Horror Movie Review: City of the Living Dead (1980)

From acclaimed director, Lucio Fulci comes City of the Living Dead. A horror movie that combines so many of the Fulci trademarks but is notably unrefined. A strong creepy atmosphere, lashings of violence and gore, a baffling plot and sketchy acting. It’s a Fulci classic and I love it.

Bad things are afoot in the small village of Dunwich. A priest, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) hung himself in the cemetery. This event was seen by Mary (Catriona MacColl), a medium and alongside journalist Peter (Christopher George), she discovers that the priest’s death opened the gates of Hell.

The dead will rise to consume all on All Saints Day which is occurring in just a few days’ time.

Mary and Peter have to stop it but first they need to find just where Dunwich is. The denizens of the small village are under attack and it’s only going to get worse.

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City of the Living Dead is a spectacle, an ambitious one at that. Its outlandish and nightmare inducing atmosphere is captivating and regardless of all its little flaws, it is fun from beginning to end. It starts off hot and stays super-heated throughout. There’s very little room to breathe, as event after event keeps the horror front and centre.

From uncomfortable darkness shrouded in misty atmosphere to intense bouts of bloody violence and gore. The shifts can be sudden, shocking and off-putting but they stick in the mind long afterwards. One such scene, involving a drill and a face is infamous even if the effect doesn’t quite hold up these days.

Simply put, if you judged City of the Living Dead on horror atmosphere alone, it would be a masterpiece.

Of course, there’s a lot more to a movie then just that and it’s in some of the other areas that the film doesn’t quite hit the mark. Especially the high mark that Fulci himself has hit with some of his more famous works.

The plot is manic and not always in a good way. Sub-plots dominate and force the main story into the background at times. The payoff and time investment aren’t quite as thrilling as many would hope it be and might even leave some people feeling bemused.

Then we have sketchy acting. Where some do well (Giovanni Lombardo Radice is so underrated) and others are a struggle to watch. There’s also the violence and gore which is sometimes awkwardly prolonged and clearly designed to shock.

These are complaints but they don’t stop City of the Living Dead from being a revelation of a horror movie to watch. Fulci would go on to do far better movies but his talent still shines through with this earlier offering.


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City of the Living Dead
  • The Final Score - 8/10
User Review
6.01/10 (14 votes)