And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


City of the Living Dead (1980)
If only those were the entrails of the last politician...

If only those were the entrails of the proverbial Last Politician…

During the Dark Ages of VHS we relied on our memories and the word of mouth they helped shape. Tales of key scenes from key movies whose titles we could barely recall, chosen exclusively for their shock value, became a kind of fan short hand. If you struck up a conversation with some random convention-goer, you wouldn’t get, “Hey, did you see Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead?” No. You’d get, “Hey, did you see that one where the priest hangs himself?”

Yes. Yes I have. It’s Lucio Fulci’s follow-up to Zombi 2, also known as The Gates of Hell or Paura nella città dei morti viventi (Fear in the City of the Dead). And despite being filmed on location…in America…and retitled with an eye toward the desperate Romero fan’s money, City has arguably even less to do with the Dead Mythos than George Romero’s last three Dead films. And I couldn’t be happier.

Because, you see, it’s a Lovecraftian film more than anything else (though old H.P. goes uncredited) and surprisingly effective for what it is…and what it is isn’t very nice. Straight adaptions of Lovecraft’s stories often run themselves aground searching for the right tone: a combination of existential dread and visceral revulsion that seems to occur to Fulci and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti naturally. But like many a Lovecraft story, City bites off more than it can chew and ends on a somewhat unfulfilling note that just might ruin the whole damn thing for you. Continue reading

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Zombi 2 (1979)
"I want to eat the heart of it...New York, New York...yes, sir..."

“I want to eat the heart of it…New York, New York…yes, sir…”

It’s an old story but I’ll tell it again: George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead premiered in April, 1978. By September, it reached Italy under the title Zombi, because alteration doesn’t translate well and, hey, at least the title’s illustrative. I might’ve gone with Zombis myself, but nobody asked. Instead, hoping to cash in on Dawn of the Dead/Zombi‘s international success, Italian action/Western/thriller/giallo director Lucio Fulci gave us Zombi 2 the very next year.

Released in America in the summer of 1980 under the title Zombie, Fulci’s film (which I’ll refer to as “Zombi 2” from now on just for the sake of clarity) became a matinee and drive-in sensation. It’s another case of the right film in the right place at the right time, finding its natural audience in the English-speaking world’s teenagers. Between Night and Dawn, Romero managed to raise a whole generation of horror fans who didn’t want to wait ten years for the next zombie movies, damnit. We wanted them now. So what if half the cast have their lines dubbed? Some of us put up with way worse just to get our giant monster movie fix. Continue reading