For a while I had doubts about Lucio Fulci, Italian gore-master of the horror genre, understanding a darned thing about surrealism and how to truly influence the dream-logic movement. Some films simply exist to make no sense whatsoever and show us what is the equivalent of a dream; Fulci presents nightmares. I first saw and reviewed his "City of the Living Dead" not too long ago; and I wasn't particularly open-minded going on. Mind you, I believe this was when I was new to Fulci and didn't understand his style of intent. He just wanted to please his audience, and for a while, he succeeded. There are the films of Fulci that I hate, that I will always hate, and then there are the little films, like this one, that I am willing to give a second chance; but with different, lower expectations.
So yes, I sat through "City of the Living Dead" once again and tried to see it as I saw Fulci's "Zombie"; as a guilty pleasure flick with outstanding cinematography and plenty of inspirationally gory set-pieces. This is an impressive zombie flick as long as you can abandon all logic, just like the film does, and just go with it in all its absurd glory. I liked the film; or more accurately, I enjoyed it. I know that it isn't for everyone, as it's really nothing more than what it is, but if you're willing to accept a few flaws and just enjoy yourself as I did, then I think there's a good time in store.
Honestly, what does a film with the words "the living dead" in its title imply other than zombies? If you know that this film is about zombies, then you already know a little more than half of what it's about. Since Fulci likes to toy with surrealism in the form of violence, blood, brains, and tales of the undead; he has little time for characters or storytelling with true grit. Instead, he'd rather just focus on the look of his zombies; and they've never looked better. The zombies here look slightly different from the ones in "Zombie", which were very decayed and very complex make-up-wise. The zombies here almost always have maggots eating away at a limb, but Fulci's decision to focus on color schemes and lighting gives them a peculiar eerie, psychedelic feel. I admired this. It made the film watchable and even kind of fun. In short, if you enjoy the films of Lucio Fulci; then "City" does not disappoint when it comes to presenting just what the man was known for.
A priest hangs himself in a graveyard from a noose. This opens up a portal to hell; allowing the dead to return to the world of the living yet again, as they have in many other films before this one. There are indeed living, breathing, very-much-alive male and female characters entrusted with the tools and capabilities to stop the undead from invading our world, but I don't feel they are worth mentioning. You know why you came to this movie; you know what you're looking for. You want Fulci and he wants you. This film essentially delivers.
I was impressed by the creativity that went into Fulci's grotesque artistry. He can seriously gross you out and he knows it; but there's something artistic about the way he stages a gore scene, I kind of have to admire that. In "City of the Living Dead", you'll find outlandishly gruesome scenes, some of which include the following: a young woman puking out her own guts for a few good seconds (grab a barf bag, this one's real impressive), a man getting a drill-to-the-head, and a finale which involves the undead priest getting stabbed through the lower abdominal region, catching on fire, and dying along with his zombie army. If any of what I just described sounds interesting, then it probably is. This film appealed and entertained me because it was just so ridiculous, to the point where I could accept it. It was dream-like in its visual presentation, which is excellent, and in the end, it's 100% Lucio Fulci. Plenty of his worst films are also "100% Fulci", but this is one that I feel works and is able to entertain an audience rather than send them packing...or just-plain snoring.
This isn't great or even good cinema, but escapist entertainment is what defines every inch of the film. Lucio Fulci's best films - and this is most certainly one of them - are all about how you choose to view them and how open you are to their irrational way of logic and thinking. They aren't for everyone, and "City of the Living Dead" is no exception, but I find it possible to look at them from a distance and smell the surrealism. Craft, talent, and imagination went into some of the memorable sequences from this film. One of my favorite scenes is towards the end, where the zombies begin to rise from their graves, as the characters have finally reached the end of the road; so it would seem. But never mind what I thought; where do YOU stand? I don't really know whether to recommend "City of the Living Dead" or not. All I know is that I found it to be an insane, over-the-top, undeniably badass zombie movie with style, surrealism, and Catriona MacColl. Now doesn't that sound nice?