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Michael Fenton Crenshaw, Demogorgon Productions.

Film Of The Month 

October

Another terrifying Italian shocker from the legendary Lucio Fulci. A family move into a creepy old house and are unaware that living in the cellar is the flesh-eating zombie of a 19th century surgeon. The little boy is soon a friend with the ghost of the late doctors daughter who warns them to stay away, but to little effect. The creature gruesomely kills and dismembers a variety of estate agents, copulating teenagers and babysitters leading to a terrifying finale in the corpse-strewn cellar. The Lucio Fulci trademark of graphic gore is abundant as ever but it is the atmosphere that makes this movie stand out. Bumps in the night and the ominous crying of children coming from the cellar are just some of the factors that assault and disturb the viewer. This is a truly amazing movie that relies on shock and terror rather than revulsion. The gore just adds to what is already a truly chilling little tale of cannibalism and depravity that will linger in the mind long after you've forgotten about the illogical plot and poor dubbing. One of Fulci's best films. Deserves its cult reputation. My Rating 9 out of 10. Well worth a watch and a place in any genre enthusiasts collection. Don't listen to the negative reviews, they know not what they say!

Godfather of Gore: The Most Influential Lucio Fulci Horror Films

Herschell Gordon Lewis earned the moniker “godfather of gore” in the early ‘60s when he created the splatter subgenre in horror with Blood Feast. But it didn’t take long before another director would earn and share the title; Italian maestro Lucio Fulci. Fulci began his film career as a documentary director before switching gears and shifting into comedy screenwriting. The screenwriting eventually gave way to producing, acting, and directing feature films. With an extensive career that spanned almost five decades, Fulci dabbled in all genres, from spaghetti western to musicals to exploitation, but it was his work in horror that earned him international success.

Fulci earned notoriety in his home country of Italy in the ‘70s due to the graphic violence depicted in his giallo films. The graphic violence and gore would become his trademark with the international breakthrough hit Zombi 2, or Zombie. Of course, the gore meant his work often ran afoul with censors and critics, and as a result Fulci’s horror filmography took much longer to reach classic reevaluation than the likes of Mario Bava and Dario Argento. It wasn’t just his use of gore that makes Fulci a vital pillar of Italian cinema, but his ability to craft atmosphere. Fulci’s work is fearless and with a distinct style that earned him a massive following from the horror community. You could count on Fulci to be unafraid to push the boundaries of bad taste. Moreover, Fulci’s horror films have played a major influence on Americam and European filmmakers, and still continue to inspire today. Though his lengthy catalog is full of films worth seeking out, these horror classics are his most influential.

Lizard In A Women's Skin 1971

 

Trippy psychothriller about a rich housewife who has erotic dreams about her neighbour. When one of these dreams turns violent, she wakes up the next day to find out that her neighbour had been killed and she's the lead suspect. It's a race against time to find out the true identity of the killer and prove her innocence before her fate is sealed.
As wild as A Lizard in A Woman's Skin is, it's fairly restrained for a Fulci film. None of his trademark zombies or eye popping gore are on display here and the script is tighter and more involving than some of his other films. It's definitely one of his more accessible films, but the slow pacing and psychedelic quality of some of the scenes might turn more mainstream and genre viewers off.

Don’t Torture a Duckling 1972

 

Though Zombie was the film that really revved up Fulci’s use of gore, it began with this giallo. A remote Southern town is plagued by a string of child murders, and a reporter and a promiscuous woman team up to discover who’s responsible. The problem is that the town is superstitious and mistrustful of outsiders. Heavily themed around repression and guilt, the film’s hefty criticisms of the Catholic Church meant the film was essentially blacklisted for a period. It was the earlier stages of Fulci’s experimentation with close up violence, and a giallo that leaned into the political. As such, it’s a film that played a major influence on filmmakers like Tarantino and French husband and wife team Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Let the Corpses Tan).

Seven Notes In Black 1977


Definitely worth seeing and a great gateway into Fulci's work for the uninitiated. Fans of European horror cinema often label Lucio Fulci’s Seven Notes in Black (Sette Note in Nero, also known as The Psychic and Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes) as an oddity in the director’s career, pointing out that this strangely placid piece is never quite sure whether it wants to be a giallo, a supernatural horror movie or a character piece. Certainly it contains many elements that differentiate it from the other three giallo-themed titles Fulci directed prior to embracing full-blown horror in the 1980s with Zombi 2 and its equally gory counterparts. However, the more one investigates Fulci’s disparate filmography, which in addition to murder mysteries and visceral horror movies also contains spaghetti westerns, science fiction, two children’s films and even a period drama, the clearer it becomes that he was an extremely diverse filmmaker, capable of turning his hand to virtually anything. As such, Seven Notes in Black is more remarkable for its bringing together of different elements of his career than any inherent uniqueness.

