CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (October 31st)


YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...

Halloween is finally here – and it marks the last day of the challenge. I'm sure this year the event is going to be celebrated a bit differently from previous years (I am not sure there will be any trick or treating) however many will still be at home watching a scary movie this evening. In recent years I have done the obvious revisited Carpenter's classic. Partly because it's the perfect day to watch it, obviously, but also because it's simply one of the best horror films ever made. It's also very rewatchable, which isn't always the case even with the best most revered genre films out there. However, as this year has not exactly been 'normal' I thought I'd mix it up a bit and go for something that I hadn't seen before. At first I was looking for something Halloweeny but I think I've seen most of the good ones and nothing I found on streaming platforms changed my mind on that. But then my other half, trawling through Shudder on her phone, made a suggestion. Sleepaway Camp! It's one of the classic slashers that I had somehow not seen and now felt like a perfect chance to correct that. Unfortunately, although it said the film was available on the Shudder website, when it came to locating it on my TV – it simply didn't exist. Oh man. As it was clear that we wanted some schlocky over the top stuff, I looked at the 'suggested titles' for people who watched last night's movie, 'Blood Rage'. And that's when Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead popped up...


The plots of Fulci movies are never the easiest to explain and so is the case with City of the Living Dead, a film that feels as if plot is a secondary consideration. But hey, I'll give it a go anyway. The film opens in New York apartment where, during a séance, a woman named Mary has a disturbing vision of a priest hanging himself from a tree. It's so disturbing in fact, that she basically dies on the spot. The police arrive and laugh off the warnings of impending peril from the medium who was conducting the séance. We then flash to cocky reporter (played by Christopher George) who is trying to investigate the unexplained death. For some reason he thinks he might get a scoop by visiting the cemetery that she's being buried at but instead he just finds a couple of boorish gravediggers filling in her grave. But as he's about to leave he hears a noise from the partially buried casket. He smashes the casket open and finds Mary very much alive. Together they head off to see the medium and she informs them that according to the book of Enoch (which is some 4000 year old tome), Mary's vision is the precursor to the opening of the gates of hell – when the dead will rise and swarm the world. All Saints Day marks the commencement of the event, meaning that they only have a couple of days to try and figure out how to stop it...


I'm still trying to figure out what I think of Fulci's movies. He's one of the most highly regarded of the Italian film-makers from that era but I'd be lying if I said I was a 'fan' of his work at this point. Maybe I haven't seen enough of his features – and there are several apparently very good ones that I haven't seen. The thing is, most Fulci fans will say things like 'his movies are meant to make you feel, rather than make you think' – which is a justification of his focus on visuals and atmosphere rather than character and story (and dialogue). To be fair, I think on a horror level, there is a lot to admire. The mix of eerie soundtrack and moody visuals are queasily unsettling and there's just something intentionally 'off' about the way characters interact and what they say and how they say it. Characters seem to do and say things and act in a manner which seems slightly off-kilter with the events of the movie. The effect is that it all feels a bit like a fever dream, like an uncanny replication of real life. There's a kind of dream logic to it all.


Some level the accusation at Fulci that he was just a nihilist and a sensationalist and that his use of shock and gore don't really deserve much recognition. Whilst I agree that his portrayal of women is laughably weak, in terms of bloodshed and action he's actually a bit of a genius. The zombies in City of the Living Dead are quite incredible. They're gnarly and colourful and slimy and seem to be able to teleport, which is pretty ace. There are several really memorable kills here too – one involving a woman who regurgitates her own intestines. Fun! There's also a scene where 10kg worth of maggots gets blown into a room through a smashed window, covering a group of the characters.


Thing is, there is no real plot here. Despite my aforementioned synopsis, I often found myself wondering what the hell was going on. I didn't even really know who or what the 'big bad' really was either. And the characters...it just feels like Fulci doesn't give a shit. They're talking props. The acting is all over the place too at times – although watching Christopher George basically chow on a cigar for the entire movie was pretty neat I guess. City of the Living Dead ends in a suitably nuts way too. In fact, as the credits rolled I just couldn't actually understand what had happened in the final few seconds. But it sort of didn't matter at that point. When the general logic is as skewed as it is in this movie, an ending that makes sense doesn't seem quite right.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Archive
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
  • email icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon