Halloween Horror Marathon: The Fall of the House of Usher (with special guest commentary!)

Posted in links, movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, video on October 13th, 2014 by Nick – 7 Comments
poster - House of Usher Today's post features special guest commentary from Cinapse's Liam O'Donnell. He and both do this "watch a shit-ton of horror in October and write about it" thing, and so we've decided to team up on a few films this month. His column his entitled "Journal of Fear," and you should totally read it. He also does a podcast called Cinepunx with Joshua Alvarez, and it's super-fun. Go listen. On to the film ... Liam O'Donnell The Fall of the House of Usher is exactly the kind of gothic melodrama I usually attempt to avoid in my horror film watching, and yet it somehow manages to engage effectively in the third act of the film. In a rather ill advised attempt to add some emotional pathos to what is a rather detached tail. the film version of TFOHOU adds a love angle into the classic Poe tale, though otherwise it follows rather closely. The garish “period” dress and ridiculous score do nothing recreate the moody gothic anxiety that Poe's tale of morose fascination and mental illness calls up. The only thing that carries the film through its first few acts is the brilliant and always interesting Vincent Price. That is not to claim the Vincent Price guarantees quality, far from it. However, in many roles which fall far beyond his abilities, Price manages to bring a certain creepy engaged manner that interests me despite myself. Price here is playing his more affected, dandy persona, but he is playing it well and it fits the Usher character perfectly. The film ends up on a seriously creepy note, but this is not due to any innovation of the film makers. It is more that the idea of a woman, buried alive, hands destroyed from digging herself out of her own coffin, rampaging in madness is just inherently disturbing. Even when played with such theatrical abandon as to bridge upon farce, the idea unsettles me. The bloodied coffin top alone gives me pause. Yet, despite the strength of this third act, this film is yet another reminder as to why I do not get modern/classic horror, especially film representations of gothic pieces. This is a bit broad of a statement with some obvious exceptions, however post-modern horror (after Night of the Living Dead generally) just gets under my skin so much more. It is partly the artistry of it, which is lacking. There is inevitably a schlock, as if yelling or dramatic music will move the audience more, this fails with me. Yet it may also be what we are afraid of. TFOTHOU is a film that seems to play, to a large extent, off of a fear of fate. Usher is moved by a terrible destiny, one that he cannot help but literally make real himself. I have no fear of this, so that even if this film were done well by today's standards, could I even care? Nick Spacek Vincent Price's first Poe collaboration with director Roger Corman, House of Usher, is the most said -- and thus, the least interesting. For those such as myself who've watched them out of any sort of chronological order, it's kind of a shock to come from something like Tales of Terror or The Pit and the Pendulum to discover that, initially, Price and Corman were producing something more akin to Hammer horror than the usual AIP shockers to which we're accustomed. Granted, the third act is absolutely bananas -- Madeline returning from the grave, the house burning and then sinking into the swamp -- but the prior hour is stiflingly dull. It's like watching a Merchant and Ivory costume drama: everything's expository dialogue spoken by people in high collars. The sad part is that, for as little as you want to watch it, House of Usher looks amazing. The thing about all of Roger Corman's AIP pictures, and particularly his Poe pictures with Price, is that they're all a joy to simply look at. The Blu-ray of House of Usher absolutely pops visually, and while you might be otherwise be disinterested, be it due to plodding pace, poor plot, or hammy acting, you do get vibrant scenery with which to bathe your eyes. If you're familiar with Poe's story, then I heartily suggest you skip straight to the last thirty minutes or so, wherein Usher and Winthrop put Madeline in the crypt, then Winthrop goes mad trying to save her once he realizes she's been entombed alive. It's worth seeing, because it does a wonderful job of whetting one's appetite for what will come next -- namely, far-better combinations of Corman, Price, and Poe. Liam: Ok Nick, let me confess, this is the ONLY of these VP and Corman team-ups I have seen, and if you had asked where I thought this film came from, I would have pointed straight at Hammer. This has Hammer horror written all over it, from the ridiculous music cues to the over the top outfits. Not that I hate Hammer films, a few are very effective and even some of the least scary are still charming. There is also the idea of a Poe film itself, a kind of gothic, atmospheric horror that seems very suited to the Hammer aesthetic. Yet I am curious about a few things: how does this stack up to the other three? Do they feel more like Roger Corman joints? Do you think they needed sometime to get into their groove with these Poe films? Finally, why is the third act so interesting compared to the rest of the movie? I am not sure if it is a strength of the Poe story itself, or something Corman was able to pull of finally. Nick: Insofar as the rest of the Corman / Price team-ups, I think this is my least favorite. I'd actually not seen this one before, leaping into the Pit and the Pendulum, Masque of the Red Death, and others first. It's probably telling that, while this is included in the first Vincent Price collection that Shout Factory put out, I've never seen it in the Walmart five-dollar DVD bin at Halloween like I have with the others. Those other films are far more Corman films -- more blood, more ridiculousness, and Price