City Of The Living Dead / Paura nella città dei morti viventi (1980)

4.5 out of 5

The town of Dunwich is under assault by the living dead, after a priest’s graveyard suicide prompts the opening of a gateway to Hell and causes the dead to rise. Reporter Christopher George and psychic Catriona MacColl travel to the town, in an attempt to close the portal before All Saint’s Day, when the world will be overtaken by legions of the undead.

Also known as The Gates of Hell, Lucio Fulci’s atmospheric gorefest merges the zombie film with occult horror, as zombies with supernatural properties appear in conjunction with unexplained phenomena such as maggot storms and bleeding walls.

The film’s ultra-gory special effects are equally fascinating and repulsive. Zombies grab chunks from the back of their victims’ skulls, a woman is forced to vomit her entire intestinal tract, and a man’s skull is realistically penetrated by a large drill, in horrifying close-up.

Although many plot elements are frustratingly unclear or left unexplained, this at times enhances the nightmarish quality of the film, as viewers are left to merely absorb the events as though observers of a terrifying dream. The surreal cinematography by Sergio Salvati and eerily beautiful score by Fabio Frizzi further intensify this effect.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics