City of the Living Dead

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A reporter and a psychic must investigate a strange series of incidents in the town of Dunwich after the psychic has a vision of a priest hanging himself, an event that causes the gates of hell to open and the dead to rise from their graves.

Lucio Fulci, the name causes vomit to rise in the back of my throat, a slick bile that makes me want to empty my stomach of everything I’ve ever enjoyed. The man was a racist, bigoted, arrogant, ignorant, inept, and on top of it all, BAD DIRECTOR. As a member of the living dead, the fact that his horrible movies get so much praise angers me like few other things. Each Fulci film is cheap, poorly done, lacking anything like a coherent story, and full of terrible effects. City of the Living Dead (a.k.a. The Gates of Hell, City of the Living Dead is actually the American title for the Italian flick) is no different from the rest of the trash (with only a couple exceptions) Fulci put out in his useless life on this planet.

Our story starts off with a séance, a séance in which the resident psychic receives a vision of a catholic priest hanging himself in a foggy graveyard. This is followed by some annoying mechanical screaming and a flash of images that somehow translate into the gates of hell being opened up. As her vision comes to an end the poor psychic doubles over in pain and falls to the floor dead. The next morning the police are doing one of the worst investigations ever shown on film when reporter Peter Bell shows up hoping to get a news worthy story. Turning up no leads at the psychic’s residence but unable to shake the gut feeling that something is going on, he visit’s the female clairvoyant’s half dug grave a few days later. Our dead psychic turns out to be the luckiest woman in the world. Why? Because she isn’t really dead, only comatose after the disturbing vision, and (this is where the luck part comes in) when she wakes, not only is her grave not yet filled, but Peter is there to pull her out by using a pickax to destroy the lid to her coffin, a pickax that he is lucky (what did I tell you) enough to not put through the psychic’s head as he chops his way in. After everything has had a bit to calm down and police statements have been taken, Peter and the psychic meet an even older psychic who explains that the pair must travel to the town of Dunwich, the place where the priest hung himself. It turns out that the priest’s suicide opened a hell gate that is raising the dead to feast on the living, and if the two of them don’t destroy the priest’s body in three days’ time the rising dead will over run and destroy the world.

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{What I nearly did to escape watching this movie}

Alright, it’s a well-known fact that I can’t stand Fulci, but I try and go into any film of his I haven’t seen with a degree of impartiality, almost as if it wasn’t his movie but someone I’ve never even heard of. Yet every time I place a Fulci DVD (or VHS back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth) I am more disappointed than the last one. The only exceptions to this would be The Beyond and The Black Cat, which I found to be okay movies. Why is it that I can’t stand Fulci’s directionless filming? Well, City of the Living Dead is a perfect example of why the man goes down at the bottom of an endless pit in this zombie’s eyes.

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{The enemy of zombie films everywhere}

The story makes no sense and goes from ridiculous to completely unwatchable. By the time this thing was over I had absolutely no idea what I had just watched for the last hour and forty five minutes. Imagine watching all four Phantasm movies put together into one ubber confusing film (for those of you that don’t understand the comparison, each Phantasm movie completely disregards the events of the films proceeding it), and you have basically what you see here.

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{What my head felt like trying to follow the story}

The characters are cartoonish and extraordinarily cheesy, coming across as annoying jokes instead of actual people. You know that one guy in every group of friends that constantly tells jokes that no one laughs at, I’m pretty sure the characters were written by a whole group comprised solely of those types of people. There isn’t a single person in here that I can say I cared about. They could have all died in the beginning and the movie would have actually improved a bit.

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{Sharpened sticks, a zombie’s only weakness}

What about the effects you say? I think most of the descriptive words I could use for them would probably get me in a lot of trouble. They’re pretty damn bad, and most people seem to all die in the same way. Zombies it turns out actually like to kill by squeezing the back of a person’s head until a piece of the skull brakes away and the brains pop out. It also turns out that brains look like a combination of bubble gum and a kitchen sponge. The head squeezing gets old quick. The makeup for the zombies is cheap and goes more for a gross out factor than actually looking good. Blood was a huge issue as well, though that seems to be an Italian problem. Many older Italian horror flicks have terrible blood effects making me wonder if they have anatomy over in Italy. I’m sorry but blood doesn’t look like cherry Kool-Aid guys, do a little more research next time will you.   There really isn’t anything good I can say about the effects, they’re poorly done, cheap, and completely without merit.

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{Just a few examples}

The sound effects are pretty bad too, and I’m not talking about the normal degraded sound you would hear from something copied off an old reel; that I could excuse. What I can’t forgive is a constant wind that sounds like someone blowing into a microphone, and the odd use of jungle sounds. Why are there jungle sounds in a small town near New York? Really, that was what you guys thought sounded the best. I would have liked to have seen the conversation (or drunken binge more likely) that led to them thinking jungle sounds worked for New York. I even heard a lion’s roar at two different points in the film, a freaking lion, a few others times I heard hyenas. Of course, most of the time the terrible wind sound blocks out most everything else (including the bad dialogue) so I could have missed a couple of other animals in there. I’m definitely going to have to explore this country of ours because it is apparently full of more wildlife than I was aware of.

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{He’s not in pain from the zombie, he’s actually being attacked by the vicious and rare New York Hyena}

Two more complaints and then I’ll be done tearing apart this piece of trash. The camera angles and the overuse of the close up. Fulci’s usual penchant for close ups is ever present throughout the film. Yes dude, I get that they have eyes but you don’t have to keep showing me close ups of them, over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. My god, he just doesn’t give up, from beginning to end you get to face constant and never ending close ups. The cameras had to have been controlled by someone with narcolepsy because no way any competent cameraman would have handled his trade that badly, so it had to be someone who kept falling asleep while filming.

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{Also expect a lot of these “I’m really taking a horrible dump” faces}

All in all this one goes in my stay the hell away from catalogue. I know a lot of others disagree with me on this one, but I don’t see any redeeming value to this waste of film reel.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Lucio Fulci (Zombie, The Beyond)

Starring: Christopher George (Pieces, Graduation Day), Giovanni Lombardo Radice (Cannibal Apocalypse, House on the Edge of the Park), and Catriona MacColl (Power Game, The Beyond)

Released By: Dania Film, Medusa Distribuzione, and National Cinematografica

Release Type: Theatrical Release

Release Year: 1980

MPAA Rating: Unrated

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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