City of the Living Dead (1980) Review

City of The Living Dead Movie Review
Review by Jason Lees

Being a fan of Lucio Fulci isn’t always easy. Among the right people, expressing your love of his films can garner instant friendship and hours of discussion, but trying to convince some people that the Italian director is a true cinematic genius is sometimes flat out impossible. With a film like CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, it’s sometimes an uphill battle.

CITY begins Fulci’s “Death Trilogy” (sometimes called his Real Estate Trilogy) where he explores the concept that certain events can open a door to hell. Here, the suicide of Father William Thomas triggers a rift between our world and Hell that will only get worse the closer we get to All Saints Day. The undead rise and drag the living down to their level with only a few unlucky souls able to fight back and try to save the world from apocalypse.

Okay, that’s enough plot. Anyone who knows Fulci knows that when it comes to his films, logic is best left at the theater doors. This is spectacle, pure and simple. A morbid roller coaster ride if there ever was one. I’ve watched CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (or GATES OF HELL as it was called in its original US release) while trying to figure out what it’s trying to say and I admit, I completely missed the point. Yes, there are plot holes big enough to drive a hearse through and characters react to the horrors around them in such absurd ways that it’s almost laughable, but like I said, Fulci wasn’t striving for realism. He was trying to make you feel something.

And he was an expert at making the audience nauseated. That’s a good thing.
Fulci, more so here than in any of his other films, built the movie around certain set pieces. THE BEYOND, as gory as it was, was layered on mood, and ZOMBIE was centered on the appeal of the shambling dead. In CITY, Fulci relies on certain gross out scenes to maintain the level of fun. The standouts, the reason to watch CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, is to experience two very different scenes. Fans the film will know them immediately as the drill scene and the tripe scene. Non-fans will know them soon enough as the scenes that made them lose their lunch when they see it. There is a magician’s sense of craftsmanship to these scenes. Slight of hand and uncommon subtlety, considering the subject, raise Fulci’s direction from exploitation to artist. Instead of just red smears on latex, we do almost feel the drill tear in. And the visual impact of the bloody tears is something that sticks with you long after the annoying plots holes are forgotten.

This might be why Fulci is such a hard sell. It’s not a question of whether you ‘get’ him or not, it’s more of a very distinct taste. Just being a horror fan doesn’t mean you love Fulci. His fans are among the most dedicated and loyal, but even they’ll tell you that the ending of CITY makes no damn sense.
Does it have to?

Hollywood is full of movies that don’t make a damn bit of sense, but no ones seems to mind. At least with Fulci, he never promised us a happy ending, or even a sensible one. Nope, the maestro promised to show us sights that we’d never seen before, and even if CITY isn’t his best film, it’s still something distinctly Fulci and thereby unique. In a market where every flick is trying very hard now to blend in and serve up what they think the audience expects, I miss the days when ol’ Lucio threw films at us and dared us to make sense of them.

Rational? No. Logical? Not in the slightest. Forgettable? Not by a long shot. Thank God.

Please Share on Social Media:

Send your horror news scoop to press[at]

Top 50 Horror Movie Blog

Like us on Facebook:

