Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween Horrors-City of the Living Dead (aka The Gates of Hell)

I've been under the weather for a bit, but I'm back with another seasonal scare film. City of the Living Dead was released in 1980. It was directed by Lucio Fulci , who also directed Zombie and The Beyond. Yes, it's another Italian film...I seem to have an affinity for Italian horror. The Italian horror films from the late 70's and 80's had a different vibe to them than anything else back then...or since, for that matter.

A woman (Catriona MacColl) attends a seance. She sees a vision of a priest hanging himself in a cemetary. This act opens the Gate to Hell, and the woman freaks out and apparently dies.

A reporter(Christopher George), looking for a story, goes to the woman's funeral. He hears sounds coming from somewhere...turns out the gal isn't dead, and is screaming in her coffin. Our intrepid reporter uses a pick to get her out of the coffin( I guess they forgot to embalm her before her burial...or maybe there's some kind of magic at work, I don't know...but anyway...).

They proceed to the town of Dunwich, where the priest hung himself. Dunwich is covered in fog all day, and the dead are a bit restless, with zombies wandering around town, and the ghost of the suicidal priest causing all kinds of trouble. Will our pair of heroes find the answer to their supernatural problem, or will they fall victim to the Gates of Hell?

City of the Living Dead was released in the U.S. as The Gates of Hell in 1983, which is when I first saw it. This film was sort of a precursor to The Beyond, in tone and content. It has the typical elements of an 80's Italian horror movie(zombies, gore, etc.) but there was just a bit of strangeness at the end of the film...not as surreal as The Beyond, but a tad different than your average American scare flick. The theme of the existence of gateways to Hell in our world( as in The Beyond) is started in this movie, and there's plenty of nasty zombie action. There are a couple of standout scenes of violent horror, such as when one of the the townspeople, blaming a local weirdo for their problems, place said weirdo's head on a power drill and , well, drills through his head. Another memorable scene is where the ghost of the dead priest shows up and casts a spell on a woman in a car, making her cry tears of blood, and literally throw up her own guts. Again, not for weak stomachs, folks ( sorry, I don't watch too many Disney flicks). Literary horror fans can again take note, as the town's name of Dunwich is cribbed from H.P Lovecraft's story 'The Dunwich Horror".

City of the Living Dead is a good horror film. It's a bit more ambitious than Zombie, but not as much as The Beyond or Cemetary Man. If you're looking for a good, bloody, low-budget horror film, look no further than City of the Living Dead. The Gates of Hell await!


Charles Gramlich said...

This is one of those where I've seen snippets of from horror type ads for like "chiller" and so on but have never seen the whole movie. Might definitely want to watch this.

Heff said...

Back in the 80's I constantly saw that movie cover at the video rental place. Never rented it though.

Scott said...


I think it's worth it to check this one out if you get the chance.

Heff, I first saw it on video back in the 80's myself, and it's recent release on DVD got me to get a copy and revisit it. It's good, check it out.