getting to do far more of that emoting he does near the end. That's why I think the end is so effective -- it's the part of the film that takes the Poe story and exaggerates it to slightly over-the-top proportions. Seeing how much that stands out in regards to the rest of the film, I can't help but picture Corman seeing a screening of it somewhere and nodding his head, saying, “That's where we go next.” Knowing that, does it make you want to seek out the possible more Corman-flavored pictures that would come later? poster - Pit and the Pendulum Liam: Yes, it certainly does. I am still amazed that Corman could turn out a picture that feels so, honestly, subdued compared to much of his other work. I do not wish to speak ill of the master, just surprised that so little of this film feels like him. Corman doing Poe is perhaps the sort of match up that just might work, even if this film felt a bit restrained. I had assumed prior to you filling me in on the other films that I might find a similar kind of movie with those others. Poe does not write the kind of story that leads to the sort of deep terror that I want from horror often. Yet, with the right kind of over the top, Poe inspired, exaggeration I could see those stories becoming interesting fare. The stories lend themselves to adding a bit of exploitation like spice. Corman is, if anything, a filmmaker of big expression. He makes movies that may not always work, but are always huge and ambitious. It is one of the things I admire about him. Does he lend that same expansive, intense quality to those stories? I am familiar with The Pit and The Pendulum but I have never read the Masque of the Red Death. How does his influence move those stories forward or expand them out? Am I being unfair to Poe when a film like The Fall of the House of Usher doesn't surprise me? I expect Poes work to be, stuffy maybe? Certainly lacking in tension. I often find myself simply not caring about the internal worlds and deep anxieties of his characters. Should I be giving Poe-inspired horror films another shot? Nick: Well, your points are absolutely spot-on. This film in particular is almost too reverent in terms of its adherence to Poe's original work. The true problem is that Poe didn't write novels: he wrote short stories, and when you take a 5-10 page story and stretch it into an hour and a half long film, it's going to need some padding and rejiggering. In the case of House of Usher, Corman stuck pretty much to the original plot, which means an awful lot of sitting around and talking. When he gets to the later films, he takes the root concept and expands upon it, such as the Pit and the Pendulum, which has the actual plot of the story confined to a few moments, and augmented with an awful lot more in terms of torture devices. However, he also takes three stories and presents them almost verbatim, in the instance of Tales of Terror, and they work out almost perfectly as short-form pieces. Poe is rather stuffy, and the problem with the gothic in its purest form is that you're already essentially working with something that is a formulaic parody of genre conventions in and of itself, so to play it straight -- well, that way lies madness. Liam: Well, despite some of the difficulty of this film, I am glad I caught it for two reasons. One is simply to find out from you that Corman Poe films are actually something worth watching. Corman and Price should likely have formed a convincing enough duo that I was on board, but alas I fear Poe set to the big screen and have stayed clear. The second reason is simply to catch another Vincent Price film. I love Price, but oddly I love this emotional dandy character of his even more than his more popular menacing creep. The menacing creep is often more dignified and perhaps lies closer to what I suspect Price might actually have been like, but this simply over wrought pathetic creature just always gets me, and I am glad to have caught it. In the end though, while I am stoked to see Corman take on more Poe material, will I ever truly love Gothic horror? I feel like this particular genre misses me, not simply because I am not as familiar with the conventions of which it parodies, though I am sure that is part of it. I simply know modern horror far more than I do classic stuff, sure. I just also worry when I read Poe though that he is bringing alive a real anxiety for people, something internal and unsettled. Poe seems afraid of interiors in a way that can only for me exist before we understood mental illness. Now, I fear a thing I DO have a name for, and perhaps I fear the cure that much more. What say you, was this worth your time? Should other take a chance on this particular Poe adventure? Nick: I'm glad I finally saw this, if for no other reason to see the well from which so much excellent material sprung. Will I watch it again? Likely not, and I'd really suggest that folks see this just to get an idea of what didn't work, as well as what would eventually become the hallmarks of the Corman / Price / Poe triumvirate. It's always worth knowing what came before, if for no other reason than to have some sense of perspective. That said, it's not one worth owning, and I'd much rather see something outside the whole Poe series such as Dr. Phibes or House of Wax than ever tackle the snoozefest that is the first hour of this picture. It's a very good example of how hard it is to effectively translate gothic literature to the screen, but I suppose that “how not to do something” isn't really an effective marketing device. For quality gothic on-screen fun, there's little to really recommend -- The Others did it so well, it's hard to think of anything else, really. I'm glad I watched it, and would recommend others do the same, but if you're not a fan of Turn of the Screw, you're probably not going to get much out of it. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QslKMIOeME8[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: American Horror Story: Freak Show

