Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

Hell of the Living Dead (1980) Dawn of the Dead (1978) spawned a slew of cardboard Italian rip-offs. Zombi 2 (1979) most readily springs to mind, swiping its Zombi title from the Italian naming of Romero’s film.

Hell of the Living Dead (1980) (also released as ‘Dusk of the Dead’) is just another Italian rip-off, swiping the name Zombi 2: Ultimate Nightmare.

Furthermore, director Bruno Mattei directed Zombi 3 (1988), the proper sequel to Zombi 2 (1979). Still with me? No? It’s cool, just know Hell of the Living Dead owes its entire existence to the George A. Romero classic — including a direct rip of Goblin’s original soundtrack and yet another alternate title: Dusk of the Dead.

So, what could possibly be missing? Soul. Dawn of the Dead wasn’t perfect, but it’s the exemplary zombie model.

Hell of the Living Dead is the embarrassing knockoff.

First World Problems:

Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

A title-card (at least in the ultra-rare director’s cut) describes an “ancient, reptilian, parasitic pathogen” lurking in the DNA of tribal people in Papua New Guinea.

It was first discovered by First World nations when they built nearby Hope Centers for the people. The developed world hopes to revive this protein by means of an airborne drug to essentially eradicate world hunger among these people (Now there’s a dedicated zombie chemical setup! Wowie.)

A chemical leak at Hope Center #1 — spawned from a mutant zombie rat attack, no less — turns the whole crew into flesh-craving zombies.

News reporter Lia Rousseau (Margit Evelyn Newton) and her crew arrive and discover the gross bunch, and soldiers are also on their way to destroy the whole lot of ghouls.

One of the great things about exploitation films is that their titles reveal absolutely everything. Mattei’s filmography includes Women’s Prison Massacre (1983), SS Girls (1977), and Porno Holocaust (1981). His other feature, Rats: Night of Terror was released as a blu-ray double feature with Hell of the Living Dead on August 26, 2014.

The man delivers in terms of red-blooded, eye-popping (literally) gore, but it’s hard to get past Hell of the Living Dead as little more than a footnote in the Dawn of the Dead’s history. In the version I saw, news report footage from Night of the Living Dead (1968) is literally stolen (that’s public domain for you).

Horror films are definitely a secret tree-house club: referential to no end, with homage after homage. There’s no need to steal! At least rip the lines and shoot it on the cheap for yourself. All the cool kids are doing it.

31 Fleshy Flavors:

Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

Italian zombie romps hit my palate as more tasteless than their American counterparts. News-reporter Lia sheds her clothes before joining the Third World natives, and a close-up on her breasts lasts just long enough to subvert campiness and enter pervy-uncle territory.

I won’t even touch the fact that the zombie virus is pinned on members of the Third World (alright, I guess Eli Roth is all over that queasiness with The Green Inferno, but at least he does that with respect, or the semblance of respect). Also, I’m never a fan of shooting zombie kids. Anyway, artistic decisions — all the alternate titles for the film, all the stealing — reveal that cash motivated certain undead projects, where as Romero was more driven by the fun of it all. And that’s how it should be.

Watch ‘Hell of the Living Dead’ below:

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Written by: Ben Mueller