City of the Living Dead (1980)

City of the Living Dead (1980)

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He's going to have a stonking headache in the morning.
He’s going to have a stonking headache in the morning.

Twitter Plot Summary: Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci presents a film that features lots of gore, a dead priest and a man with a beard.

There’s a certain joy to watching any film by Italian horror director Lucio Fulci. To be honest you would never describe his films as masterpieces, but they have an unusual quality that makes them stand out from American horror directors of the era, and even stands apart from Dario Argento – although that is mostly to do with the absence of red and blue gels covering the lights. City of the Living Dead is

Fulci’s work takes great delight in dramatic, lingering close-ups on decayed flesh or someone’s body organs being forced out of their mouth, or even people being skewered or impaled,very slowly, on sharp objects. City of the Living Dead doesn’t disappoint on any of these points, and you can even throw in an Ennio Morricone style soundtrack from Fabio Frizzi, the chap who gave us the score for Zombie Flesh Eaters.

Then there are the staples of the Italian horror genre, crash zooms and close-ups on people’s eyes abound, and are used with such abandon that it almost becomes a joke within the first half an hour. Other moments such as the dithering journalist Peter Bell (Christopher George) are supposed to incite tension but instead leave you close to a fit of giggling. Similarly, in Fulci’s world everyone in America honks their horn every three seconds whilst driving, either that or our journalist hero is too busy staring at his co-stars assets rather than focusing on the road.

The man who tries and almost succeeds to be the great Christopher Lee.
The man who tries and almost succeeds to be the great Christopher Lee.

Central to this is Peter Bell and the dead but then not dead psychic Mary (Catriona MacColl) who join forces after a priest commits suicide, his death opening a portal that allows dead to be resurrected on All Saints Day, which as luck would have it is a mere few days away. This is, of course, a Bad Thing. Absolutely no pressure at all then.

What is so enjoyable about Italian horror, and from this era in particular, is its complete disregard for good taste and decency. They’re horror films after all, they’re not supposed to be cuddly. That is where much of the enjoyment is to be had in these films, the over the top and needlessly gruesome death scenes. For someone like me who is a zombie movie fanatic, it doesn’t fire on all cylinders. In fact you could argue that much of the story is a confused mess, but as most people are here to see characters bumped off left, right and centre you can see past any inconsistencies in the narrative. What little zombie action we do get looks the part, the undead here are decayed and gnarly in their appearance and are an ever present and forever creepy threat – even if their main reason for existence is to just groan and stand near people and squeeze their skulls a bit rather than eat them. For all its faults, City of the Living Dead proves to be a hugely enjoyable horror romp, even if the titular city is nothing more than a slightly blue cave.

Score: 3/5

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