Posted in reviews, streaming audio / video, tv on October 10th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
poster - AHS Freak Show This week is really flying off the rails thematically, isn't it? Only ONE Vnicent Price movie in a week devoted to him? Fuck me. However, in addition to a billion other things, we totally forgot American Horror Story started its new season this week, so we absolutely had to watch the premiere of Freak Show on demand last night. Above and beyond everything in the debut double-length episode is the fact that it makes abundantly clear that, for all the talk of this being an "ensemble cast," this show has really become a showcase for Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange. Evan Peters and Frances Conroy have become the other two players to feature prominently in the other three series, but, honestly, it's all about Paulson and Lange. Given the number of scenes where the two actresses interact, and the telling lines regarding how Lange's Elsa Mars has brought in Paulson's Bette and Dot to get people to see her, rather than them ... I think this is going to play out in a battle of wills much like Asylum. Or, so I hope. Their interactions as Lana and Sister Jude in that series were some of the best interplay of the entire AHS franchise. But, the show: violent. Creepy. Kind of dirty. It's exactly what you'd expect, and given that Coven raised the bar on the sort of violent depravity the show would attempt, one would think a guy in a creepy clown costume stabbing people would hardly push the envelope. In Coven, Marie LaLaurie's actions alone, to say nothing of Zoe's chainsaw spree on the zombies, would be difficult to overcome -- but, holy fuck. ahs freak show - twistyThe first appearance of Twisty the Clown hearkens back to the daylight stabbings in Fincher's Zodiac, and there's something about brightly-lit brutal murder that makes everything starkly terrible. The introduction of the rest of the characters is a bit mixed: Elsa Mars and Bette and Dot get plenty of screen time, but it seems like the show's creators are attempting to pack in too many characters at once. That was the big flaw of the first series -- aka Murder House -- and I hope that they don't go supporting-player crazy again. ahs freak show - pepperStill, you've got the basis for the possibility of a very unsettling season. They've promised to stay in this time period for the entire series, and the inclusion of Naomi Grossman's Pepper makes one intrigued to see how this might play out in terms of connection with Coven. Given that series' own masked serial killer, Bloody Face, and the inevitable revelation of a family propensity for murder in Coven's finale, might we see Twisty as Bloody Face's progenitor? We'll end at the beginning with the credits, which are stop-motion and incredibly unsettling. However, at the same time, I'd kill for miniatures of so many of the creatures shown within the minute-long sequence. What makes it unsettling is that the variation on the theme for this season emphasizes the "under the big top" aspect of Freak Show, recalling the creepier calliope aspects of John Morris' work on the score for David Lynch's The Elephant Man. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UZnYOvv1v4[/embed] For more information on that sequence, check out this informative interview with one of the folks behind it at AdWeek. American Horror Story: Freak Show airs Tuesdays on FX.

Halloween Horror Marathon: “Open House”