Zombie 1979


Also known as Zombi 2, this film was intended to serve as a sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (Zombi in Italy). Fulci was hired for the project based on his work in his giallo The Psychic, and it changed the trajectory of his career. Though he never set out to be a horror director, the international success found in Zombie paved the way for his most widely adored 'Gates of Hell' trilogy. The gore put this film in the crosshairs of the video nasty craze in Britain and marked a trend in Fulci’s affinity for ocular trauma. In a way, Zombie serves as inspiration for Fulci’s future work in horror. But on a bigger scale, Zombie directly influenced the work of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, who mimicked shots straight from the film for his own film Kill Bill: Volume 1.

City of the Living Dead (The Gates of Hell) 1980

 

In the style of Romero and a precursor to Raimi, Fulci bridges a gulf and pushes the envelope like no one else. This movie is no exception. He touches briefly upon many Lovecraftian themes, but leaves the movie open enough to engage those that are not even passingly familiar with the works of the mind that brought us 'The Call of Cthulhu'.

A reporter (Christopher George) saves a psychic (Catrina McColl) from being buried alive, then teams up with her in a race against time to close the gates of Hell after the suicide of a priest causes them to open and allow the dead to rise from their graves. This is Italian horror auteur Lucio Fulci's grizzly ode to H.P Lovecraft (it is set in the fictional town of Dunwich, a nod to Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror). City of the Living Dead is part of Fulci’s Gates of Hell Trilogy along with The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetary (1981). It is one of Fulci’s greatest classics and in my opinion, maybe his darkest film. Truly a masterpiece of surreal horror cinema, but as with many of Fulci's films, not everyone into the genre will get it.  

The Beyond 1981


Easily the most celebrated among Fulci’s horror films, and the second entry in his unofficial 'Gates of Hell' trilogy, The Beyond also is the director’s most influential. Set in Louisiana, a young woman inherits a hotel and discovers it was built over one of the gates to Hell. Bleak, surreal, and dreamlike in its storytelling, The Beyond toes the line between beauty and horror. Essentially, The Beyond is what happens when you cross Fulci with H.P. Lovecraft. That it played a vital influence for Tarantino is no surprise at this point, but it also inspired notable directors like Sam Raimi, who lifted a shot from The Beyond when creating Spider-Man. Even horror films as recent as The Void pay homage to this Fulci classic.

The House by the Cemetery 1981


The final entry in the “Gates of Hell” trilogy is also the only one that doesn’t have that same dreamlike quality that its predecessors had, and it’s smaller in scope. The plot follows a family who recently move into a New England home that’s been host to a series of murders in the past, unaware of the dark secret lurking in the basement. Does that plot sound familiar? Ted Geoghegan’s 2015 feature debut, We Are Still Here, draws inspiration from many films, but at its core is a heartfelt homage to Fulci and The House by the Cemetery. It’s not just the story in which Geoghegan drew inspiration, but the characters’ names as well.

The Black Cat 1981

 

A professor with the psychic ability to communicate with the dead uses his powers on his pet cat in order to take vengeance upon his enemies. This is a huge change of tone from what we experienced previously from the Italian 'Godfather of Gore', and shares more in common with the Hammer film studios output and the various Roger Corman adaptations of Poe's work.

The name Lucio Fulci brings forth images of extreme gore, zombies, and frequent ocular mutilation. Lucio wasn’t exactly noted for his subtlety. But not every film of his was a crimson love affair, as evidenced by the relatively low key The Black Cat , loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story of the same name. Here, Fulci relies on atmosphere and tension to bring the frights. There is a wealth of style to be found in this entry and is at times, beautifully shot, but the script isn’t terribly strong, which may be one reason why this film isn’t nearly as celebrated as some of Fulci’s other works. What makes The Black Cat worth watching are the Gothic overtones, a strong cast of some notable British character actors, and glimpses of that instantly identifiable Italian splatter FX work.

The New York Ripper 1982

 

Anyone expecting a low grade, squalid video nasty is going to be sorely disappointed. This is one of those films that's much better than its reputation suggests. What we actually have here is a highly intelligent and articulated thriller. The film also utilises some great location shots in and around New York, and the camera work and editing is top notch. 'Lo squartatore di New York' is a masterpiece of horror, a perfect film that mixes the giallo and the slasher in a well written and fluent script, one which is full of suspense. A great music score, amazing performances, spot on direction, atomospheric cinematography and fantastic filming locations. An Italian classic from Fulci.  The New York Ripper is a horror film of excellence, one that goes too far and makes the spectator complacent if not complicit in what they are viewing. Featuring haunting location photography of a Big Apple in the early 80's, much of which no longer exists, Fucli's film is perhaps the ultimate examination of urban decay and individual isolationism, exacerbated by modern metropolitan living.

