City of the Living Dead (1980) Spoilers! All through this review! I have watched a shit ton of movies in my life and have extensively explored the Italian horror genre but somehow I failed to ever see this film. So I was pleasantly surprised when I put this DVD in and saw something new to me. I thought that I had seen it but watching it was a new experience. Part of a three film Blu Ray set called "Gates of Hell Trilogy" put out by the Australian company Cinema Cult it also contains the other two Lucio Fulci Gates films The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery. Whether a problem with the DVD or my player I could not get the special features to play which is a bit disappointing. The film is a wonderful piece of cinema with a great score by Fabio Frizzi and Fulci directing it tells the story of a Gate of Hell being opened by a priest killing himself near it and how the lead characters try to shut it. Dunwich is a small New England town supposedly built on the ruins of Salem where the witch trials took place. A sick looking priest, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) walks in a cemetery. There is some strange cutting in this film going between the cemetery and a seance in New York City Mary a psychic see Father Thomas hang himself, followed by the sounds of howling and we see the dead rise from a nearby grave. Mary (Catriona MacColl) goes into convulsions seeing this and appears to die. On a gravestone in the cemetery is a saying. "The soul that pines for eternity shall out span death. You Dweller of the twilight void come Dunwich." While the cops investigate Mary's death, we get some exposition about the book of Enoch a four thousand year old book that tells of the gate or some such thing. There Interrupted by the crying out fireball that appeared out of no where to ad some proof of the supernatural. Teresa (Adelaide Aste) predicts that horrible things are happening in a distant town. Peter Bell (Christopher George) a reporter shows up in NYC looking for a story. He and Mary end up going to Dunwich to attempt to close the gate to Hell before All Saints Day. Confused that the dead Mary is involved well with Fulci things take turns and her turn is amazing.
A couple grave diggers having lunch at a cemetery, reporter
comes by and they chase him off. Grave of Mary Woodhouse, Peter is still
investigating her death. He watches as she is buried with these great
in the coffin shots. She wails in
the coffin. Peter hears her but a plane going over head blocks the
noise, tension as we wait to see if he is going to go back yo the grave
he does but her struggle finally saving her as she screams. The scene is great with cool shots of Mary in the coffin struggle to claw her way out cut with shots of Peter thinking he is hearing her but not sure. After the rescue book of Enoch
explanation is a bit much but the shots done in Giallo style close ups of the eyes Mary explains that the Monday the
night is the All Saints day and if the gates of hell that have been
opened in Dunwich are not closed before then the dead will walk the
earth. Peter is prophesied to be the one to do it oh that book just is quite magical. Mary and Peter start the road trip to Dunwich where they will eventual meet the locals there and bring this story to an end.
Back to Dunwich and an eerie fog is blowing in on a howling wind. A Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) in an abandoned house finds a blow up doll and what looks like a child worm covered rotting corpse. Junie's Lounge in Dunwich when the mirror just breaks all by itself, the two patrons and the bar tender examine it . Ever since Father Thomas hanged himself things have been strange. Then the wall cracks open and they hear sounds, the two patrons run off leaving the bar tender alone. They are the local spice for the town. The main characters are introduced. Sandra (Janet Agren) talking with her psychiatrist, Gerry (Carlo De Mejo), Emily (Antonella Interlenghi) comes in to see Gerry and we get some exposition about the Dunwich group, Salem witch burners are the ancestors of the town people.
With the creepy starting to happen in the town we start getting scenes that are goreliscious. Emily looking for Bob at the abandoned house, snarling sound scare him and he runs away leaving the poor girl alone. The priest finds her and smears worm goo flesh all over her. She dies of fright her Father Mr. Robins shares that while talking to Gerry. The best set piece of gooey goodness has a couple locals, Tommy and his girl making out in their jeep. She is scared so he turns on the headlights to see the hanging priest in front of them. He appears next to the car the girls eyes start bleeding and her mouth foaming. Tommy goes from frantically trying to start the car to seeing his girls insides spill out of her mouth. Then the priest appears in the jeep and rips out Tommy's skull from behind.
himself opened the gates of hell. Funeral for the Robin's. Ghoulish
mortician is getting her ready. Mrs Holden died of fear also and we
learn that Rose Calvin and Tommy Fisher from the jeep, town folk are
blaming Bob who may be a pervert.
