Thanks to Lee from The Hougly Film Journal for suggesting this one.
Do the same here.
Director: Lucio Fulci (1980)
Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo
Find it: IMDB
Watching Lucio Fulci's infamous video nasty for the first time, there were a number of things I expected to see and hear. Things like "at some stage, every girl wants to marry her own father" are par for the course, as are maggot-ridden zombies, traumatised eyeballs and various dodgy sounding lines of dialogue. What I didn't expect City of the Living Dead to do, however, was (briefly) melt my heart.
It does attack someone moments later though (not in a zombie way), so it's not as though Fulci is going soft. But I keep coming back to that kitty whenever City of the Living Dead gets too hard to handle. Ew, maggots. Just look at the picture of the puddy tat until the Bad Thing goes away.
Meanwhile, in a Dunwich graveyard, a tormented clergyman commits suicide, unwittingly opening the Gates of Hell as he does so. A reporter and a psychic travel to the town (not a city, then) to close the Gates before the dead can overtake the Earth for their own. Not just any zombies, though: super powered zombies with super strength, teleportation and levitation abilities. Never mind the fast zombies/slow zombies debate - the question on everyone's lips is whether they should be able to levitate where they please in their search for brains to nom.
Eagle eyed horror fans will recognise Dunwich from HP Lovecraft's short story The Dunwich Horror. It's a nice nod from Fulci and the film has a very Lovecraftian feel to it. Cthulu would definitely approve of the bleeding eyeballs and teleporting zombies. A scene in which a woman vomits up her own internal organs is the most disgusting thing I have seen in a very long time (since, oh, the eyeball poke in Zombie Flesh Eaters). Just close your eyes and think of the kitty. There's also a bit where the windows of a house fly open and the residents are sprayed with a barrage of maggots. Given that I have a minor phobia of maggots, watching these poor schmoes standing up to their ankles in a writhing puddle of maggots made my stomach turn.
Adding to the atmosphere is the soundtrack. As is peculiar to Italian zombie films of the time, it sounds a lot like something out of Romero's Dawn of the Dead, but is grimmer and even more Gothic here. It compliments the visuals perfectly. And other than the visuals and the music, there isn't much to City of the Dead. It has more of a story than The Beyond (which is like a sort of sketch show from hell) but becomes fairly incomprehensible towards the end.
City of the Dead is classic Fulci horror. It makes very little sense, but that hardly matters. If the man who brought us a zombie fighting a shark has taught us anything, it's that re-animated corpses don't need a reason.