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Monday, June 27, 2011

Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

Directed by Bruno Mattei
Starring Margit Newton, Franco Garofalo, Jose Gras, Gabriel Renom
Written by Jose Maria Cunilles, Claudio Fragasso
Produced by Isabel Mula
Music by Goblin and others

WARNING: Do NOT see this film if you have an appreciation for the zombie genre and want to see something that is at least on a par with the genre's semi-decent efforts like the remake of Dawn Of The Dead or, hell, even Zombi Holocaust. Only see this film if you have a sense of humour, enjoy "so-bad-they're-good" movies and films that contain scene after scene of jaw-dropping ineptness and idiocy.

"Hmm, maybe you're right, that suit is a little too tight..."

Hell of the Living Dead is hilariously inept in almost every way, save the use of music lifted from better films, most notably the far (far, far far!) superior original Dawn Of The Dead, which Hell liberally and consistently rips off every chance it gets. Absolutely nothing works in this piece of stillborn dreck - the acting is stupefying, the editing abysmal, the special effects are, for the most part, laughably pathetic, and the dialogue is on par with your typical Ed Wood film. Almost every scene screams ineptitude, for example:

- 'Scientists' in white labcoats spout inane gibberish like "how's the linear momentum?" and "check the component ratios for the module" whilst attacking 70's sci-fi panel controls that do nothing
- A scientist bemoans the fact that their geiger counter is "going crazy", but only after clearly turning the meter's dial to the right and thereby ensuring the needle moves to the right (this is before a rat easily slips into their supposedly protective radiation suits)
- There are lines of the quality: "Buildings have people in them, we'd better go investigate" and "She may not know much about chemestry, but in bed, her reactions are terrific" (!)
- The SWAT team, strongly reminiscent of the team in Romero's Dawn, act like they've never handled a gun before (clearly they haven't) and take on the most ridiculous postures and "sweeps" of enemy-laden territories
- Time and time again characters stare goggle-eyed at incoming zombie hordes and don't run, fight back or do ANYTHING - even the supposed trained SWAT team can't understand the concept of shooting them in the head, and have to be INSTRUCTED by one of the team members (the lunatic one) to go for the head, not the body
- A dead body hanging from the roof ejects blood out of her mouth on cue as instructed by the director
- The lead female gets naked and paints herself like a reject from Live And Let Die in order to infiltrate a Papua New Guinea tribe; a pointless move as it turns out
- There are countless scenes of stock footage interspersed throughout, of monkeys, storks, natives, owls (!) and elephants (!!)
- One of the SWAT team members gets killed prancing around in a tutu and top hat
- Zombies either move unbelievably slow, to the point of catatonia, or fast, like the granny or the zombie who flies out of nowhere at the end
- Characters who have survived the entire film for some reason throw all caution into the wind at the end so they end up like fodder

The critics' reaction to Hell of the Living Dead was hostile.

And so on. On top of it all, the dubbing is dreadful and the gore for the most part is woeful; the film also feels about an hour too long. As a zombie horror film, Hell of the Living Dead is a trainwreck. As an unintentional comedy, it's passable. As a textbook example for film students as how to get everything wrong, it's invaluable.

Best bit
so many "best" moments to choose from - I'll go with the ridiculous tutu and top hat scene

Iconic moment
the sort of iconic moment that summarises the idiocy of this film? - the SWAT team's ASSault on the US embassy

Worst bit
this is relatively speaking, of course, in a film engorged with "worst bits" -

Best line
"She may not know much about chemestry, but in bed, her reactions are terrific!"

Best performance
Margit Newton's breasts

the guy who filmed all that stock footage

What would have made this better
any semblance of filmmaking skill

What would have made this worse
the ending that informed us it was "all a dream"; a four-hour director's cut

Companion film
the almost equally lame Nightmare City

What to watch instead
why not the original magnum opus this so clearly rips off - Romero's Dawn of the Dead

If you liked this...
you have a preference for "bad cinema" and should immediately watch The Room

+ Goblin's music
+ a couple of gore scenes are fairly executed (only a couple, mind you)
+ it's hilarious if you're drunk
+ some scenes and lines are unintentional comedy gold

- too long, and some scenes are much too drawn out
- too much stock footage which clashes badly with the rest of the film
- the acting and dubbing is atrocious
- the script is woeful and has some truly appalling dialogue
- the gore is mostly pretty lame and cheap
- almost every scene has something stupefying in it (move this to Pros if you like)
- virtually all scenes are poorly shot, lit and/or staged
- massively rips off Dawn of the Dead

Rating on the David Emge/Zombie Roger level of cinematic shamblers:

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