“City Of The Living Dead” aka “The Gates Of Hell” (1980)


(Some Spoilers)

With the release of Zombie Flesh Eaters in 1979, Lucio Fulci re-established himself as one of the major forces in Italian horror.And, ironically enough Zombie 3 would almost destroy it.Due to the horrible direction of Claudio Fergasso But then again what more would you expect from the genius who brought us Troll 2 ? As I mentioned when I reviewed The Beyond a few months back, it was his “Gates Of Hell” trilogy that would forever cement his legacy for all time.The first installment in the trilogy,1980’s City Of The Living Dead is by far one of his most definitive works.

Much like a lot of Fulci’s films from around this time period.Plot and character arc are thrown right out the window.Much like that sandwich you have sitting on the radiator.Instead we have a film that is enjoyable,with a sustained atmosphere of terror and suspense, and impressive gore effects and make up done by Franco Rufini, as well as a score composed by longtime Fulci collaborator Fabio Frizzi.

The plot centers around a priest committing suicide in a cemetery in a New England town called Dunwich. (Fulci paying homage to HP Lovecraft as he did with Edgar Allen Poe in The Beyond.) Somehow this triggers a gateway to hell being opened, and causes the dead to rise from their graves to seek vengeance upon the living.The scene is witnessed in a seance, which causes a young medium named Mary to keel over scared to death.The police are called in to investigate but are skeptical of anything supernatural as the cause of death.

Which is a unique idea in my opinion.Applying a supernatural/occult theme to the zombie phenomenon.Also, like a lot of other Italian horror films at the time, making a slight jab at Catholic guilt.Luckily, as was the case in Zombie, a reporter named Peter comes down from New York to hold his own investigation.After a chance visit to the graveyard where Mary is about to be buried he finds out she is still alive and rescues her from certain death.We then find out that the gate to hell must be closed before midnight before all saints day, or all the dead in the world will be reanimated and kill every living being on earth.While Peter and mary try to uncover the mystery.The reanimated priest stalks victims and murders them by staring deeply into their eyes and causing their eyes to bleed and vomit their entrails.

Trivia note: One of the victims is played by Michael Soavi The Argento protege who would go on to direct The Church

I can’t give away the whole film, that would be very rude of me.But Let’s just say a certain miscreant named Bob, has a very “Drilling” death scene.(no pun intended).And as far as the rest of the zombies go, The make up is done far better than in Zombie, Not only are the tones done remarkably well, But The use of real maggots on set ensured a sense of heightened realism.Except for the priest who’s painted in somewhat of a purple hue; a la Savini’s work in Dawn Of The Dead.

As far as this film goes, yes it has almost no plot.Yes,There are scenes that are down right laughable.But It’s amazing how well it holds up.Fulci was able to combine the edge-of-your-seat thrill that he had learned as a younger Giallo filmmaker.And live up to his nickname “Godfather Of Gore” with perfection.

Do I have to say it? Fulci lives.

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