Manhatten Baby 1982

 

An archaelogist opens an Egyptian tomb and accidently releases an evil spirit. His young daughter becomes possessed by the freed enity and, upon arrival back in New York the murders begin.

Most genre fans haven't seen this one, due to the negative publicity associated with it. It's true that Manhatten Baby isn't a film that succumbs to everyone's taste. This is simply because in most Italian films, it's usually style over substance, which in some cases can leave an unseasoned viewer totally confused at the apparent inept plot line. Not a film for everyone, but there a lot of redeeming qualities to talk about in this film. Manhattan Baby is a dreamlike masterpiece. Director Lucio Fulci all but abandoned gore in this film, instead giving us surreal visuals, an oneiric atmosphere and a story told totally with dream like logic. Fulci's obsession with eyes is well in evidence here, the main difference being that they're generally not being skewered this time around. This does require a lot of patience and isn't one for the genre gorehounds. This isn't Fulci at his best, but if you like Dario Argento's films and don't mind plot incoherence give it a view, or two. 

Murder Rock 1984

 

Lucio Fulci's Murder Rock is often lambasted by both Fulci and Giallo fans and although it can certainly be seen why, it is a successful attempt at blending the tacky eighties style dance phenomenon like 'Flashdance' with the familiar tropes of the Italian Giallo. Nowadays it stands up as an amusing slice of kitsch nostalgia.

It was released in the wake of a series of exceptionally violent movies directed by Fulci, but this one is considerably tamer and not one of his films to be received well critically upon it's release.
The story is about a series of murders committed at a dance school in New York. and is one of several early 80's productions that Fulci set in America. In keeping with its Italian giallo roots though, there is a strong emphasis on the whodunit aspect. This ensures that the story retains some points of interest and the keeps the audience engaged. There are some moments of giallo surealism too, such as the recurring dream that the female protagonist has about a sinister stranger trying to assault her.

Murder Rock is still not very popular among gore fans (largely because of the lack of eye gougings and disembowellments usually assiocated with his films). At the time, Fulci expressed his opinion that the days of ultra-violent horror films were over. He may have been disillusioned by the criticism The New York Ripper recieved and been mindful of delivering less graphic (and presumably more saleable) films because of the increasing puritanism and censorship that was prevailing at the time of the so-called 'video nasties' hysteria. It is ironic then that this softer Fulci flick never got a UK release, whereas all of his more graphically violent films have.

Aenigma 1987

 

Aenigma is one of the lesser known horror flicks made by Lucio Fulci and It has some creative and bizarre kill scenes including death by snails and gruesome decapitation via window. The plot of Aenigma somewhat imitates Suspiria, Carrie and Patrick, but the film is still unique and stylish. If you are into gore and over the top violence you may be a little disappointed with Aenigma, which Fulci produced in the twilight period of his career. With its skeletal story and generally weak technical execution, the film is easy to dismiss as a failure. There’s an inventiveness to it which has always distinguished the works of Lucio Fulci from those of his genre peers. Though reportedly suffering from ill health during the film’s production, Lucio Fulci still has the eye for ethereal visuals. Fulci does his best to deliver on a severely reduced budget here. Stretching well into the third decade of a notorious career, Lucio Fulci’s output began to wane considerably past the late ’80s and although the quality of those productions saw a noticeable decline, the films themselves remained interesting, if nothing else. For Aenigma Fulci and co-screenwriter Giorgio Mariuzzo crafted a story involving psychic possession and revenge from beyond the hospital bed! I can’t claim this is a great film, but Fulci proves he still knows how to stage scenes and jolt his viewers with unexpected shocks. His craftsmanship is a saving grace and even if Aenigma can’t reach the highs of his best works, this late career entry is worth watching.

A Cat in the Brain 1990


One of the director’s final films, released in 1990, A Cat in the Brain also happens to be one of his most personal films. In addition to co-writing and directing, Fulci stars as himself. It’s a meta film in which Fulci plays a filmmaker driven mad by his experiences behind the camera of his goriest films. Fulci assembled much of the film from clips of his previous horror films, and as such wasn’t a favorite among fans upon release. But his health was fading during production and A Cat in the Brain was reflective of his depression. It was also his response to the criticisms he’d received for much of his work in horror.  As for its influence, this film was ahead of the curve in terms of the wave of meta-horror that would follow in the latter half of the 1990s. 

Lucio Fulci   1927-1996
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