Summer of Lovecraft: City of the Living Dead (1980)

This is the zombies' patented 'squeeze the brain out of the back of your skull' attack.
Buckle up, kids; this is going to be a rough one.

“From the bowels of the Earth they came… to collect the living.”

Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring Christopher George, Catriona MacColl and Carlo De Mejo

The Story

There are vestiges here of ‘The Dunwich Horror’, but only in the broadest terms – Dunwich, horror, gateway to Hell.

The Film

Mary (MacColl) apparently dies of fright during a seance, but is rescued from a premature burial by reporter Peter (George) and describes her vision of a priest committing suicide in a town called Dunwich. Her medium, Theresa, explains that this was prophesied in the Book of Enoch, and that the priest’s suicide opened the gates of Hell. If he is not destroyed by All Soul’s Day, the dead will rise and destroy the living.


Mary and Peter set out to find the tiny and elusive community in an era without Google Maps, while in Dunwich Gerry (De Mejo) is witness to an escalating series of deaths, as the priest’s ghost causes melting brains and his victims shamble the Earth as murderous zombies, squeezing people’s brains out through the backs of their heads.

At last, as All Soul’s dawns, Peter, Mary and Gerry descend into the bowels of the Earth to destroy the priest before it is too late.

What’s wrong with it?

The effects are bargain basement schlock horror, with brains piling out of people’s mouths like pink-tinged tagliatelle and enough gore that Herbert West would be, like, whoa dude!

Peter and Mary act like Dunwich is the most invisible place on Earth, despite later being refered to as a part of Dunwich county. I know US counties are just State subdivisions, but surely a county must be on a map somewhere. Maybe Peter is just a rubbish navigator?

It’s really nasty, without any redeeming quality.

While the English actors are okay, those dubbing the Italian cast are pretty bland.

The soundtrack is just bizarre. It sounds like the unholy spawn of the Sisters of Mercy and the Alan Parsons’ Project and plays full bore through all the wrong parts of the film.

At the end of the movie, our heroes emerge battered victorious and the little boy John-John whom they rescued runs towards them. They start screaming for now apparent reason except to have a sudden downer ending.

What’s right with it?

Well… Ah, fuck it; I got nothing.

How bad is it really?

Make no mistake, this goes well beyond the realms of the merely incompetent, blending poor quality with unpleasantness to produce a film that is actively and aggressively bad. I had to caffeinate hard just to make it through, and I think my university crew – a hardcore collective of bad movie aficionados – might have collectively failed to complete this one some years ago.

Best bit (if such there is)?

After the gravediggers leave her unburied – five o’clock; union rules -Peter hears Mary in the coffin. He grabs a pick axe to break her out, and almost stabs her in the head three times.

What’s up with…?

  • What is up with this film? Like… all of it? Fuck.


Production values – Cheap and nasty. 18
Dialogue and performances – Oh, man; semi-dubbed Italian horror. It’s not good even before the dubbing. 16
Plot and execution – Gates of hell, town, search, zombies, brain-squeezy death. 17
Randomness – I’m actually unsure if this film is all random, or if the absence of a coherent plot in the first place means that none of the mess actually counts as random. 17
Waste of potential – Even in schlocky Italian horror terms, this falls so far behind, say, Beyond Re-Animator (yeah, marvel at it) that it is, if nothing else, a waste of the time of anyone involved in watching it. I can only assume it was the same for those making it. 18

Overall 86%

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