Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo, Radice, Daniela Doria, Fabrizio Jovine, Luca Venatini, and Michele Soavi.
Directed by: Lucio Fulci.
Released: April 1983 (U.S.).
Lucio Fulci may have been onto something with the first twenty or so minutes with Zombi 2 but then everything fell apart after that, even the films that followed it. City of the Living Dead, also known as Gates of Hell, is considered as the first installment in Lucio Fulci’s unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy which consists of this film, The Beyond, and The House by the Cemetery. To be completely honest, it kind of feels like I’m watching The Beyond all over again with this film. They both share the same elements – They’re boring, devoid of any inspiration, and we see little to no zombies. I don’t know about The House by the Cemetery though, I haven’t seen that one yet, I guess that will be on my hit-list now.
Anyway, Lucio Fulci continues to attempt at cashing in on the superior Dawn of the Dead (1978) by using an altered version of the film’s music. Night of the Zombies straight up borrowed the entire soundtrack. But at least that film lived up to its title unlike City of the Living Dead. They should have just called it The Gates of Hell period. But they wanted to cash in on the whole zombie craze. So we begin this turd with a priest who hangs himself in a cemetery for no apparent reason. As a result, the gates of Hell open up.
Rotten corpses come alive and start killing the citizens of a remote town nearby called Dunwic. Not only do these zombies have incredible strength, they can teleport and levitate as well. If Lucio Fulci went that far, he should have just let them run as well. If you set out to break several zombie guidelines, you might as well go the whole mile. I can understand if it were a demon or a ghost that can teleport or levitate in the air, but zombies? Are you freaken’ kidding me? Why not make vampire sun-resistant? Or give the Wolfman bulletproof body hair?
Thankfully, it’s shot very poorly so that you don’t actually see them directly levitate or teleport but you get the idea. Now imagine if it were done today and they actually showed the zombies doing this in full glory. The results would be disastrous. Moving along, one of the main characters is a psychic lady named Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) who passes out at a boring seance and is mistakenly buried alive. Luckily, an investigating reporter Peter Bell (Christopher George) is in close range and rescues her. Mary rambles about some prophecy in some book about the gates of Hell opening in Dunwic and how they must close it before All Saints Day.
And so their dumb journey begins. They don’t end up in the town until like halfway through the movie, they team up with some other characters like a psychiatrist, his patient, and a little boy whose family was murdered by his zombified sister. Speaking of zombies, now as I’ve mentioned earlier, we see very, very little of them. In fact, the only scary and tense scene throughout the entire movie happens in the second half and it doesn’t last for very long. It’s when the little kid character discovers that his zombified sister is standing right up in his window, stalking him. That’s it.
The ending, if you want to call it that, is even more torturous to sit through then the rest of the film. Not to spoil anything but it involves the characters trapped in some underground lair beneath the cemetery, trying to avoid zombies that we never really see due to horrible lighting, as they attempt to close the portal to Hell. Welcome to City of the Bored & Dead, enjoy your stay.