City of the Living Dead ★★★

The first film in Lucio Fulci's "Gates of Hell Trilogy."

A medium is holding a séance in New York City and Mary, one of the participants sees a vision of a priest hanging himself in a cemetery. This act awakens the dead who begin to rise from their graves in the town of Dunwich. The experience is so traumatizing that Mary breaks the circle and seemingly dies of fright. While visiting her grave a reporter named Peter witnesses her revival and helps save her. After talking with the medium it is discovered that they must figure out where this town is and close the portal to hell within three days. If the portal is open on All Saint's Day it can never be closed again and the dead will never rest.

I've gone almost an entire month without Italian horror so it's time to come back and do it big with the man himself Lucio Fulci. I have mixed feelings about this film as I loved some apects and was left either annoyed by or scratching my head about the rest. I'll get the bad out of the way first. The plot was a mess. Maybe witches?, zombies, a ghost (I think?), and a strangely rushed setup all came together to form a whole lot of noise. I found myself lost a few times often wondering why there had to be so much going on with so many generic characters. The poor pacing didn't help. The first hour felt like two but the last 30 minutes were pretty great. It made a large chunk of the film seem more like "Small Town of a Few Living Dead and Maybe a Ghost in Salem or Something Plus Plot Holes."

I don't want to sound like I'm completely dumping on the film because overall I actually like it a lot and plan to rewatch it again down the road. The practical FX and makeup are incredible and live up to the high tier that I was expecting from this film. I love the use of worms especially with the zombies, and this isn't the only film where Fulci makes sure it's done right. Bleeding eyes, crushed skulls with oozing brains, and throwing up one's own guts. Fucking rad, I wish there was more. The set designs and locals were very well done, especially the night scenes toward the end with the rolling fog. Combine that with the fun soundtrack and you have everything you need to complete the Italian horror experience.

The ending. I would get into my annoyance with that but maybe I'll feel differently with my eventual re-watch. I'll choose not to get into that one. If you're a fan of Italian horror, City of the Living Dead is a must see film. Just try to suspend your disbelief even more than you would during a typical zombie film.

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