Monday, 29 October 2012

15/10/2012: City of the Living Dead [1980]

The month of October is almost over and Halloween is fast approaching. As always this means that I watch even more horror movies than usual, bringing out some old favourites and discovering new ones. This October has definitely been one full of Lucio Fulci, with City of the Living Dead marking the third movie of his I've seen just over the last couple months. The more I see, the more I love his work, and City of the Living Dead has me craving more.

The first Fulci film I watched a couple of weeks ago was his classic zombie film Zombie which did much to land him on the map. After that I went to his early days of Italian Giallo with Don't Torture a Duckling which showed he was capable of more than just blood and gore and could tell a fairly coherent story when he wanted to. However, after City of the Living Dead, I now have a much better understanding of what exactly makes a Fulci movie. It's not for the weak of stomach, but I would say Fulci's work is a must for any horror fan.

City of the Living Dead is the first of Fulci's unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy, but there isn't any linking story behind the trilogy. This should come as no surprise, because anyone who has seen a few of Fulci's movies knows that plot is not the first thing on his mind when he makes a movie. City of the Living Dead isn't as bad for nonsensical storyline as some of his movies, but it isn't winning any awards for best script either. After a priest hangs himself in the church cemetery in the small town of Dunwich (Lovecraft tribute there) the gates of hell are opened and the dead rise from their graves. Miles away in New York city, Peter, a reporter, teams up with a psychic, Mary, to travel Dunwich and close the gates of hell before All Saints Day. There they team up with another couple, psychiatrist Jerry and patient Sandra,and try to close the gates as hell itself comes to Dunwich and the living dead rip the townspeople apart.

There's always that one wacko at a seance who takes things to seriously.
That is about all the plot you are going to get, as Fulci uses the story as simply a means for creating an atmospheric and terrifyingly gory horror movie. Story and even logic are pushed aside in favour of some of the most notoriously bloody and gory sequences in horror and the end result is an almost surreal nightmare. Once again, Fulci's special effects department manages to create some of the most disgustingly rotting and decaying zombies in horror, but strangely enough they aren't even in some of the most unforgettable scenes. The scene City of the Living Dead is most known for, is of course the one where a woman vomits up her intestines, slowly and painfully inch by inch. For those of you wondering how real it looks or how they did it, the actress is actually regurgitating sheep entrails (tripe) for the scene. While this scene remains one of the most infamous, there is also a couple of disturbing scenes involving a drill and maggots. If you though Zombie was gory, Fulci outdoes himself as he furthers his iconic status as the Italian master of blood and gore.

It is hard to get past the blood and gore in Fulci's movies because, that is the majority of what the movie is composed of. While the plot was fairly interesting, it simply provided the means to string together a series of violent and gory events. However, the nightmarish atmosphere that Fulci creates is something other director's rarely match, and the incoherency of the plot only leads to the foggy, dreamy, and rotting tone of the movie. Accompanying that atmosphere is an impressive soundtrack, which is another trademark of Fulci's work. Fabio Frizzi is the composer behind many of the scores in Fulci's work and many other in the horror genre, and the City of the Living Dead soundtrack is just as good as the iconic scores of Zombie and The Beyond.

Kill Bill's got nothing on this buried alive scene.
Another soon to be Fulci staple was City of the Living Dead's leading lady Catriona MacColl, who would star in all three movies in the Gates of Hell trilogy, becoming a rather memorable scream queen in the process. City of the Living Dead opens and end with MacColl's screams, and the movie just wouldn't be the same without her terrified and terrific performance. The of her scenes is without a doubt where she gets buried alive, but she does a great job throughout. The rest of the cast does well, but none are quite as memorable as the woman who would become Fulci's own personal scream queen and I can't wait to see her in The Beyond.

So, City of the Living Dead gave me more of a taste of Fulci as I work through his filmography. Next in the trilogy is The Beyond which many consider to be Fulci's masterpiece. I am waiting in eager anticipation for my copy to arrive in the mail, and hopefully it will live up to the hype. However, if it continues to contain Fulci's strengths and feature his strongest element I can't see how it wouldn't satisfy. Just remember, if you check out City of the Living Dead expect a gory nightmare that is sure to leave a few memorable scenes.

City of the Living Dead IMDb

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