July 15, 2013

Movie Review: Hell of the Living Dead

As I had a little time to kill last night before going to bed and not wanting to watch anything particularly serious, I set out to watch something from the horror family of Italian lineage. My first thought was to watch the Bruno Mattei/Claudio Fragasso collaboration Shocking Dark. This was mainly because I had watched the James Cameron classic Terminator 2 earlier in the day and Shocking Dark is also known as Terminator 2 (and was out prior to the Cameron film). Sadly, I was unable to find a copy, so ended up with another Mattei/Fragasso team up, Hell of the Living Dead.

I have to tell you, the 70s and 80s were a glorious time for Italian horror. Seriously, no one country has ever ever had a run quite like this. Well, Japan gave it a run. The late 90s and early 00s. Italian horror as a distinct look and feel and even when they were bad, there is very often fun still to be had. Hell of the Living Dead is a good example, it is a movie that is not particularly good, but for genre junkies it offers up a lot of,what we want.

There was a time when Italian horror directors would make unofficial sequels to America films. Some of these were really good, like Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2, while others ended up like Alien 2: On Earth, other times we got things like Shocking Dark. Still, sometimes they would just settle for going for a ripoff feel in some elements while telling a story that comes across like a fever dream sequence bearing little in the way of logic. You just have to grab a hold and try not to let go.

As Hell of the Living Dead opens, we are in some sort of nuclear/scientific facility in New Guinea where people are talking about a project called Sweet Death. Sounds like something good for the benefit of humanity, right? Anyway, people are talking and checking dials and gauges and a couple of guys in radiation suits are checking out part of the facility. This is when things go bad. They find a dead rat, but it isn't quite dead, it wakes up, gets I the guys suit and now you have the start of a zombie outbreak. Of course, the scientist calls for the place to be shut down, but the zombies spread.

We then meet our protagonists, a reporter and her cameraman and a team of Interpol officers. Still not sure why these were the guys to investigate this, but so be it. We join with them as they fight off waves of native people turned it zombies. It doesn't seem like they are really investigating anything. Essentially, they are the fodder placed in the movie to get eaten.

This is not a good movie, as I have already stated. Still, the gore is good and we get to see some silly stuff. Particularly enjoyed the little kid who turns into a zombie, you can almost hear the stage directions. Listen to some great lines of dialogue, and wonder why they have as good a aim as Stormtroopers. Watch as the reporter lady infiltrates stock footage of the native people by taking her top off, throwing on some body paint and jogging in front of a jeep full of armed men. This thing is a ridiculous blast.

Now, if the strung together plot isn't enough for you, there is a touch of social commentary tossed in for good measure. There is a scene that is supposed to be at the UN, it is mostly empty and the few left are arguing about what should be done with the zombies. There is one delegate wearing "traditional" garb and he speaks of tired of his people being used and abused and thrown away by more powerful nations. It s an interesting little bit tossed in to add a little bit of context and depth.

Hell of the Living Dead is a ridiculous movie that at times tries to ape Dawn of the Dead. No, it is not set in a mall, but just watch the interactions and try not to be reminded of the Romero film. Now, they were not just content to borrow from Dawn, they even borrowed large pieces of the score. They repurposed the music of Goblin for this movie, taking pieces from the Dawn of the Dead and Alien Contamination scores.

I like this movie. No, it is not nearly on the same level as City of the Living Dead, which came out the same year, but it manages to be entertaining m a totally ridiculous fashion. It is sort of a rip off of a rip off that borrows all it's pieces from other places and just slaps them together without a thought to logic or context. It does not display any intelligence, yet still manages to deliver the goods. If you want Italian zombies but not be as surreal and grueling as the Fulci variety, this is a good way to go.


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