If your idea of a nice relaxing evening is to sit down with a glass of wine and watch a Lucio Fulci movie, you’re probably a sick fuck- like me. If you’re not familiar with him, he was an Italian film director who went absolutely nuts with gory movies in the 1970s-80s. Think of him as the Italian Eli Roth. He directed tons of horror movies, most notably, Zombi 2, The New York Ripper, and the Beyond. His 1980 City of the Living Dead, is pretty much understood to be on a lower tear in terms of overall quality, but it hangs right in there in in the blood and guts department.
The plot of this movie is really just an afterthought. The whole film is more of a “Top 10 Horror Movie Deaths” YouTube video with a story tacked on so they could show it in theaters. Don’t get me wrong, there are some hall of fame death scenes in this one. At one point, this poor girl literally pukes up her own guts. It’s revolting, and surprisingly realistic. Fulci is just messing with us. He actually started his career writing and directing comedy movies. I have to think that he was dying laughing behind the camera as it pans across the room to show a pulsating, maggot-infested baby corpse.
Ok, so the plot-yeah, we’ll call it a plot. The movie opens with a priest in a cemetery hanging himself. As everybody knows, priest-cemetery-suicide is a key to opening up the gates of Hell. So now creepy stuff starts to happen in this town and people start to disappear/die. For some reason, a journalist from New York teams up with a psychic medium who he saves from being buried alive, and they travel to the town to solve the mystery/close the gate. This sounds fairly reasonable but it’s all presented in a backwards and confusing way. The first 30 minutes of the movie is spent introducing new characters. Ultimately this is fine because that really equates to introducing more body bags. It’s almost too much though. A lot of the characters are really pointless other than to have their skulls bashed in and their brains ripped out.
But don’t forget, that’s why you’re here. You don’t go to McDonald’s and order chardonnay. These movies are not about challenging your morality, or making you reevaluate your life choices, they’re about challenging your ability to keep your lunch down. City of the Living Dead is a visual nightmare. And Fulci is not timid about showing you every little detail. Walking, decomposed corpses, swarms of worms and maggots, and even a guy getting his skull ventilated with a large table-mounted drill. The scares are about 25% atmosphere and 75% visual. These images stay with you too, so get ready for some nightmares.
On paper, there’s not really much to this movie. It’s rehashed, formulaic and at times clichéd. But it still gets its point across and comes out as a solid horror movie. Fulci nails a couple of basic atmospheric details and handles the blood and guts special effects perfectly. Most of the direction is Horror movie 101. But he makes it work. There’s a fog machine running in just about every shot. You never see the sun; if you see the sky, it’s cloudy. Everything is dark, gloomy, oppressive. The sound effects are great. You can just imagine them sticking a microphone in a pot of wet spaghetti to get the pulsating guts, brains sounds. It’s a low-fi bloody masterpiece.
In short, despite it’s awkward storytelling and characterization, the movie is a homerun for any Fulci fans out there. If you’ve never seen any of his movies, you should check them out, but buckle up, they’re not going to be pleasant.
- Is it scary: 7– CotLD is really more disturbing than scary. But it’s still pretty fucking scary.
- Originality: 5 – Like I said, all the elements taken separately are not very original, but Fulci arranges things in a way that gives them new life. This movie is more than just the sum of its parts. I was expecting a typical zombie movie, this was not that.
- Blood: 8– This is a quality over quantity movie. There aren’t tons of violent scenes, but each bloody scene is a monster.
- Believability: 3-This movie was a technical nightmare. The sound editing/voice dubbing was terrible. The acting was delightfully terrible too. This just makes these 80’s movies better though.
- Setting/Cinematography: 6– Like I said, in terms of setting, lighting, atmosphere, cinematography, it was horror movie 101. Nothing too adventurous or fancy, but they got the job done.
Final Score: 29/50