May 25, 2010
Film Club: City of the Living Dead
As I think back on Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead (aka The Gates of Hell), I wonder at my own weird prejudices- like, why am I so quick to give Italian horror films a break? Whenever a plot is thinner than wafer-thin, or nothing really makes sense, I just shrug and give it a "Yeah, but it's Italian so it it's okay!" Hmm. Maybe I should clarify: I give a pass to directors like Fulci and Dario Argento. Sometimes their films have no logic to them whatsoever, but even so they're evocative. I'm willing to go hungry on the story if I get all full on feelings and frights, you know?
City of the Living Dead is a prime example of this. Here's what happens, as best as I could figure: Father Thomas hangs himself in a cemetery in Dunwich, which was built on ground that was originally part of Salem. His suicide opens the gates of Hell. A psychic (Catriona MacColl) realizes that stuff is hinky, and she knows that the gates must be closed by All Saints' Day (which is totally coming up soon!) or the dead will walk the Earth. She enlists the aid of a reporter (Christopher George) and together they seek to destroy the body of Father Thomas. They don't manage to do it in time, but it kind of doesn't matter. Or does it?
That "or does it?" comes courtesy of that ending which...was vague and weird and made no sense and felt like it happened spontaneously in the editing bay.
I don't know, I guess if my interpretation is right then it's not that nonsensical. But as the film was passing in front of my eyeballs, it seemed incredibly disjointed- characters come and go and get their brains ripped out and I never felt like I knew who was who...nor did I much care.
But see? I was okay with that because there was so much weirdness going on. Who needs character development when you've got drills going through faces (so gross) and rooms full of maggots (SO GROSS) and people puking up their insides (SO GROSS)? I'm torn regarding my allowances with City of the Living Dead: is it okay to cut it this much slack?
I'm not giving it a total pass, mind you. It was entertaining (and so fucking GROSS), but it's no The Beyond- aside from the TOTAL GROSSNESS of it (have I mentioned how gross it is?), I don't think it'll resonate in my brain for all that long.
It was certainly creepy, though, but that may simply be my weird weakness to Italian flicks (especially the zombie variety) coming into play. There's something about them that makes me incredibly uncomfortable and puts me in a permanent willies-state. I can't really explain it- it's a combination of the music and the dubbing and the anything can happen-ness and the graphic, unrelenting violence and the way characters in Italian horror films seem to simply stare at the oncoming threat until it attacks them...all of it automatically induces goosebumps. I had them before the credits of City of the Living Dead stopped rolling. As I said, though, that's probably just my weird neurosis- your mileage may vary.
I think I'll continue to feel torn about City until...I don't know, until I stop thinking about it, I guess (profound, I know). It did make me nostalgic for the good ol' zombie days, though- where the gates of Hell opening and unleashing walking corpses upon the Earth is kind of a big fucking deal; in this day of virus-riddled notzombies and no one ever rising out of the ground anymore, the undead have lost their otherness. Their otherness and their GD scariness. Too many satirical takes on the genre have sort of neutered them, made them essentially just like us, but stinkier- you know, what if zombies had jobs? What if we used them as laborers? Meh. Give me the rotting, shambling (and TELEPORTING!) variety any day. As torn as I remain, I'll take City of the Living Dead over Day of the Dead 2. I know, that's a big NO EFFING DUH.
Film Club Coolies, y'all!
The Vault of Horror
Less Than 3 Film
Things That Don't Suck
The Hougly Film and Beer Journal
In One Ear...
From Midnight, With Love
Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies
The House of Sparrows
Aphorisms and Ectoplasm (it's gif-a-riffic!!)
Fear on Friday (first timer!)
Moon in the Gutter
Pussy Goes Grrr