Friday, March 19, 2010

(Fun With) Fulci Week: City of the Living Dead

Let's close up the official week (one more for Sunday) of Fulci reviews with a strong, weird one.  This is the film that really built upon his success with Zombie Flesh Eaters and made him a big, international name.  Never mind the fact that the man was actually making political comedies in his home country (seriously, look it up!) for years, as well as Giallo films and Western.  So what is this plot about?  Well, in a word: zombies.  In two words: teleporting zombies.  I'd elaborate on that more, but I'd rather let the film speak for itself.  This is...
The film begins with a priest going into a cemetery and hanging himself.  Well, that at least saves on the transportation costs!  While this is going on, a group of psychics are channeling some spiritual energy and discover a phenomenon.  As the priest dies, you see, some massive mojo gets released and one of the Seven Doors to Hell is opened up.  This has something to do with a culmination of the town's location- Dunwich is the former town of Salem- and its past history.  When this reaches its crescendo, the lead psychic dies suddenly!  The police look into the death & are a bit skeptical until fire shoots up from the ground.  One of the psychics talks about a book, which seems to upset some unknown force.  Two random, spectral events in about three minutes- that's a record!  A reporter (Christopher George) comes by, but is not told anything.  He decides to look into this himself, which means a trip to the local graveyard on the next day.  Once there, he meets some graveworkers who leave the body of the woman in a half-filled grave due to union rules.  Wow, I didn't realize that Fulci was a Republican!  As he goes to leave, the woman comes to life in her grave.  Of course, he nearly kills her in the process of trying to free her!  Back in Dunwich, a fog is rolled in and freaky crap is starting to happen.

The narrative gets a little confusing as we are split between the reporter-psychic duo, two local residents and a bunch of random people.  The gist of it: zombies are popping up (and in) and killing people.  One resident named Bob runs away from a woman being killed and is made the prime suspect by locals.  Another duo is killed as the undead priest shows up and forces the woman to vomit up her guts.  By the way, thanks for not calling me on placing the reference wrongly before, guys!  In a bit of silly writing/dubbing, a policeman finds a pile of gore, viscera and worms & comments 'What in the Dickens is that?'  First, that's a bit light and second, what kind of Dickens stories were you reading buddy?!?  The reporter-psychic manage to leave town without questioning from anyone (really?!?) and drive towards Dunwich, stopping for directions at a Church.  Does this part add anything?  No, not really.  In town, the woman is haunted by mysterious appearances and calls her guy friend over.  Their investigation is cut short when a dead girl kills her parents and targets her brother.  I would also be remiss without mentioning how poor Bob gets killed with a drill press through the head.  Alas poor weirdo with an unspecified past.  Finally, at the one hour mark, our divergent pairs of heroes meet up...and are greeted by a hail of maggots.  Nice, Lucio!

They talk about how they need to find the priest's body before All Saint's Day or Hell will be opened up for good.  Of course, they sit around for a while and barely show any haste about this!  When they split up, the local woman is killed in seconds by the zombie girl, who rips open the back of her skull.  When the she-zombie confronts the guy, he closes his eyes tightly and she disappears.  Um, okay.  Eventually, they rush to the cemetery, but it's too late.  In spite of this, they go down into giant, underground crypt that the priest is buried in, only to find the body kicked its way out.  All of a sudden, the zombie girl appears again and rips open Christopher's head too!  I guess this one of those 'zombies get stronger in death' films.  The others flee, but are cornered by a host of zombies and the Priest.  When their former friend shows up, they stab her and she falls over within a second.  Wow, that was easy.  The Priest begins to cast his weird 'vomit up your guts' spell on the other woman, so the man stabs him in the gut with a cross.  Naturally, this causes him to light on fire, as well as the other zombies.  They escape and meet the kid, but the movie randomly has them screaming for some reason.  Um, why exactly?!?
Yeah, this movie is very, very weird.  The premise is a unique one and it is interesting to see a zombie outbreak explained, especially when it's not due to some bio-weapon.  What I don't get are all the weird rules set up here.  Why does the Priest have powers now?  Why does every zombie get the ability to teleport?  Obviously this is not your normal zombie, but could you bothered to explain anything?  I know that this is asking a lot from a Fulci film, but try please!  That said, the gore is gooey and great.  While not all of it makes sense and fits (the 'gut vomiting' bit really makes more sense for The Beyond), they are all entertaining.  As for the acting, it is hard to judge that since every version I see sounds dubbed...or was done with bad audio equipment.  For his part, Christopher plays up the swagger of his character, complete with stubble (occasionally) and a cigar.  It sometimes seems out of place here, but let's just go with it!  If you like Fulci and haven't seen this, do so now.  It's a defining film for him- good or bad.
Up next, Blockbuster Trash closes up the Pulse trilogy with the final film.  Is it good?  I'm talking about Pulse 3 here- take a guess!  Stay tuned...

Note: This review is going to be part of May's edition of the Final Girl Film Club.  Check out her page here:

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