Movie Name: City of the Living Dead
Studio: Dania Film
Release Date(s): August 11, 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
The suicide of a priest (Fabrizio Jovine) in the town of Dunwich opens the doorway to horror. When a psychic named Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) taps into the event and sees what is coming, she finds herself teamed with a reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George) in a desperate attempt to stop the evil from escaping. The dead are walking the earth and the plague is spreading. Unless the spirit of the priest is stopped by Mary, Peter, and a psychiatrist named Gerry (Carlo De Mejo), all hell will break loose!
Written and directed by Lucio Fulci, City of the Living Dead (Paura nella città dei morti viventi or Fear in the City of the Living Dead) also goes by the title of The Gates of Hell. The Italian horror film is part of Lucio Fulci’s “Gates of Hell” trilogy The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981). The film received average reviews and has gained a cult following like many of Fulci’s films.
Italian horror has its own feel. They are often harder, faster, and gorier than American films at the time. City of the Living Dead is exactly what you’d expect from a low budget Italian horror…weirdness and nastiness wrapped in a confusing plot.
The movie’s story is all over the place. The suicide of the priest, the séance, and random interludes involving zombie-esque people (and piles of worms and glop) don’t really add up at points. The basic storyline doesn’t kick in until the reporter and psychic team-up. It also has a really unsatisfying and unexplained ending allegedly due to the destruction of part of the film by an editor and a cup of coffee.
The acting is also pretty poor. Despite being an Italian film, most of the cast is American and the film was shot in America. The director Lucio Fulci appears in a small role as Dr. Joe Thompson.
What generally sells Italian horror is the gore. As much as George Romero’s zombies changed the course of zombie films (and shows like The Walking Dead), Italian zombies always seemed to be grosser. The later Romero films and other recent zombie movies have adapted the “gross” zombie but they are already gross here. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough zombies or crazy deaths…and that combined with no plot doesn’t help.
City of the Living Dead is pretty much for zombie genre fans only. The horror isn’t very horrific, the gore isn’t really as gory as other movies, and you don’t have a very compelling or deep story. Though they don’t really have much connections (other than themes), City of the Living Dead was followed by the second of Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy The Beyond in 1981.