It’s been a few weeks since my last post but that’s because I’ve been waist-deep in Fulci movies. If you’re a gore lover like myself I urge you to explore the films of Lucio Fulci. Known as the Maestro, or Godfather of Gore. An accomplished Italian filmmaker, director, cinematographer, screenwriter, and actor- he was a true artist and visionary. Besides Dario Argento, no other Italian filmmaker has attained such acclaimed status among horror fans. His films span nearly five decades and although he produced comedies and Westerns, he was most notably revered for his giallo and horror films. Among horror enthusiasts Fulci has attained cult status as one of the true masters of the genre. Every scene, every camera angle, every word was carefully crafted by this man. He has influenced countless directors in the genre and you can find nods to his work in many modern horror movies. He is a legend in the horror industry and as a horror fan I needed to explore his work.
Admittedly, I watched House by the Cemetery first, not realizing it was part of a series known as the Gates of Hell trilogy consisting of three incredible films. There is some debate that there are technically four films in this series ( If you include Zombie (1972- also known as Zombie 2, Flesh Eaters or Woodoo) but most critics agree on three. This series is a MUST SEE and MUST OWN for gorehounds and die-hard horror fans. The first of which is City of the Living Dead (1980)
A reporter and a psychic race to Massachusetts to close the portals of the damned after a priest commits suicide tearing open all seven gates to Hell. The pair have just three days before the dead begin rising from their graves. I have to say the gore effects are FANTASTIC! The zombies are disgusting and putrid. No lumbering cheesy zombies here. Over forty years later, the zombies are STILL terrifying. The effects are NOT AT ALL what you’d expect from a 1980 horror film. It contained some exceptionally gruesome bloody death scenes the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Scenes like bleeding from the eyes, entrails oozing out of people’s mouths, and craniums being torn open like watermelons on Canada Day- exposing seeping, slimy brain matter! 👍 Most grotesque. Highly recommend!
Next was The Beyond (1981), (my personal favorite of the bunch) the follow up to City of the Living Dead. A woman inherits a mansion from her uncle in Louisiana. Sure, it needs repairs but the real issue is that horrific murders have occurred here, oh, and it’s built over an entrance to Hell-(oops). As she renovates the home it stirs up some horrifyingly dark mysteries. This movie stunned me and I think it’s safe to to say it’s quickly made it’s way up to my Top 10 Horror Films of ALL TIME. The overwhelming sense of gloom and dread, shocking gore scenes, a waking nightmare. This movie really encompasses all things Fulci. Right down to the color scheme of ‘The Beyond”, which is sort of an afterlife. So much thought was put into this film and it really comes through when you watch it. Truly an experience.
The third and final instalment in the Gates of Hell trilogy is House by the Cemetery also released in 1981. A family relocates to Boston so the husband/father can conduct scientific research. The son begins seeing a ghost girl leading him to dark evil secrets of the basements and the true nature of the house and how it all ties into a series of murders happening in the city. The English dub on the boy, Bob, is just awful but it was tolerable because the movie was phenomenal! So much gore tied into a perfectly told story. There’s a harrowing, bordering on annoying, bat scene, but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Again, some of the most uniquely done death scenes, makeup and special effects for that time. It’s SO impressive. MUST WATCH!
The series as a whole was incredibly good. I was in awe at many of the death scenes. And there are many- the death counts are often high in Fulci films. What impressed me most though was the whole story, how it developed and progressed throughout the three films. Fulci was an incredibly thoughtful, meticulous and articulate artist, and this shows through this series of films. At times it’s easy to forget you’re watching films from 1980/81, the effects are THAT good.
After consuming the Gates of Hell I needed more Fulci. I delved into Aenigma from 1987. This was another movie I ABSOLUTELY LOVED! Another MUST OWN for your collection. Have you ever seen anyone die by snails? If you’re curious about that, this may be the film for you. An unpopular girl is harassed in her boarding school leading up to a terrible accident leaving her comatose. Enter a new student. The comatose student then possesses the new girl to exact revenge on the miserable assholes that caused her accident.
