City of the Living Dead (Arrow)

There was a time when horror films pushed against the boundaries of what the mainstream press laughably referred to as “good taste” and earned and invoked the ire of hundreds of thousands of morally uptight and repressed bastions of puritanical decency the world over. While these do-gooders fought the good fight in public, behind closed doors they were too busy swapping car and door keys in fruit bowls and indulging in any and every newest and latest hedonistic pleasure to notice that the fans of the films they were hellbent on banning were their own offspring, who having been subjected to the hypocrisy of the movers, shakers, and boomers, embraced and fell in love with the so-called “forbidden” celluloid and literary jollies.

The more they tried to ban music, books, games, and films, the more we (I use the term we, because I was one of those offspring) wanted to see and experience them for ourselves, which is how I became a devotee of the films of one of the maestros of cinematic grand guignol, Lucio Fulci. City of the Living Dead, the first installment in Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy (the second and third acts being The Beyond and The House By the Cemetary) is the director’s love letter to H.P. Lovecraft, and even though it doesn’t borrow from his pantheon of elder gods and their monstrous servants, it does capture the haunting and ethereal feel of the Mythos makers prose.

Based on a relatively simplistic central theme, that the suicide of a priest on consecrated ground in a town called Dunwich opens a portal to Hell through which the undead can wreak havoc on the mortal world, Cty of the Living Dead does exactly what its director wanted it to do. It takes the viewer on a brutal, terrifying, blood and guts-filled ride through the imagination of its creator and lets them forget about the horror of the real world that they’re constantly exposed to for an all too brief ninety gloriously gory minutes.

Sure, the acting, plot, and dialogue are a little creaky, and the practical effects are over the top and insanely gruesome, but that’s part and parcel of the fun of a Fulci film. City of the Living Dead is an old-school horror hound’s wet dream, and the musical score by one of the greatest living and criminally ignored composers of this, or any other cinematic age, Fabio Frizzi is worth the price of admission alone. An undisputed classic of Italian horror, it’s the perfect introduction to the wonderfully weird world of Lucio Fulci, so grab a ticket to the show, strap yourselves in, and hold on tight…Tim Cundle

City of the Living Dead debuts on Arrow, the streaming home of cult cinema on March 25th.

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