OCTOBER 30, 2008
Next up in the Fulci triple feature, after Zombi, was The Gates of Hell (Italian: Paura Nella Città Dei Morti Viventi), aka City of the Living Dead. This was one of the first movies I saw at the New Bev, so it holds a special place in my heart. Plus, it has Giovanni Lombardo Radice, so I automatically love it, even if his role makes absolutely no sense in the grand scheme of things, and his death scene may be the most extraneous in horror movie history.
Radice plays Bob, a guy without any seeming motive or backstory to explain why he appears to be a zombie himself, why he has no home, and why his best option for a place to sleep is in the backseat of a car belonging to a guy who hates him. The rest of the movie is about a priest’s suicide opening a gate to hell and besieging a few folks around town (including another English journalist named Peter; apparently a Fulci theme), but Radice’s scenes don’t seem to have any connection to any of that. Then the guy who owns the car sees him, and despite being a seemingly reasonable man and upstanding citizen, he immediately shoves Radice’s head into a goddamn power drill. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome scene, but you could cut the end credits or maybe the production company logo out of the film and it would have more of a narrative impact than if any of this stuff was removed.
The drill scene is one of two great gore highlights in the film. The other finds a girl suddenly puking up her insides. And I mean all of em: her intestines, her spleen... it all comes up, as a young Michele Soavi looks on in horror. Again, not quite sure what the scene has to do with anything (no one else has this reaction, sadly) but also again, it’s fucking awesome.
The story itself is fine. I like that it takes place on the “ruins of Salem” (Massachusetts), since Salem was never destroyed. Fulci apparently liked my home state; his House by the Cemetery (itself with a memorable character named Bob) also took place there. This led to my being confused by a joke; when the heroes discover that everyone in the cemetery where the priest killed himself is coming back to life, Peter says “Luckily he didn’t hang himself in Arlington!”. There is a MA town called Arlington (it’s where I lived before I moved to LA), so I thought he was inexplicably referring to it, but then my buddy explained he meant the Arlington National Cemetery. Yeah, I’m dumb.
This movie also has the most inexplicable ending in horror movie history. Our heroes escape the pit or whatever the hell they are stuck in for the finale, and as they do, they see a little kid named John-John (who kept loosely fitting into the plot throughout the film) standing a hundred feet or so away. They call to him, and he begins to run over. Suddenly, our heroes scream! Why? No idea. Fulci cuts back to the kid and everything looks normal to me, but there’s a freeze-frame and then the movie ends. Huh? Anyone catch what we’re supposed to be afraid of here, exactly?
Oh well, good movie.
What say you?