The name Fulci — like Romero, Carpenter, or Craven — carries a great deal of horror baggage. You know what you’re in for: gore (maggots, specifically), more artful shots than most creepster creators can muster, and some direct swiping from Romero.
City of the Living Dead (1980) shells out all of these, coming just one year after the director’s best-known Zombi 2 (1979) and also kicking off the auteur’s Gates of Hell trilogy.
But perhaps notable about the ghoulies here are their movements into the supernatural: levitation, teleportation, and the ability to murder only with their eyes.
The visceral blood and guts gore are as real as ever, for an effect combined with all the magic that can only be described as surreal. And gross. Really, really gross.
By zombie standards, the story here is ironclad. A clergyman kills himself and opens up the gates of hell — as one does — and it’s the job of psychic Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) and reporter Peter Bell (Christopher George) to figure out what the fuck is going on.
Bell learns everything follows suit with a prophecy in the Book of Enoch, which means the pair must travel to New England and close the deathly portal before the dead takeover the Earth. It’s just like The Amazing Race, except for the fact that it’s absolutely nothing like The Amazing Race.
Sick to One’s Stomach…If It Were Still There:Fulci, simply put, is one fucked up gentleman. He has a way of letting us inside grotesque haunted houses for 90 minutes at a time. This time around, spontaneous eye-bleeding and intestine vomiting will leave any gorehound sick to her stomach (Fulci revealed to Fangoria that Daniela Dora actually vomited sheep intestines for her scene). And like a funhouse, it’s nothing about a continuing deep narrative; it’s about tapping into moments of intense fear.
This director was pulling all the familiar tricks before they were cool. City of the Living Dead sports some pretty hilarious eye-gouging fake outs, totally nods to the iconic Zombi 2 scene. We get bloody guts soaking through a ceiling, a drill to the face — bits horror fans yelp at in theaters today, but Fulci did them all first.
Director Deathmatch:As for the Romero swiping: the U.S. release of City of the Living Dead saw the title Twilight of the Dead, causing the United Film Distribution Company to file a cease and desist letter to Motion Picture Marketing over similarities in both the title and poster art to Dawn of the Dead. Thus, the U.S. soon saw the release title The Gates of Hell. Still, what happens when you put Romero and Fulci toe-to-toe? They’re well-matched in gore, but I’d say where Romero bludgeons with a hammer, Fulci goes right in with a cleaver. Both teeter on the edge of a cliff, and where Romero leads his horses into a thrilling gallop, Fulci just throws the reins to the wind and grins at what will happen. Romero I enjoy, but Fulci really scares me. I like his stuff, but in the same way I like watching a shark tearing around a tank — at a respectable distance.
Watch ‘City of the Living Dead’ below:
|Buy the film at Amazon.com|
|Buy the film at Amazon.co.uk|
Written by: Ben Mueller