The Gates of Hell (1980)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Carlo De Mejo/Jerry
Fabrizio Jovine/Father Thomas
A priest (Jovine) hangs his sorry ass in the town of Dunwich and consequently opens the gates of hell and lets pure evil in. It’s up to cigar-chomping journalist Peter (George) and a stunning heart-shaped assed psychic (MacColl) to hit the town and put a stop to the madness before gooey zombies murder the whole world. And I thought my week was rough!
God, I love Italians! I love their fine cuisine, their hot blooded women, their designer clothes and most importantly...their teeth-to-the-headstone horror movies. Having adored Dario Argento for as long as I can remember, I have just recently been introduced to the wonderful world of Lucio Fulci. My quest started out with the relentless "Zombie" and now it continues with the mucho badass "Gates of Hell". After watching this flick, I immediately surfed the Net to read up on some reviews on what I believed to be a very potent horror dish. Much to my dismay, I found mostly negative reviews! What the fuck? Somebody isn’t drinking the right brand of Gin or isn’t getting his daily vicious beating.
I read up some more on Fulci and realized that unlike Argento, the man is criminally underrated and that’s a damn shame! Maybe all of his work isn’t the money, but the ones that hit, hit freakin' hard and you have to respect that. Personally, "Gates of Hell" firmly grabbed my throat from the get-go and had me RIP by the time the end credits rolled. This is true horror and I will go on record to say: although Argento is brilliant in slapping surreal polished style our way, I think Fulci tops the master when it comes to tapping into unrestrained, to the core, macabre horror imagery. Nobody shoots a cemetery like this dude, that’s for fucking sure! The bleakness of the grave scenes in this movie were so strong that I could almost smell the rotting flesh in my living room (or was that my dead date?).
Fulci thankfully injected the whole movie with that same pleasant morbid ambiance. If it wasn’t the incredibly spooky town giving me the willies (loved the constant wind and dust), it was Fulci’s able play with eerie sounds (baby cries, moaning) which put a spell on me. Fulci also successfully complements the film’s creepy aura with balls-to-the-walls gross-out moments that will have you chopping your dog’s head off in fervent joy. His zombies are some of the most disgusting/scary that I’ve ever seen and his kill scenes had me squirming, screaming, wincing and jacking off...all at once! YOU GO, MY MAN! Top all that bloody candy off with classy directing moments (loved the often tight shots on the eyes) and a gripping score and you get a picture that never failed to sway my black heart onto its side.
One pleasant surprise I had while watching this baby was on a narrative level, since the movie is more than just another tale of lumbering zombies waking up and causing a ruckus. There’s a strong supernatural current that drives the story and I relished the uniqueness of that angle (in terms of zombie movies). The more ambitious storyline gave this undead flick license to put out some striking horror scenarios that nearly had me popping wood out of my pants. For example: the mirror that cracked and then dripped blood, the tornado of maggots bursting into the room and the deliciously unpleasant scene of a gal being buried alive, all unapologetically bitch-slapped me to horror heaven. THANK YOU!
Sure, I do have some ice pickings with this one, nothing really crucial but it should be said. First, there are so many characters in this mortuary of fun that I never really got the chance to invest myself totally into any one of them. The only exception to that rule was Mary (MacColl), who was just too yummy looking for me not to give a fudge about. Then there’s the dialogue and the acting, which did lean towards the AWFUL every now and again. Lines like “What the dickens is this?” and that robotic Detective early on couldn’t help but make me belly laugh out loud. I also wasn’t too fond of the zombie’s whole "peekaboo" appearing and disappearing acts. I guess I’m just not used to seeing zombies using such powers. The first thing that came to mind when I saw the undead teleport was: “So that’s where Jason Voorhees learned his tricks for "Friday the 13th: Part 8”! And last but not least, can somebody please explain the last frame to me (with the boy)? I didn’t get it or maybe I did...I’m not 1000% sure.
But overall, those snags never came close to ruining the extreme and immense pleasure that I had while living through "Gates of Hell". Throughout the film, I kept telling myself (yes, I speak to myself very often): "Arrow, this is what a horror movie should look like, feel like, sound like and that gore, my stupid friend...is the shizzle my nizzle wizzle mothafucka!" Yep that’s a hefty statement: I’m not sure what it all means yet but take it as you will, run with it and break down those creaking Gates! HORROR LIVES IN FULCI!
It's gore time in the playground! We get a bitten hand, a graphic drill in head bit, some bloody scalp ripping, some brains tumbling out of one’s head, a girl that vomits her organs out (yippee!), bleeding eyes, ripped out brain, maggot infested zombies and more! FUCK YEAH!
Christopher George (Peter) does well as the smug reporter but that doesn’t mean I liked him. He overdid the cigar acting and was too cocky for me. Catriona MacColl (Mary) is a delight to gawk at and she holds her own acting wise. Carlo De Mejo (Jerry) also gives a good show but dude, the beard has to go! Fabrizio Jovine (Father Thomas) is one creepy looking son of a bitch; that’s all he needed to convey and he did it perfectly.
T & A
None of that stuff. Wait a minute; none of that stuff? Yep, that’s right; none of that stuff! This is an Italian genre film! How does that happen??? Did I miss a tit here?
Not only does Fulci fill this flick to the brim with bleak ambiance, he also shows off with the camera competently, has a blast with kool zoom ins/outs, loves those tight shots on eyes, goes heavy on the bluish lighting and communicates events through images creatively (loved how when they were searching the house, we saw it from the outside with the lights coming on in the windows; good shite!) Fulci is all over this one.
The score by Fabio Frizzi tweaked my senses like a drug. Although it was a little overbearing at times, it did hit the spot most of the time like a nurse giving you head while taking your rectal exam. In simple terms: IT KICKED BOOTIE!
I went nuts for "Gates of Hell". Some might argue that the conventions that Fulci uses in this film are far from original and I would agree with that statement. All the elements here did feel very familiar but mark my words when I say this: unlike in the many pussy films we get today, Fulci delivers those familiar elements with an unrestrained visual, auditory and somber glee that should likely please all hardcore genre fans while they rest in the casket we call life. It was delight to dip my toes in pure horror again; open those gates mofos and get a jolting overdose of horror.
Director Michelle Soavi ("Stagefright") plays the role of Tommy in this flick.
The film is also known as: City of the Living Dead / Fear in the City of the Living Dead / Fear, Father Thomas / Twilight of the Dead.
Lucio Fulci died on March 13, 1996 of a diabetes related illness.