!
Also, the doctors thought the corpse was dead for six years. Yet it had been down there in the basement since 1927. Either the movie is set in 1933 (it’s not,) or the doctors have no ability to tell the difference between the numbers six and sixty. Ok, maybe this is just the result of a bad voiceover script? but still it’s sort of sloppy.
Despite how good the effects are for the time there is a bit of a focus on them over believability. At the same time there’s a brilliant sort of editing going on. In the opening scene the painter, or warlock as his attackers call him gets scourged, the first whip slash opening up a horrendous gash in his face. His reaction to this seems like acting, overly dramatic and not realistically played. It looks like something from a stage play meant to be seen by people in the back row just as clearly as in the front seats.
Yet at the same time, the camera cuts away and we only hear, not see the rest of the slashes and the beating. Despite the bad voice overs, it’s a smart idea and played well. Throughout the film there’s a lot of violence directed towards faces. We twice see people’s faces melted off, we see people’s faces crushed with hands and even devoured by tarantulas. I love a good bit of gore in a horror movie just as much as the next guy, and yeah some of the effects don’t look entirely realistic by today’s standards, but for the time they were absolutely incredible and honestly still make me cringe.