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City Of The Living Dead

AKA: The Gates of Hell
 
 
City Of The Living Dead was Lucio Fulci's second of four films featuring the undead (the others being 'Zombie' (Zombie Flesheaters) (1979), "The Beyond" (1981) & "The House By the Cemetery" (1981).

The film commences at a sťance taking place in an apartment in New York City. Mary Woodhouse (MacColl) is in the midst of a harrowing vision of a priest, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine), hanging himself in a graveyard in the remote village of Dunwich. As the images become too much for Mary, she breaks the circle and collapses, as if dead.

The police arrive and the participants of the sťance are questioned by a flippant detective (Sampson) about the suspicious circumstances surrounding Mary's death. Medium, Theresa, whose panic-stricken, tortured eyes seem to act independently to the rest of her face. informs the sleuth that imminent evil is soon to be unleashed and that he must climb out of the confines of his xenophobic mind, and understand the reality of what she is forecasting. The unimpressed detective asks if she is wacked out on dope, and pledges to find out what is really going on.

Christopher George, an early 80's George Clooney type, plays Peter Bell a reporter with remarkably poor persuasive skills, whose journalistic curiosity is stirred following the mysterious death of Mary. After failing to gain entry to the scene of the incident the reporter takes a trip out the gravesite of the recently deceased girl.

Just as Peter is leaving, he initially thinks he can hear muffled screaming over the din of noises coming from the city. Discounting the noises, he is about to leave when further muffled screaming can be heard. This time he goes to investigate the partially buried tomb of Mary, realising that someone is stuck in the coffin, Bell frees the woman from her premature burial by cracking open her vault with a large pick axe.

Back at the apartment of the outlandish Theresa, the articulate medium informs Peter and Mary that according to the book of Enoch, the events witnessed by Mary during the fateful sťance, presage the eruption of the living dead into the world. Father Thomas's suicide has opened a 'doorway' through which the living dead will walk the earth, starting on All Saints Day, which is just 72 hours away.

Meanwhile in Dunwich itself, strange occurrences have been going on since the suicide of Father Thomas. The town is enveloped daylong in fog, the isolated local bar suffers structural damage from the volatile ground movements and members of the village are disappearing.

Amongst all the bizarre goings-on, psychiatrist Gerry (De Mejo) becomes involved following the disappearance of his girlfriend Emily (Interlenghi) who had gone to meet local village weirdo Bob (Radice), who incidentally bears a striking resemblance to international Dutch soccer star Dennis Bergkamp! Following a phone call from Sandra, one of his distraught patients, whose simmering neurosis isn't helped by the arrival of a recently deceased body at her abode!

Peter & Mary have left New York in search of the elusive Dunwich, which is not listed on any map with only Mary's intuition as a compass. Upon eventual arrival in Dunwich the New Yorkers team up with locals Gerry and Sandra in the race against time to try and avert the living dead spilling out of hell and into our world.

Verdict?

A film viewer who insist's on conventional film structure of the narrative being a chain of events in cause-effect relationship, where the horrors and shocks surpass each other in terms of 'scare-factor'; with the plot advancing in a robust forward motion towards a grand finale finish, well then I doubt you'll be able to appreciate this mosaic surreal masterpiece, which ends on a deeply ambiguous note!

'City' was the template for Fulci's masterpiece 'The Beyond' which was made the following year. In 'Zombie' the previous year, viewers had to wait half-an-hour before the film's protagonists reached the voodoo island of Matul. Where upon arrival the real action starts. Yet in 'City' we are plunged straight into a ubiquitous montage of bizarre scenes.

Fulci tries to underpin the story with some coherence, by following the investigative Peter & Mary's attempts to locate Dunwich and by focusing on the initially sceptical village psychiatrist Gerry. Yet these storylines are blurred by detailed frequent cameos that serve only to gloriously fragment the film. These endeavours of coherence would be totally disregarded by Fulci and his collaborators to superb effect in 'The Beyond'.

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: TBA

Weaknesses? TBA

Our rating: 8 out of 10


Review Written by Stuart Fitzgerald:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Stuart Fitzgerald
City Of The Living Dead