At Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2022, a retrospective of Lucio Fulci’s movies were included alongside the brand-new films. Fulci was an Italian director who spent his career creating some of the most beloved and revered Giallo films of all time. I got to see a bunch of movies from this master of gore and shock horror. From slimy zombies walking the earth to a pack of tarantulas ripping a man’s lips and ears off, Lucio Fulci’s movies never cease being entertaining.
Something you should know about Fulci is that he’s a big fan of zombies. CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) is the epitome of a classic zombie flick. The film starts off with the trio that has come to be known as the “Gateway to Hell trilogy.” When a priest in a town called Dunwich takes his own life, it rips open a portal to hell, letting in creatures from beyond the grave. These zombies are actually scary. Most zombies are portrayed as slow, muddling, and dumb. But these guys? They’re hideously disgusting, rotting creatures, who pop up behind people at random. They just want to eat, and they’re fast. CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD is full of jump scares and gore.
One of the films I saw was THE BEYOND, the sequel to CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, and a perfect movie in my opinion. Released in 1981, it continues the tale of what lurks in the basement of an old house in Louisiana. There’s a gruesome backstory involving whipping and crucifixion, which takes place in the 1920s. The house keeps its gruesome secrets hidden behind the walls. Years later, a young couple moves into the house, and they have big plans to renovate it. But first, they have to get the basement to stop leaking… This movie is so squishy – its zombies are blue and bloated, oozing slime and goop. The main monster is a goo-monster-looking creature that lurks behind a crumbling wall. As the dead come to life, it is horrifying, nauseating, and glorious. There is also the famous “tarantula scene,” in which a man is destroyed by a whole pack of spiders, who consume his face. It. Is. Perfect. It’s an excellent movie.
The follow-up sequel to THE BEYOND is THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, also released in 1981. Not quite as good as its predecessor, it’s oddly similar to the movie Poltergeist, which came out at almost the same time. Years later, a family with a young son moves to a new home. You guessed it – it’s the same haunted one in Louisiana. Bob, the couple’s toddler, tells his mom that a little girl keeps telling him not to go to the house. But the family moves anyway, and soon enough, they too discover the horrors that lie within this haunted house. THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is not afraid to assault the senses, particularly the ears. Doors creak, the house bangs and clangs, and in one scene a bat attacks a man’s hand. The bat screams, the man yells, and then his wife screams. This scene in particular probably gave a whole generation of young viewers nightmares about bats.
Let me tell you about another perfect movie by Lucio Fulci. It’s called A CAT IN THE BRAIN (1990). Fulci is fully meta and self-aware here, and I’m so glad Brooklyn Horror Film Festival chose to include this film in the series. Lucio Fulci stars in the film as himself, a celebrated Giallo auteur, who is having trouble concentrating while directing and editing his movies. He’s getting carried away as the sex, death, blood, orgies, and sadism of his movies begin to take over his every thought. This is clearly Fulci looking back on his career – and the criticisms of the type of person who makes graphic movies as he does. He’s aware that his films are outrageously vulgar, obscene, and gory, and his movie pokes fun at the industry and his own career. After watching many of his movies, it’s fascinating to get a glimpse into the mind of Fulci in the most self-referential way possible.
Next up, I saw THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982). Man, this is a weird one. It’s a porno-slasher set in the live-sex porn theater scene of 1980s New York City. A quacking killer snuffs out women one by one. There’s no typo in that sentence, the killer really does quack like a duck as he brutally murders his victims and taunts local police. THE NEW YORK RIPPER is bloody and sadistic, this movie has a mean streak of misogyny, too. It won’t appeal to everyone, but it’s such an oddball movie that I found it entertaining throughout.
To finish out BHFF 2022, the final Fulci movie I saw was DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING. As one of Fulci’s earlier movies, released in 1972, this movie is more grounded in reality than the others – the horror here is found in humans, not the supernatural. In a grassy Italian countryside, young boys begin to turn up dead, throwing a small-town community into turmoil as they search for the killer. The film is more drama than straight horror, but some intense imagery of the kids is unforgettable.
I loved watching Fulci’s films where he is clearly in his element – this retrospective was a fun look back at a Giallo master and celebrate Lucio Fulci’s contributions to the genre.
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