Posted in movies, streaming audio / video, video on October 9th, 2014 by Nick – 2 Comments
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMZp6U2UUFs[/embed]
So: no time to watch movies this week, much less write about them. Shit got busy (see also: reviewing J. Roddy & the Business' Bottleneck show and interviewing Paul Collins). However, my buddy Paul and a couple of folks got together and formed a production company called Skreech Productions, and that's "Open House," their first short, above. It's by guys who like to put on monster make-up and make scary movies. They promise more to come. It's three and a half minutes, a little silly, and some effective shots and makeup. You can watch a making-of below, while you prepare for their next movie, "The Tell," on Friday, October 17.
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oBQfYwOxLY[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Posted in movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, video on October 6th, 2014 by Nick – 2 Comments
poster - Abominable Dr Phibes Vincent Price's campiest role outside House of Wax also features him in hideously-deformed makeup. In his part as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Price actually never utters a word on screen, as his voice is instead dubbed in, as a result of his vocal chords having been ruined as part of the same terrible accident that destroyed his face and killed his wife. As Phibes seeks his vengeance, the film verges on silence. There's not a word of dialogue spoken in the film's opening scenes, yet it still manages to be of great unease. This will repeat over and over as the film progresses, and it's one of The Abominable Dr. Phibes' greatest strengths, as it keeps your eyes glued to the screen, so that you know what's going on. Expositional dialogue isn't a thing about which this picture knows, but atmosphere is, and that's why these scenes are so effective. Big points to the filmmakers for using real bats -- all three Fulci films last week featured bat attacks, and were weak as kittens in terms of terror. This still shocks -- visible strings notwithstanding. The deaths, as a whole, are rather clever in their murderous ingenuity, especially as they relate to the plagues of Egypt. The plague of frog (mask) is just astonishing, given its brutality and wit, and I'm pretty sure that locusts eating someone's face off is one of my favorite kills ever. It's an American International Pictures film, but feels more like Hammer horror, thanks to its British cast and setting. The highbrow Seven Plagues method of killing really drives home the Hammer comparison, as well, given that studio's fondness for using already-extant characters and plots -- although, that is something which they shared with AIP, whose greatest work with Price came from a series of Edgar Allen Poe-inspired films. We'll explore those movies, which Price did with Roger Corman, as the week progresses. Watch The Abominable Dr. Phibes via YouTube below. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6FPbt8zB48[/embed]

Podcast #118, “Such Newness”

Posted in podcast on October 6th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
New Arrival Logo The Halloween Horror Marathon is taking up an awful lot of my time, so I almost didn't do a podcast, but I had a stack of new stuff I wanted to share, so I did a short nine songs. They're all really great, and I highly recommend this installment of Sunglasses After Dark. The new episode will be an hour-long horror / sci-fi / instrumental mix for the holiday, and I've been crafting that sucker for months now, so expect to have your mind blow in two weeks. Podcast #118, "Such Newness" Altered Beast, "Lost Not Found" (Demo 2014) True Crime, "Fill Your Boots" (Breakout) Stiff Middle Fingers, "On the Watch List" (Songs About Sucking) --- Jeff Rosenstock, "Hey Alison!" ("Hey Alison!" single) Paul Williams, "The Hell of It" (Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack) Paperhead, "None Other Than" (Africa Avenue) --- John Schooley, "Clawhammer Banjo Medley" (The Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World) The Goddamn Gallows, "Sinner's Song" (Gutterbilly Blues) The Maggie's Marshmallows, "Come Along" ("Come Along" single)

Halloween Horror Marathon: Student Bodies

Posted in movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, video on October 5th, 2014 by Nick – Be the first to comment
poster - Student Bodies Today's installment is me pulling an audible. Looking at the list, the actual film slated was Dario Argento's Phenomena (aka Creepers), but I just couldn't handle another Italian horror film again. So, I went another way, choosing the horror spoof Student Bodies. It's only 1981, and there's already a well-established pattern of horror movie tropes, and Student Bodies plays on them all. I mean, you could argue that even more than something like Evil Laugh, this was the movie that Scream ripped off, with lines like, "When people go wild and crazy, wild and crazy things happen to them." Of course, given the fact that this is essentially the Airplane version of horror movies, this actually makes Student Bodies more like Return to Horror High (Scary Movie before there was a Scream). It is super-dumb. It is not subtle. "The Breather" is as if the unrestrained id of every teenaged boy was allowed to run rampant in a voiceover, and it's occasionally funny, but rarely hilarious. Granted, the movie does have its moments of greatness. It's usually when Student Bodies avoids the obvious and just gets straight-up weird that its at its best. The shop teacher's lecture early on, wherein he states, "Perhaps man's highest cultural achievement is the horse head bookend"? Brilliant, as well as Malvert the janitor's "No, since accident, Malvert pee red. You know good urologist?" Same goes for the interstitial that might be one of the finest cutscenes ever. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzHKwhrN1Lg[/embed] See? Weird. I miss the fact that movies in the '70s and '80s were completely willing to do things which made no sense plotwise, just fucking because. Student Bodies isn't exactly a calvalcade of brilliance, and it's comprised of a juvenile sense of humor like The Kentucky Fried Movie that comes straight from the junior high locker room. I'm not usually one to suggest completely writing something off, but the kills are bloodless, the humor's juvenile, and the best bits are still funny out of context. Pull the highlights off YouTube and ignore this one. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM-gFnlnO-o[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: Suspiria