This isn’t your average revenge story. It’s bloody, it’s gruesome. It’s full of “holy shit they went there!” moments, and trust me when I tell you, you’ll definitely want to check out that death by snails scene. Oh so much gore! Fantastic!
Ok, so what else can I find in my subscription services? I found The New York Ripper next.
The New York Ripper (1982) falls into the giallo genre. Giallo were movies that took serious subject matter, like a murder and tried to solve it. Think of them as visually stunning, sort of sexy detective novels come to life. Young attractive women are being brutally murdered in New York City. NOTE: This is a highly sexualized film which made it not so popular among critics. There are eviscerations, brutal stabbings, one woman gets stabbed to death in the crotch with a broken bottle, someone else is suffocated with a plastic bag. Lots of gore and the body count is high in this one. Fulci himself makes an appearance as the Chief of Police trying to keep the murders out of the press.
The killer is identified as missing two fingers from his right hand and talks to his victims via the telephone in a Donald Duck voice. The duck voice is a little off-putting until you understand why the killer does the things he does. According to the documentary, Fulci for Fake (2019) by Simone Scafidi which includes never before seen footage and interviews with those closest to Fulci, he had originally written this film differently. A horse riding accident that left his daughter Camilla bed-bound for some time altered how he approached this film. I won’t give away spoilers but Fulci’s grief about his daughter’s accident plays a very large role in this film. I thought it was great. A really gross and perturbed whodunnit.
The most recent film I’ve watched was The Black Cat (1981). Based on the Edgar Allan Poe story. An American photographer teams up with a Scotland Yard inspector to solve a series of murders. The suspect? A man’s cat. A great tale in it’s own right but with a Fulci spin. Easily overlooked but definitely worth a watch. Lots of blood, a creepy atmosphere and a killer opening scene.
Although many viewed him a serious, often cranky man, I’m not sure fans realize how difficult his life was. Besought with tragedies like the suicide of his first wife, rearing two daughters on his own, his own health (heart and diabetes) issues that he battled with silently in fear that he would never work again. In addition, he was an extreme perfectionist with his work, refining scripts and redefining special effects. If he deemed an actor not good enough, Fulci would step in himself. He was highly respected by his peers as a filmmaker but his gory movies were quickly going out of style as filmmakers like Dario Argento gained popularity with his technical abilities and arthouse style films. Argento was Fulci’s rival for many years as his films often toppled Fulci’s at the box office. It wasn’t until 1994 that the two met at event where Argento was being honored. Fulci, despite the rivalry, stood up- with great pain as he was very ill- to give Argento a standing ovation. The two would team up together for Fulci’s very last film, The Wax Mask- a remake of the 1953 Vincent Price classic, The Waxwork Museum.
Although he passed away in 1996 alone in his sleep, today he has a legion of fans that simply cherish his work and contributions to the genre. His legacy lives on in close to 30 movies and this horror fan is determined to see them all.
Lucio Fulci B&W https://www.filmitalia.org/en/film/151196/
Lo Squartatore Di New York Movie Poster https://moviesandmania.com/2020/03/25/the-new-york-ripper-italy-1982-overview-and-reviews/
The New York Ripper Movie Poster https://www.amazon.com/New-York-Ripper-Special/dp/B002E01MHY
Aenigma Movie poster https://cultsploitation.com/nsfw-gallery-aenigma-severin-films-blu-ray-screenshots/
Zombie Movie Poster https://lucio-fulci-zombie.fandom.com/wiki/Zombie
The House by the Cemetery https://www.vintagemovieposters.co.uk/shop/house-by-the-cemetery-movie-poster/
City of the Living Dead https://psychotronicreview.com/films/gates-of-hell/
What is the Beyond? http://www.notcoming.com/reviews/thebeyond