“If those gates are left open it might be the end of humanity.”
So it’s called City of the Living Dead and arrives the year after Zombi 2, a semi-sequel to Night of the Living Dead, so you’d think it’d be a follow-up to that one. But the internet says it’s instead the first part of a trilogy with The Beyond and House by the Cemetery. But I’ve seen all those movies and this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with them. However, it’s one of the best Italian horrors I’ve seen, up there with Suspiria.
In Dunwich (which “was built on the ruins of the original Salem – the village of witches and heresy… and evil”), a priest (Fabrizio Jovine of Fulci’s The Psychic and Contraband) hangs himself in the cemetery, opening a gate to hell. Meanwhile in “New York,” Mary is in a seance circle screaming “I see the dead” until she drops dead herself. I can see why Catriona MacColl was cast as Mary – she’s quite a committed screamer, and unafraid of taking an axe to the face in the name of filmmaking, as we see later when crabby too-good-for-this-movie Christopher George (Enter the Ninja, The Day Santa Claus Cried) hears her screaming and grudgingly rescues her from a coffin. Oh also when the cops are called to the seance circle, a dubbed detective interrogates everyone about drugs while a guy (who is definitely not an actor) stuffed into a cop suit stands awkwardly in the background, all of which I found unaccountably wonderful.
Mary, doing what she does best:
Back to the movie, if the gates of hell are gonna open and we’re gonna have a city of the living dead, we will need lots of victims, so Fulci gives us a bunch of indistinguishably dubbed zombie-fodder characters, along with extreme close-ups on all their eyes.
Future victims Bob and Emily:
Sandra (Janet Agren of Red Sonja, Eaten Alive) is seeing psychiatrist Jerry (Carlo De Mejo of Un homme est mort) when Emily (Antonella Interlenghi of The Birdcage 3) totally barges in without knocking to announce that she has to see Bob (Giovanni Radice of Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Apocalypse) that night. Bob is the local maladjusted deviant, just the kind of person a young hottie in an Italian horror movie should be hanging out with. But Bob doesn’t kill her, exactly, just pushes her aside to escape when the hanged priest appears and smears wormy grime into her face. Not the coolest death scene in the world, but they make up for it with the coolest death scene in the world, when Daniela Doria (who spent her whole acting career playing victims in Fulci movies) and Michele Soavi (star of Demons 5 & 6, then director of Demons 3 & 4 – oh Italy, you have no respect for sequel continuity) are making out in a car when the priest appears and stares at them until she silently vomits out all her insides while bleeding from the eyes, then grabs the boy and pulls his brains through his skull with her bare hands.
Meanwhile Emily’s dad finds out she’s dead, goes looking for Bob, then drills a hole in his head. Emily later returns as a zombie to haunt and kill her family, but her little brother escapes and meets up with the psychiatrist and the blonde. Oh also there are three guys in a bar who are always afraid of zombies and gates to hell, but never do anything or leave the bar, until they’re finally all killed in the end… I can’t figure if that was supposed to be humor. And an undertaker at “Moriarity and Sons” (got an extra “i” in there) funeral home is eaten by a corpse.
The hanged priest with a handful of wormy grime:
All of our protagonists (Jerry the beardie psychiatrist, blonde Sandra, resurrected Mary and bitter newsman Pete) meet up in the graveyard looking for the dead priest, then an evil wind machine blows a million worms into the window of their hotel room. From the DVD extras I learned that Fulci’s effects looked so good because they were real: he really swung an axe a half-inch from Mary’s face, truly made Daniela Doria vomit up sheep guts, and he sure enough blasted a million worms into a hotel room right into the screaming faces of his stars. In case you didn’t figure it out on your own, crew members also tell us that Fulci hated actors.
The killing method of choice from now on will be squeezing the brains through the skull with one’s bare hands – first dead Emily does Sandra, then dead Sandra does the reporter (yay, he is finally dead).
The beardy psychiatrist (why does he get to be the hero?) stabs the priest in the balls with a cross, then he and Mary climb out of grave. The kid (with two cops) sees and happily runs towards them. They’re happy at first but then Mary is afraid, yells nooo, freeze frame, black tendrils across picture. What was that? What happened?
Movie was partly shot in Savannah, which is exciting to me.
Buy from Amazon:
City of the Living Dead [Blu-ray]