** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- They Eat the Living
Release Date- November 17th, 1980
Running Time- 103-Minutes
Screenplay- Claudio Fragasso & J.M. Cunilles
Director- Vincent Dawn (Bruno Mattei)
Starring- Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Selan Karay, Jose Gras, Gabriel Renom, Josep Lluis Fonoll
Released in 1980 Hell of the Living Dead (one of its many titles) was directed by Vincent Dawn who is better known to horror fans as Bruno Mattei and the best way to describe this movie is if George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 had a bastard child it would be this movie. Hell of the Living Dead is a prime example on how to not make a movie, but over the years it’s built up a large cult following due to how bad the movie is and it falls under the title of so bad its good, but quite honestly I was never able to fully get into this movie even on multiple viewings. I have warmed up to the movie, but I still wouldn’t rate it very highly.
I very much get the appeal of Hell of the Living Dead seeing as I’m a big fan of J. Simon (Slugs, Pieces), but overall when it comes to the films of Bruno Mattei I enjoy them to a certain level, but I’m also a bit bored with them as well, but Mattei has built up a very loyal following and again I get the appeal of the movie and his films in general even if at the end of the day they don’t do much for me.
Also involved with the movie is Claudio Fragasso who has graced us with such movies as Zombie 4: After Death and what is dubbed the ultimate so bad its good movie Troll 2. It’s quite amazing that two of Italy’s worst in Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso would form a partnership and the two delivered quite a few schlock films I suppose it was a match made in cinema hell.
The screenplay was written by Claudio Fragasso & J.M. Cunilles and overall it was rather horrid. There were some attempts at social commentary, but when the writer is Claudio Fragasso it doesn’t work very well; I suppose one can label the screenplay an idiot’s version of Dawn of the Dead. The script by Fragasso & Cunilles is filled with horrible, but often funny dialogue and the characters are easily some of the dumbest to ever grace the horror genre. However the biggest problem with the screenplay is the lulls in action; despite some horribly funny dialogue after a while it gets rather boring, but some of these problems aren’t due to the script it’s more on the editing side, but after a while watching stupid people do really stupid things gets quite tiresome.
Despite how many times the characters are told to shoot the zombies in the head they continue to do anything, but that. At first it’s kinda funny because these people are such idiots, but after a while it really started to grate on my nerves. The highlight of the movie towards the end finds one character entering a house and putting down his rifle and finds a tutu and begins to dance around. It’s moments like that, which makes it hard to totally hate this movie. But in the end despite some horribly funny dialogue the script is just too pathetic.
Apparently besides Fragasso and Cunilles, Bruno Mattei and Rosella Drudi (Fragasso’s wife) also contributed to the screenplay, but both are un-credited and if true it makes things even more amazing that it took four people to write such garbage it’s like they were all working with the same brain, which isn’t a good thing. Overall the script is quite poor, but it does have some very funny moments and made funnier by the attempt at social commentary.
As director Bruno Mattei delivers a movie that is prime example on how to not make a movie. The pacing of Hell of the Living Dead is often sloppy and when there are lulls in the action the movie can be quite boring. Hell of the Living Dead is filled with stock shocks of tribes and animals from a documentary and the footage actually takes up a few minutes of the film and after a while it gets quite annoying. But I suppose in some ways this can also maybe add to the charm of the movie. But after a while these stock shots really start to slow things down.
Some of the problems with the movie are more due to the editing and at a 103-minutes the movie is quite overly long, but no amount of editing would make much out of Hell of the Living Dead. The zombies shuffle around like a bunch of idiots and aren’t intimidating in the least. The action sequences are laughable and I’m convinced that Bruno Mattei would find a way to mess up a porn flick. Everything in Hell of the Living Dead is so incompetent that it makes the movie a little bit of fun. There are movies that are just downright horribly made and while that does describe Hell of the Living Dead it’s also horribly made in a way that does provide a few fun moments.
Not all is lost however with the movie since the final act is surprisingly decent; while Mattei is unable to build even an ounce of suspense the final act is fairly good and the final few minutes in particular; the fate of the main characters was a nice twist and the final scene really plays out quite strong and even leaves things open for a sequel, which thankfully never came to be. For all the problems with Hell of the Living Dead, Mattei actually does a decent job with the final act and one might be better off fast forwarding to these scenes and leave it at that.
When watching the movie if you think the music sounds very familiar you are correct; the score by Goblin is taken from George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead as well as a couple of other Goblin composed movies and that really makes the movie a bigger hack job. Mattei would also use a score by Goblin from one movie in another of his. The Other Hell used the score from Joe D’Amato’s cult classic Beyond the Darkness and if not mistaken, Hell of the Living Dead also features portions of the score from Beyond the Darkness.
Due to all of this it’s kinda difficult to fully hate this movie; I mean it’s just such a hack job from poor editing, writing, moronic characters, cheap looking zombies, mostly lame gore (except towards the end), music ripped off from other movies, and a guy dancing around in a tutu. These elements in part might make the movie a little more fun than it should be and while I totally get the cult appeal of the movie, but overall despite a few things here and there I was mostly bored during the movie.
Besides the SWAT member dancing around in a tutu another highlight is Lia (Margit Evelyn-Newton) stripping down running around with the native tribe in a scene that is rather hysterical, but brought down by the fact it seems like forever until it ends.
Overall Hell of the Living Dead is a rather poor flick that knocks off both Dawn of the Dead and Zombi 2 and while the film is very poorly made it does have its fair share of fun moments, but not enough for me to fully enjoy the movie. I get the cult appeal, but for the most part it was too idiotic even for me, but fans of cult cinema just might wanna give this one a shot.