Tuesday, October 20, 2009

THE RETURN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR: #20 City Of The Living Dead (AKA Gates Of Hell)

This is my entry in Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies Italian Horror Blogothon. It's awesome. Go there.

EDIT And now its part of Final Girl's Film Club too! Call it laziness if you want I prefer the term synergy.

Lucio Fulci has always been the goofus to Argento and Bava’s gallant. It’s a matter of personal taste of course, one of those Beatles Vs. Rolling Stones things, but I’ve always been drawn to Bava’s darkly gothic fables, and Argento’s surreal dreamscapes more then Fulci’s beyond the pale splatter. Fulci’s films when compared to Bava’s or even Argento’s remind me of that one episode of South Park where Cartman met Bart Simpson. “What’s that kid? You sawed the head off a stautue? Wow. This guy cooked a kids parents then fed them to him." Have you ever seen Four From The Apocalypse? That weird guy from Bonnie And Clyde ended up feeding a bunch of cowboys a dead guy’s ass. AND HE WASN’T EVEN TRYING TO BE MEAN! It's not a put on. That level of perversion just seems to come just as naturally to Fulci as Michael J. Pollard’s ass serving instincts come to him. He’s not being malicious it’s just what he does. So why write about one of his films rather then one of their’s?

Well I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t thoroughly enjoy some of Fulci’s films. Zombie is always fun, The Beyond is a classic and deservedly so, and I have a particular affection for The House By The Cemetary, as it kind of plays like The Shining if both Kubrick and King had gone batshit insane.

Still neither can hold a candle to the mind melting lethal dose of crazy that is City Of The Living Dead. How crazy is City Of The Living Dead you ask? So crazy that it starts off with a priest hanging himself and that’s the least offensive thing you see in the movie. The Priest hangs himself which somehow causes the zombies to rise (Like many Fulci movies narrative clarity not so much). Teleporting, superstrong Zombies, which in my opinion is somewhat gilding the lily, cause that’s just how this movie rolls.

Meanwhile (a word I’ll be using a lot in this review) A Coven of witches psychically witnesses the event in New York causing one of their number to freak out and end up buried alive (long story). Then there’s a screaming ball of fire. The movie briefly turns into blacksploitation. Some guy’s sex with a blowup doll is interrupted by a rotting corpse. Then some guys in “Maine” drink in a bar that is obviously your Dad’s rec room while mirrors explode and the walls crack. Then the Zombie Ghost Priest makes a couple on lover’s lane vomit up their intestines. Also a woman casually admits her incestuous desire, and there’s a grave digger who looks uncannily like Vince Vaughn.

And that’s just the first twenty minutes.

Yay Fulci!

Guys this is a weird fucking movie. Let me say that again. This is a really. Really. Weird fucking movie.

The thing about Fulci is he’s not a hack. Anyone can throw a bunch of crazy shit at the wall to distract you from the fact that they don’t know a thing about making movies. Hell you just have to look at Slaughter High to prove that. Fulci knows how to put a sequence together. The scene where Mary wakes up in her grave is as clautrophobic and terrible buried alive scene as I can remember. His visuals are tremendous (check the blood pouring into the milk). And even scenes featuring such as over the top as The Zombie Ghost Priest (From here on out referred to as the ZGP) forcing folks on lover lane to vomit up sheep intestines, has a real sense of dread and unease.

The film does calm down enough to be said to have a plot involving a hard boiled reporter and said buried alive witch attempting to close the portal of hell that ZGP has somehow opened before Halloween. Though it does keep going off on these bizarre diversions such as when an enraged guy murders his daughter’s boyfriend with a power drill. Still the way Fulci weaves these batshit insane vignettes with the main narrative of the film makes me mourn the fact that he never made a Stephen King Movie.

City Of The Living Dead shares a lot in common with The Beyond, Fulci’s most famous flick. But I prefer it to it’s more famous big brother. And not least of all because the whole vomiting of the sheep guts scene is one of the most batshit crazy things I’ve ever witnessed in a horror film.

Like most Fulci flicks City Of The Living Dead is loud, gory and if you understand what happened at the end you deserve a cookie and probably also a doctorate. But it is a whole hell of a lot of fun.


AE said...

Nicely put as always! I definitely did not earn a cookie (but who wants one after the intestine scene?) with regards to the ending. Oh well.

Bryce Wilson said...

No worries AE you can always win a cookie by explaining what happened at the end of The Beyond.