Thursday, March 22, 2012

#584. City of the Living Dead (1980)

Directed By: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo

Tag line: "The Dead Shall Rise And Walk The Earth"

Trivia:  Future director Michele Soavi was originally up for the role of Bob

Fresh off the success of 1979's Zombie, director Lucio Fulci returns to the genre with 1980's City of the Living Dead, and while this entry isn't quite the classic the earlier film was, it's a solid effort nonetheless. 

The small town of Dunwich is situated above one of the Gates of Hell, and when a parish priest (Fabrizio Jovine) hangs himself in the church cemetery, he inadvertently opens the Gate, causing the recently deceased to rise and attack the living. Having experienced visions of the impending chaos, psychic Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) teams with investigative reporter Peter Bell (Christopher George) to try and close the Gate before midnight on All Souls Day. Failure to do so will result in the total destruction of mankind. 

This is a rather simplistic synopsis for City of the Living Dead, and much more happens than what I've described above. Far too much, actually. In fact, I'd say things get downright confusing. We see the priest's suicide through Mary's eyes, the vision of which comes to her as she's conducting a séance. Along with the priest's death, Mary can clearly see one of the tombstones in the graveyard, which reads “The soul that pines for eternity shall outspan death. You dweller of the twilight void come, Dunwich” (whoever carved this inscription was just asking for trouble). These images prove too shocking for Mary to bear. She stands, cries out “City of the Dead!”, then falls to the floor. She's pronounced dead (prematurely, I might add), and shortly after the police show up to investigate, a fireball leaps from the corner of the room, disappearing almost as quickly as it came. If this all sounds puzzling to you, join the club; I didn't have a clue what was going on in these early scenes. But then, Fulci himself stated that, at this point in his career, he favored imagery over story, and in that particular area, City of the Living Dead doesn't disappoint. 

There are a handful of genuinely creepy sequences in City of the Living Dead (the scene where Mary wakes up in her coffin is positively chilling), but as you might expect from a Lucio Fulci film, the gore is second to none. As Tommy (Michele Soavi) and Rose (Daniela Doria) are making out in Tommy's truck, the spirit of the priest appears to them, and begins wreaking havoc. Rose starts bleeding from her eyes, then proceeds to cough up all of her vital organs (and I mean all of them). She then turns to Tommy, grabs him by the back of his head, and crushes the brains right out of his skull. 

An ominous mood takes hold of you as you watch this movie, a sense of doom which will soon have you forgetting the story makes little sense.  City of the Living Dead is a prime example of style over substance, but oh...what style it has!

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