Posted in movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, video on October 4th, 2014 by Nick – 2 Comments
poster - Suspiria The final Italian mind bender this week is Suspiria, the crown jewel of Dario Argento's giallo crown, according to critics and film scholars. It's not my favorite -- I like Goblin's score for Profundo Rosso a lot more, and Cat O' Nine Tails far outstrips Suspiria in terms of plot twists and insane kills. However, Suspiria is the big giant to slay -- and, perhaps not coincidentally, the one Argento film I have with a good transfer and subtitles. The plot is surprisingly straightforward: a bunch of weird things happen at a ballet school, we find out it was ran by a coven of witches, they all die. Now, actually motive and intent are entirely absent, and the deaths of all these people go unexplained, but you know what was going on, if not why, and that's better than usual for most giallo. The most-interesting plot points come as an expository monologue -- it's almost as if Argento set the stage for later slasher scenes in the likes of Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and any other film where the villain needs an interesting backstory. The film oozes with symbolic tension. As Suzy arrives at the school, the rain drips down the front of it like blood. It's a film that's riveting -- you can't look away, for fear of missing a scene beautifully framed, or a detail that will lend some much-needed information. The way by which Argento drives home the growing panic is masterful. His alternating between intimate close-ups of violence -- shot like love scenes -- and wide-angle establishing shots of characters in panic absolutely emphasizes the characters' solitude. The monochromatic shots, and the use of warm colors to demonstrate death and cold ones to speak decay both create further visual cues which telegraph mood and emotion. Suspiria has justifiably earned its reputation as a pinnacle of Italian giallo horror, even if there are other films I find more fun. Goblin's score -- while admittedly not as fun as that for Profundo Rosso -- is still interesting, if a bit sedate. The theme's creepy as hell, though, and you can snag the Cnevox pressing of the score from 20 Buck Spin. Watch Suspiria on YouTube below. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onTYKt5lFNU[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: House By the Cemetery

Posted in movies, reviews, streaming audio / video, video on October 3rd, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
poster - House By the Cemetery It's best to think of the Gates of Hell trilogy as something unofficial, rather than a planned thing. Catriona MacColl is in all three films, under three differently-spelled version of her name. She's the heroine in each, but a different character each time, but always fighting creatures from hell. One would like to think Fulci planned this to create some sort of through line, but's far more likely just because she was available. The other two films in the trilogy are absolutely sane, compared to House By the Cemetery. I've seen it half a dozen times and read the plot summary on Wikipedia, and I still have no idea what this is all about. It doesn't help that I have a pretty rough copy of the film, likely edited all to shit. However, I've little faith that a better DVD release would make even the slightest improvement. That's mainly because even with a better transfer and edit, you can't get past the fact that the dubbing is ... rough. The sync is pretty awful, the voices are flat, and there is also, of course, Bob. Bob is the epitome of the kid in a movie who's constantly in danger, but rather than fear for his safety, you'd rather he die. Terribly. Repeatedly, if possible. Additionally, while the film has a great stabbing in its opening moments, after that, it's a patient viewer who can make it to the next big thrill without audibly complaining. Then, given the next big thrill is a rubber bat, one's patience is sorely tested. It's a long wait 'til the going gets good, and you have to deal with so much Bob to get there. Once Dr. Freudstein appears, though, the film kicks into batshit high gear, and I think that's what always makes me regard this movie so highly when I'm thinking of it. I mean, it's really fucking dull for a solid hour, if not annoying, but Freudstein and the madness that accompanies him is just magnificent. It's pretty much worth the preceding hour for the ten solid minutes of "WHAT THE FUCK?!?" that conclude the film. Walter Rizzati's score is creepy as hell. It's ponderous, with these electronic flourishes that go right through you. As little actually happens in the movie's first hour, you're still on edge and watching because Rizzati's music has you thinking somethign awful has to be right around the corner. The way Rizzati blends pipe organ with pulsating Carpenter-style arpeggiated synths really drives home the idea that this is almost a modern-day version of Henry James' Turn of the Screw (seriously: creepy kid seeing weird shit in a strange old house). Alessandro Blonksteiner's work on the score is especially unnerving, adding to it these descending note progressions on electric guitar, which always end up denoting some sort of impending doom. Death Waltz Recording Co. re-released this a couple of years back, and you can still grab copies from Light in the Attic on red vinyl. You can stream House By the Cemetery on Hulu below.

