City Of The Living Dead / The Gates Of Hell
I have been a fan of European horror cinema for as long as I can remember, being introduced to it through Argento’s classic Suspiria picture back in the early 2000s. Lucio Fulci, along with the likes of the aforementioned Argento and Bava, is heralded as one of the godfathers of European/Italian horror cinema and I can think of no argument against it. With films like Zombie, The Beyond, The House By The Cemetery and the film in question today – City Of The Living Dead (also known as The Gates Of Hell) – under Fulci’s belt it comes as no surprise that he is hailed as one of the best of the best. I decided to watch City Of The Living Dead last night since it had been a while since I watched it and, after a good 15 to 20 lifetime viewings of this picture, I still consider it to be an utmost masterpiece and my personal favorite Fulci film.
Many European horror movies have something that most of the American pictures lack and this is atmosphere – eerie, brooding, horrific atmosphere. Fulci, along with Bava, presents the viewer with some of the most atmospheric cinematography ever seen in the genre and this alone makes a film like City Of The Living Dead a masterpiece to me. Oftentimes I watch a horror film because I want to escape within it, to experience it from the inside looking out and atmosphere, at least for me, is the one-way express ticket for such an experience. It is perhaps comparable to listening to an ambient piece of music that puts one in a particular mood or mindset. Do any of you experience films of this nature in a similar fashion?
Cinematography and atmosphere aside, City Of The Living Dead takes everything a zombie film should be and shrouds it in exquisite eeriness. Fulci adopts a less is more approach with The Gates Of Hell as it’s a zombie film that’s not overrun by zombies; that’s right! When the undead do make an appearance they are just that much more harrowing and frightening due to their scarcity and somewhat unorthodox appearance. When one ventures into the crypt towards the end of the film they will experience exactly what I am talking about – zombies that nearly transcend themselves by looking as much like spectral phantasms as they do the undead. I applaud Fulci on this as I’ve seen many zombie films and few have had such uniquely tailored and effective undead. Did I mention Fabio Frizzi’s score? It’s one of the best, no doubt, and accompanies City Of The Living Dead’s atmosphere perfectly.
What can I say? The Gates Of Hell is a masterpiece of European horror cinema that stands up to the best of the best to this day. If you haven’t seen this gem then I strongly urge you to bump it up high on your wishlist or, if you’ve already had the pleasure, then why not delve into its depths once again? City Of The Living Dead is one of Italian horror’s best films – period. An essential masterpiece!