Sunday, November 1, 2015

Italy's secret Halloween horror film.

In my professional writing, mostly reviews of movies in current release, I recently wrote a list article on movies to watch for the Halloween season that are an alternative to the usual choices such as the Halloween series and 2007’s Trick ’r Treat. While doing some unrelated writing two days ago it suddenly struck me that I forgot one fantastic film entirely. For all of my love of Euro Horror it completely escaped me that Lucio Fulci’s City Of The Living Dead AKA The Gates Of Hell is a Halloween movie.

Fulci’s 1980 classic of abstract horror takes place in the fictional town of Dunwich, where the suicide of local priest Father Thomas has opened a titular gate to hell. After psychic Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) sees the suicide unfolding in a vision she immediately goes into a catatonic state resembling death and is buried alive. Investigative reporter Peter Bell (Christopher George) is luckily in the right place at the right time and saves Mary in one of the film’s most harrowing, exciting, and legendary scenes as Peter wields a pick axe mere inches from Mary’s face while trying to free here from her coffin.  

Once out Mary and Peter team up once they learn that according to the book of Enoch, the gates to hell must be closed by All Saints day (November First) or it could spell doom for all mankind. We then learn that the ghost of Father Thomas is wreaking havoc on the townsfolk of Dunwich and that the ghosts of his victims start claiming victims of their own. From here on out we are treated to a plethora of memorable scenes including guts, drills, maggot storms, and tears of blood.

Now I won’t go into any further description as to not spoil anything for those of you who may not have seen this spaghetti splatter masterpiece but suffice to say the film takes place in the last few days of October with the climax happening on the night of October 31st which makes The Gates Of Hell the strangest of all Halloween horror films. Especially considering that since City Of The Living Dead is the product of a country that doesn’t traditionally celebrate Halloween, the holiday is never once mentioned in the film.

Fulci treats us to a wealth of creepy atmosphere, odd characters, and genre defining gore set pieces in what many consider to be his best film and while I personally prefer The Beyond I find myself going back to this film just as much. Actually, now that I think of it City Of The Living Dead may be the Fulci film I’ve seen the most times. The movie has a beautiful visual style with its lingering shots of fog-laden graveyards and atmospherically lit locales shot by Sergio Salvati. The previously mentioned special effects by Ginno De Rossi are outstanding and still live up to their reputation thirty five years later while the films score by Fabio Frizzi is absolutely fantastic and memorable. 

So if you couldn’t tell I love City Of The Living Dead and highly recommend that all serious horror fans check it out if you haven’t already. And now that I have realized this movie is indeed a Halloween film it is certain to make its way into the yearly festivities. Now since this realization struck me I have been trying to find the time to sit down and write this piece but I’m worried that it is too late for me to remind you all to watch City Of The Living Dead this year because it’s after midnight… it’s already All Saints Day.

City Of The Living Dead AKA The Gates Of Hell (1980)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Catriona MacColl, Christopher George, Carlo De Majo, and Giovanni Lombardo Radice

City Of The Living Dead is available on Blu-Ray in the U.S. from Blue Underground and in the U.K. from Arrow Films.

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