City of the Living Dead. Lucio Fulci. Italian Horror.

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Summary: City of the Living Dead, about a gate to hell opened up by a suicidal priest and the dark, maggoty things that come out of it. Toss logic aside, and soak up the icky bits, and you might enjoy this. Just don't eat cherry pie while watching.

BLOT: (08 May 2011 - 11:27:31 PM)

City of the Living Dead. Lucio Fulci. Italian Horror.

There are two misconceptions that you need to check at the door before enjoying Fulci's often-referenced City of the Living Dead. First, it is not a zombie movie. It has living dead, yes, but they are not zombies in the sense of Romero or his many, many imitators. They don't eat the flesh of the living [instead mostly just squeeze their heads until brains gush out]. They teleport around more than shuffle. One of them in particular can make women bleed out of their eyes [and other, horrible things, but I'll get to that]. Think of them more as demons shaped like the recently deceased, and you'll be better off. Secondly, this movie does not make a super huge amount of sense. I'll also get to that. Think of it more as a nightmare scenario, or a series of scenes for scene's sake.

We start with a priest (Fabrizio Jovine) in Dunwich (hey!) committing suicide for reasons, I assume, unless it was cut along the way, never explained. This, we learn through a seance involving Mary (Catriona MacColl), opens up a gate to Hell that must be closed. She seemingly dies at the end of the seance, prompting some cops to come and act all coppy. It turns out she isn't dead, coming back to life right in the middle of being buried (by the worst gravediggers ever) and saved by Peter (Christopher George), who, it must be said, favors the "Let's jab the pick-axe right into the middle of the coffin" method of saving someone. For a non-gory scene, it is probably the most tense.

Since the movie doesn't try to make a whole lot of sense, I'll skip the pretense. People are going missing in Dunwich, which is apparently built on top of the ruins of Salem (as opposed to, you know, the current still-around Salem). All Saints Day is coming, and when it does, the gate to Hell will be complete. A lot of the missing people are blamed on Bob, a friendly rapscallion mechanic who gives off a rapist vibe to men while apparently being liked by women. This is, of course, a red herring as the priest himself teleports around, sometimes with noose, and does horrible, horrible things. Eventually, Mary and Peter (wah-HEY) confront the living dead at the last possible moment and stuff happens. Then what is probably the worst single closing in zombie movie history occurs. The End.

Ok, so, why should you watch this movie? Do you like Italian horror of the low-budget kind? Do you like over the top gore? Do you like explorations of Hell in cinema? Do you like the living dead even when they are not Romero-zeds? Do you hate Catholic priests and enjoy seeing them as bad guys? Well, if you said yes to any of those things, get some friends and some booze and dive right in. Just do not bring the cherry pies. Or the tripe. Or the cherry tripe. Especially leave that at home.

Those horrible things I told you about? Well, the most horrible [for my money] is when he stares at a woman until first she cries blood (and let me tell you, that effect seems to come by dribbling blood right into the eyes of the actress) and then proceeds to vomit up her small intestines. That is not a typo. Ready for the best bit? While some of that effect was a false head with sheep gut pushed through, apparently at least a little bit was the actual actress vomiting up tripe she had eaten. Hot. DAMN.

There is also a maggot storm, a worm ridden black baby shaped thing, some brain squishing, and what is arguably the most notorious shot in the whole film (yep, above the gut spewing): the head drilling. Which looks pretty real. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you always pay your acting guild dues.

Is the movie worthwhile? Well, look about two paragraphs up and think about those questions. Mostly, you want to see this for some of the gory maestro at work and as a generally unsettling piece of nightmare logic. As opposed to waking-world script-writing 101 logic. The culmination for the whole thing, to show what I mean, is a scene that was shot to be happy but due to some sort of film glitch that broke the film, was recast as a otherwise happy, smiling still frame as Mary screams off camera. Good luck solving that. I know what they were going for, but they failed.

Probably skip it for either Zombi 2 (which has some of the same problems but the awesome is much higher) or The Beyond (ditto). Still, as a horror movie it is worth the low side of Fair for infamy if nothing else, and has some shots unequaled in these days of wussy CG blood and gore.

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Written by Doug Bolden

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