Halloween Horror Marathon – The Beyond

Posted in movies, reviews, video on October 2nd, 2014 by Nick – 1 Comment
poster - The Beyond The Beyond is Lucio Fulci's best-known film, and a legitmate cult favorite. It was re-released into theaters by Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures a few years back, and finally saw uncut release on DVD through Grindhouse Releasing, after years of only being available in the States as a heavily edited version under the title Seven Doors of Death. That said, watching The Beyond for the marathon is only the second time I've ever seen it. Somehow, I've seen City of the Living Dead way more, and tomorrow's movie -- House By the Cemetery -- even more than that. Still, out of the Gates of Hell trilogy, it's the film with the most coherent plot. A warlock's entombed in the basment of a Louisiana hotel, someone sets him free, madness ensues. There's more detail in terms of specific insanity, but that's basically how it goes. The dubbing's a little better in this go-'round, but the general tenor of The Beyond is essentially the same as City of the Living Dead, in that people are attacked by things from the netherworld, but it's far, far more gory. It's a madly hallucenogenic film. Fulci creates an atmosphere of nightmarish dreamscapes, wherein flesh is bloodily rent and things appear out of nowhere to cause frightened panic. Fabio Frizzi is once again on music duties, with a piano-based score which further imbues the film with a sense of impending dischord. There's also a scene where a little girl watches her mother's face get melted off with acid. It's unfortunately not very evenly paced. The beginning is a series of shocking images and terrifying actions, and the conclusion is justifiably famous, but the middle third drags. It's pretty heavy on Catriona MacColl asking a bunch of questions, finding a bunch of things, and looking confused. By the time people start dying again, it's almost a relief to watch spiders crawl over a guy's face. Also in The Beyond: dead characters that were last seen in a morgue or other locaion suddenly appearing in the hotel. I'm assuming the gate to hell allows for teleportation? The confusion Fulci creates in the viewer certainly does a wonderful job of allowing us to empathize with the characters onscreen. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef0oH3ZizfI[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: City of the Living Dead

Posted in movies, reviews, video on October 1st, 2014 by Nick – 3 Comments
poster - The City of the Living Dead A Lucio Fulci movie is something I enjoy watching quite a bit. Understanding, not so much. This marks my fifth viewing of City of the Living Dead, and it still makes no sense whatsoever. I can't explain why most things in the movie happen, only that they do, and look really cool as they occur. The basic plot is that a priest kills himself, opening a gate to hell, and it has to be closed before All Saints' Day or the dead will never rest peacefully again. Everything that happens around that is due to the open gate, and you just have to accept it. Characters aren't so much introduced as given lines and propelled into action with one another. The popular Fulci plot trope of the strong-willed man with the woman trying to find answers makes its debut here (you can see its American equivalent in Halloween III), and works about as effectively as it does in romantic comedies. Elements of Lovecraft (setting the film in Dunwich), witchcraft and Salem, and other such creepiness are thrown into a blender, making this not quite a zombie film, nor really anything other than "Italian horror," which seems to be a sufficient descriptor for any movie with a melange of influences topped with copious helpings of gore. The setpieces are absolutely fantastic: a woman buried alive after she dies "out of sheer fright" (I told you it didn't make any fucking sense, didn't I?), a kid gets his head ran through with a gigantic drill, a woman vomits up her own intestines, and corpses rise from the dead and burst into flame. Is it good? Not particularly -- the plot's a bear to follow, and the dubbing is pretty wooden. The visuals and Fabio Frizzi score are the real appeal. You see intense and astonishing things on screen while Mellotron flourishes punctuate everything. Much like all of Fulci's movies, City of the Living Dead is essentially a 70 minute buildup to the finale, which is absolutely insane, in both senses of the word, in that you can't believe what's going on, nor make any sense of what it is. "Teleporting corpses in an underground tomb" should sell you on watching this in and of itself. Honestly, though, City of the Living Dead is a prime example of what I love about Fulci: it's a tight hour and a half film, but the director still lets the film breathe, letting tension build. His lack of reliance on cheap jump scares -- opting instead for a legit blood and guts payoff -- gives the viewer a reason for that feeling of dread, because they know something awful's on its way after the walk through an empty room. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfDiQ99f1-4[/embed] That Fabio Frizzi score is, as one would expect, excellent and creepy. Death Waltz Recording Co. re-released it earlier this year, and I highly suggest getting it. It's available in the United States from Light in the Attic or direct from Death Waltz.