Friday, August 12, 2016

City of the Living Dead

Paura nella Città dei Morti Viventi (1980)

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A priest (Fabrizio Jovine) hangs himself in a cemetery and opens the gates of Hell. The dead begin rising from their graves, and manifesting as ghosts, and giving people weird visions in the town of Dunwich. It's up to a medium (Katriona MacColl), a journalist (Christopher George), a psychiatrist (Carlo de Majo), and his patient (Janet Agren) to figure out what happened and prevent hell on earth.

The premise of the movie is pretty interesting, deviating somewhat from the regular old "dead walk the earth for no good reason" or "virus turns everybody into zombies" cliches. The blend of witchcraft with heavy duty Christianity (the events of the movie were foretold in the Book of Enoch, which I had to look up) is different and cool.

The gore is extreme and gruesome - there's one scene in particular where a young woman (Daniela Doria) pukes up all of her organs, which alone makes the movie worth watching. You can actually watch the full scene here if you're curious and don't want to bother with the whole flick, it definitely not safe for work and I wouldn't recommend watching it while you're eating. Consider yourself informed.

Overall the movie isn't especially action heavy, relying mostly on atmosphere to create a great sense of impending doom. Between the strange but appealing cinematography, the unrelenting soundtrack, and the uncomfortable feeling that something just isn't right make for an intense and creepy experience.

Surprisingly, the characters were likable and believable enough that I felt genuine concern for their well-being by the end of the movie, which is a very unusual feat for a B movie such as this. I found myself actually feeling bad when two of the main characters got killed towards the end of the movie because it seemed like they just worked so damn hard to save the world. That contributes to the stressful feeling this movie elicits.

On the downside, apart from the vomiting girl, the revenants really weren't anything special. Yes, their reason for being on the earth rather than under it were different from the majority of zombie movies, but visually they were pretty much the same, and they behaved more or less like most ghouls.

The plot is not so great, it meanders around and gets sidetracked pretty regularly, switching randomly between lots of stuff happening and long dialogue heavy scenes. However, I feel that the arbitrary story line contributes to the surrealism and dread of the unknown that makes this movie great, and stresses the viewer out more. Really, this movie is about stressing you out either by repulsing you with gratuitous gore, or by grinding down your nerves with its unpredictable pacing. I was very stressed by the end so I think it did a pretty good job.

There's a scene in which one of the characters gets buried alive accidentally, which is one of my personal greatest fears. That got me stressed, and I stayed stressed for the entire rest of the movie.

The major problem with this movie is the ending. I did a little hunting on the internet after I finished watching in an attempt to figure out what the fuck that was supposed to be about. From what I can tell, the original ending got lost or destroyed (the way in which this happened varies) and the ending we see was slapped together in haste. There are a few interpretations of what it means (I'll let you look into that on your own), but to me, it means that the filmmakers were cheap and lazy and should have ended the movie seven seconds sooner. That's all it would have taken and it would have saved the movie.

As it is, the crappy ending casts a shadow of sloppiness over the whole thing. Otherwise, the movie is really well done, the payoff is just terrible though. So, if you do watch this movie, and I recommend that you do, just do yourself a favour and stop it as soon as the people crawl out of the crypt. You'll be happier that way, believe me.


Directed by: Lucio Fulci.  Written by: Lucio Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti.  Starring: Katriona MacColl, Christopher George, Carlo de Mejo, Janet Agren, Fabrizio Jovine, Luca Paisner, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice.

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