Thursday 4 March 2010

City of the Living Dead...

AKA "The Gates of Hell" in the USA.

It's been in my collection for ages now, and I've just never gotten around to it until the other day. I've been in a bit of a grindhouse vibe of late again (what with Cannibal Apocalypse and The New York Ripper last month), so it was time for a new (to me) slice of Lucio Fulci - this time his 1980 supernatural undead follow-up to his rather successful (and rather good) Dawn of the Dead rip-off Zombi 2 (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters) from 1979.

Unfortunately, while COTLD looks the part with creepy, smoke-drenched production design, luxurious camerawork (even if the stylishly fun zooms are overused), and moments of superb gore (a fantastic scene where one victim cries blood - with utterly convincing make-up effects - before vomiting up her own innards steals the whole show, as does a scene which introduces a head to a bench drill), it just doesn't live up to the pace (or gore) of Zombi 2, nor the exploitation hallmarks of The New York Ripper.

Indeed the pace of the plot is at times mind-numbing in its ponderousness, and while sleazy grindhouse flicks aren't renowned for having Oscar-worthy scripts, COTLD barelys makes a lick of sense for the most part which leaves the viewer frustrated, confused and bored. It's only in the final act that things begin to pick up pace (aside from a few choice moments in the first hour) and the film starts to live up to its name ... although neither of the titles mentioned here are lived up to. Dunwich certainly isn't a city (it's more like a rural town), and there's not nearly enough of the supernatural/hell aspect to warrant the North American title - what's more, there's not nearly enough zombies throughout until the final moments.

All-in-all, while it's dripping with style and looks, and moments of fantastic gore, it simply cannot match its peers, nor better examples of Fulci's work. A shame really.

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