City of the Living Dead (1980)

city of the living dead poster 1980 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 4/10
Visuals: 6/10

Some gore and insane horror

Nonsense story and poor acting

Movie Info

Movie Name:  City of the Living Dead

Studio:  Dania Film

Genre(s):  Horror/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  August 11, 1980

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

city of the living dead father thomas hanging priest fabrizio jovine

Good job, Father Thomas…you brought about Hell on Earth

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) is an Italian horror thriller.  The film also goes by the title of The Gates of Hell and is part of Lucio Fulci’s loosely tied “Gates of Hell” trilogy which includes 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.

city of the living dead drill murder

He was…screwed

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.

city of the living dead zombie woman

These zombies really have that stare and underlighting thing down…good presentation, ghost zombie!

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.

Related Links:

The Beyond (1981)

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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