Ghoul mortician tries to steal from the dead and has his hand mangled by the dead old lady. Emily's brother in his bedroom but something is outside the windows. He hears the moaning and the great music build the tension as he nears the shades to see his rotten corpse sister outside.
Sandra has a gun smartest one out of the bunch apparently. The old lady from the mortuary is on Sandra's kitchen floor, Mrs Holden They are puzzled. Some social commentary about women having neurosis. More sound and the couple search around the house, when they return to the kitchen the body is gone. Panic sets in for Sandra knows dead Mrs. Holden is in the house. Logical Gerry calms her and she says " I will do whatever you say" Old lady was behind the painting but they don't see her. After the search the lights go out and a window blows in.(Did I mention the wind storm?) The glass blows into the painting and they see blood seeping out.
There is also one death not caused by the dead, One of the locals finds Bob and thinking he is behind the deaths pushes his head into a industrial drill through the temple all the way through. It is quite the scene and we get great practical effects.
Things start coming together once Mary and Peter arrive in Dunwich but the film doesn't really have clear main characters. Who are the hero's it seems they are Mary and Peter but we spend so much time away from them learning what's happening in the town that Gerry ans Sandra seem also to be emerging. Gerry and Sandra arrive at a house the mortuary but no answer. Peter and Mary arrive at the graveyard, they have to find the priests grave and uncover him. Music tells us the tension should be rising and the fog. Gerry also arrives at the cemetery Mr. Logic meets the psychic. Now the four, Peter, Gerry, Sandra and Mary are assaulted by maggots blown in on the wind. Sandra Vomits as the floor is covered by them. It's a pretty amazing scene that ends with a call on the phone from little John-John, Emily corpse killed her parents and John calls Gerry to tell him. The foursome drives over in the worst of wind storms and the girls look after John while the guys see the butchering of his parents. You don't see anything though this is an off camera murder, and we just get the reactions of the guys when they come out. It's a bit strange considering how much gore has already been in the movie
Plan is the funeral parlor and then the cemetery to uncover he priest, Sandra takes John to Gerry's office while the other three enter the mortuary. Emily is waiting for Sandra and John-John and rips our the brains out of Sandra. This method is used repeatedly in the film, it like a hair pull but the back of the skull comes off. Pretty cool effect. Kid runs, Kid in crisis running the dead are after him. Makes his way but the dead keep finding him. Gerry is suddenly there and confronts dead Emily by shutting his eyes. She vanishes and the crisis ends weird.
Finally heading to the graveyard the three, Gerry, Mary and Peter arrive at night just a short time from midnight, they fail! The film sort of falls apart here a bit. Since they were supposed to close the gate before midnight but don't seem to do so the consequences for the world is the dead would rise. This is not the case though. They enter the family tomb and open his sarcophagus to find its broken out from the other side. They crawl through to check the other side. Dead Sandra is down there and they see her but suddenly she is behind Peter and rips out his brain. They killed Peter WTF! She then stares as Mary until her eyes bleed. Gerry rams a pipe through her and she dies a second time. Mary is okay now but what the fuck are they doing? Great visuals in the tomb of skeletal remains as the now pair move further towards the gates of hell,
They see the gates as the dead start to rise all around them. The dead are coming for them! Priest guy appears and they are trapped his stare causes her eyes to bleed again. Jerry runs a cross through the priest who promptly burns and the dead are returned to the grave. Now we can call it City of the burning the dead catch magical fire. Wonderful Shame Peter didn't survive. Why the scream when the kid runs towards her to end the film? Must be from the first few scenes? I went back and watched the opening scenes but there is nothing there, So it is a mystery maybe the special features can solve. The music and gore are great in this film and even though it has some flaws this was a great film to finally watch. That last shot will bother me until I know the story behind it. This film is a bit problematic where women are screamy and emotional and the men are the calm ones telling them to get it together. The character Gerry in particular is a bit of a cad. Still the film is great and I definitely recommend this film to you all.