Recent Horror Movie Reviews

Detention (2011) Review
We Are The Night Review
Hate Crime (2012) Review
Dead of Night Review
The Violent Kind Review
Piranha 3DD Review
Funeral Home Review
DeadHeads Review
Playback Review
House Of Flesh Mannequins Review
More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead Review
The Mutilator Review
The Psycho Legacy Review
Halloween II: 30th Anniversary Blu-ray Review
Full Tilt Boogie Review
Nightmare City Review
The Divide Review
Penumbra Review
Hellraiser Revelations Review
Entrance Review
Asylum Blackout Review
Mother's Day Review
Dead Pit Review
Them Review
Anguish Review
Snow White: A Deadly Summer Review
Snow White: A Deadly Summer Review
Theatre of the Deranged Review
Grimm Season One Review
Kids Go to the Woods…Kids Get Dead Review
Trilogy of Blood Review
Kill Devil Hill Review
Intruder Review
Malevolence Review
A Horrible Way to Die Review
Halloween II (Rob Zombie) Review
Final Destination 5 Review
The Killing of Jacob Marr Review
Stake Land Review
The Reef Review
Cowboys and Zombies Review
Necromentia Review
The Ward Review
The Caller Review
Bereavement Review
Kidnapped Review
The Hills Run Red Review
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) Review
Home Sweet Home Review
Super Hybrid Review
Dead Hooker in A Trunk Review
30 Days of Night: Dark Days Review
Paranormal Activity 2 Review
Cannibal Holocaust Review
The Woman Review
Dylan Dog Review
Medium Raw Review
One Dark Night (1983) Review
Groupie Review
The Tingler Review
Dolls Review
Detention Review
Bitter Feast Review
Camp Hell Review
Scream of The Banshee Review
FEARnet's Twisted Comedy Review
Just Before Dawn Review
Carriers Review
Mangrove Slasher 2 Review
LEWIS Review
The Task Review
cathARTic Review
Matrimony Review
Fright Night II Review
Yakuza Weapon Review
Hobo With a Shotgun Review
Plague Town Review
The Defiled Review
Goblin Review
Primal Review
Heartless Review
Pieces Review
True Blood: Season 3 Review
Murder Party Review
Hell Night Review
Skin Eating Jungle Vampires Review
I Saw The Devil Review
Red Riding Hood Review
Drive Angry Review
Blood Night Review
Dismal Review
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Review
The Faceless Review
Fertile Ground Review
Slaughterhouse Review
Amityville 4 Review
Aftermath Review
Savage Review
Ninjas vs Vampires Review
Swamp Shark Review
The Loved Ones Review
Black and Orange Review - Novel
Terror Vision Review
Vanishing on 7th Street: Movie Review
JAWS Review
Future Kill Review
Bad Elements: Crystal Dragon Review - Novel
Daughter of Horror Review
Death of The Dead Review
The Possession of David O Reilly Review
SCREAM 4 Review
Track of The Moon Beast (1976) Review
Hyenas Review
Mongolian Death Worm Review
Black Death Review
World War Z (audio book) Review
Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D Review
The Absent Review
Alien vs Ninja Review
Missing Linx (Comic) Review
Thankskilling Review
Death Spa (1988) Review
Insidious Review
Basket Case (1982) Review
The Walking Dead: Season 1 Review
PROWL Review
April Fools Day (1986) Review
In The Mouth of Madness Review
Machete Review
White Dog (1982) Review
SAW: 3D (The Final Chapter) Review
A Serbian Film Review
[REC] Review
The Devil's Rejects Review
SAW Review
Burial Ground (1981) Review
Hollowed Ground Review
Roid Rage Review
Psych:9 Review
Let Me In Review
My Soul To Take Review
The New York Ripper Review
Burnt Offerings (1976) Review
I Spit On Your Grave (1978) Review
I Spit On Your Grave (2010) Review
Wicked, Wicked (1973) Review
Maniac (1980) Review
Deadline (1981) Review
Death Bell Review
The Rite Review
HUSK Review
Cemetery Man Review
Seconds Apart Review
Buried Review
The Uninvited (1944) Review
Direct Your Own Damn Movie Review
City of the Living Dead (1980)Review
The Forest (1982) Review
JIGOKU (1960) Review
Let The Right One In Review
Lost Boys: The Thirst Review
Near Dark (1987) Review
The Human Centipede Review
Thirst (2009) Review
Night School (1981) Review
Night of The Demons (Remake) Review
The Splat Pack Review
The Maid Review
Hatchet II Review
The Last Exorcism Review
Victim Review
Shadowland Review
Bloody New Year Review
Black Christmas (1974) Review
Splice Review
The Art of Hammer Review (Book)
Doghouse Review
The Blair Witch Project Review
Horror Movie Freak Review (Book)
Lake Placid 3 Review
Paranormal Activity Review
Sella Turcica Review
The House of The Devil Review
UNDEAD Review (Novel)
The Woman In Black Review
Ghost Story Review
Eraserhead Review
Day of The Dead Review
The Woman Review
Night Of The Living Dead Review
Terror at Red Wolf Inn Review
The Theatre Bizarre Review
The Mortician Movie Review
Happy Birthday To Me Review
Mountaintop Motel Massacre Film Review
Frankenhooker Blu-Ray Review
The Necro Files Review
Donner Pass Review
Shark Night Review
Night Feeders Review
New Year's Evil Review
Never Sleep Again Review
Creature Review
Haunting at The Beacon Review
Zombie Review
Chromeskull Laid to Rest 2 Review
Devil's Rock Review
Fright Night (Remake) Review
Area 51 Review
Five Senses (comic) Review
Antropophagus Review
Lightning Bug Review
Never Feed the Troll Review
Alone in The Dark Review
Dead Alive Review
Zeke Review
Laid to Rest Review
The Beyond Review
Monsterwolf Review
Splinter Review
Mirrors 2 Review
Mail Order Review
Snowtown Review
The Dead Review
The Shrine Review
Run Bitch Run Review
Mutilation Mile Review
The Howling Reborn Review
The Human Centipede 2 Review
The Walking Dead Review
The Echo Review
Dream House Review
Yellow Brick Road Review
Baby Blood Review
Halloween 3 Review
Feast Review
The Child's Eye Review
Scourge Review
Martyrs Review
Mothman Review
Wrong Turn 4 Review
The Keep Review
Red State Review
Paranormal Activity 3 Review
Deviling Review
Slugs Review
Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Review
Night of The Hunter Review
Pick Me Up Review
Hillside Cannibals Review
Friday the 13th (1980) Review
The Green Monster Review
The Thing (2011) Review
Night of The Vampire Review
Killer Review
Alyce Review
The Fog Review
Of Unknown Origin Review
The Revenant Review
Exit 33 Review
Rage of the Yeti Review
Let's Scare Jessica to Death Review
Territories Review
Blood Freak Review
Solstice Review
Blood Roses Review
The Haunting Review
Silent Night Deadly Night Review
Silent Night Deadly Night Review Review
Rare Exports Review
Ashes Review
Perfect Witness Review
Santa's Slay Review
Little Deaths Review
Lips of Blood Review
Bill Oberst Jr.
Silent Night Deadly Night 5 Review
Don't Let Him Review
Hell Driver Review