City of the Living Dead aka The Gates of Hell (1980)
Back of the box...
“The Seven Gates Of Hell have been torn open, and in three days the dead shall rise and walk the earth. As a reporter (Christopher George) and a psychic (Catriona MacColl) race to close the portals of the damned, they encounter a seething nightmare of unspeakable evil. The city is alive—with the horrors of the living dead!
Directed and co-written by the legendary Lucio Fulci (Zombie, The Beyond, The New York Ripper), City Of The Living Dead features some of the maestro’s most shocking and controversial sequences of all time. This is the definitive version of Fulci’s hallucinogenic masterpiece of horror: uncut, uncensored and presented in all its brain-ripping, gut-spewing, head-drilling glory!”
Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo
Watch the Trailer
The beauty of Fulci movies is that all you need is a brief description of a single scene to make you want to hit the play button. Zombie has the infamous underwater battle between shark and zombie, while City of the Living Dead has a woman slowly barfing up ALL of her guts (literally) as an undead priest stares hypnotically into her eyes! Not enough? You want more? Fine. .
City of the Living Dead is the first installment of Fulci’s unofficial “Gates of Hell Trilogy,” with The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery making up the remainder. Whether the trilogy got it’s name from it’s shared theme or from its American release title, The Gates of Hell, we don’t know, but yeah, that’s right, it’s another goddamn transatlantic name change. Confusing titles is like the hallmark of Italian horror.
As prophesied in the book of Enoch, the death of a priest will open the gates of hell and give rise to the living dead. A psychic named Mary (Catriona MacColl) has a vision during a seance where she witnesses a priest hang himself in a far away cemetery. With the help of Peter (George Christopher), a journalist and reluctant accomplice, Mary must find the cemetery from her vision and close the gateway before All Saints Day, which is just a few days away.
We believe that this story could make for a really great movie but, unfortunately, City of the Living Dead isn’t it. Not to say we think it’s a bad movie, it just leaves you wanting so much more. Like most Fulci movies, City of the Living Dead has individual scenes that are amazing but the film never quite lives up to its own potential. Christopher George, who you’ll recognize from Pieces, brings that 70’s brand of charm and machismo to his character while the rest of the cast is serviceable. The villain, big-bad, or whatever you want to call him, is a dead priest who suddenly materializes before his victims while hanging from a noose. His presence is always very creepy and his modus operandi of death will make your stomach turn, which makes his underuse in the film so problematic. Much of the conflict comes from zombies tearing out people’s brains while our undead priest, with all of his terrifying powers, is somewhere off camera rigging fans to blow maggots through windows. Or so we assume.
City of the Living Dead has some great practical gore effects that will make your skin crawl and it boasts one of the most memorable death scenes in Italian horror history. If you’re a fan of Fulci, horror, or are just looking for a fun movie to watch with friends, City of the Living Dead is definitely worth checking out.