The Worst Horror Film Ever Made
July 14, 2011
I am no movie reviewer. But one in every man’s lifetime, there comes a movie so bad, so horrible, that it simply must be reviewed. For me, that movie is City of the Living Dead by Italian director Lucio Fulci. Horror movies require a “willing suspension of disbelief,” but you know it is going to be a long night watching a movie, when you find it easier to believe in the living dead, than in the plot and characters. This is supposed to be a cult classic, but any cult that watches this will be happy to quickly drink the strychnine Kool-Aid after it is over. The list of major and minor characters is so large and confusing, that I have chosen to simply give them my own names based on how they played the part. The plot is ridiculous, and has so many holes, that it forms a sieve through which the viewer’s brain falls. And the setting? Well, I am surprised that this is not considered a fantasy movie, as the city of Dunwich literally could not exist in reality.
Yes, let’s talk about Dunwich. First, according to the movie, the town of Dunwich “was built on the ruins of Salem, Massachusetts.” That seems odd, because this movie was made in 1980, and here in 2011, Salem is doing just fine, large and thriving. Second, Dunwich “does not appear on any map.” How odd for a town that was built upon a large, major city that clearly is on the maps. Third, this “city” of Dunwich consists of about two houses that are filmed from different angles and in different light to try to trick the viewer into believing that it is actually a town. Fourth, no one in town seems to notice, or care, that the sun never shines, even at noon, and an obnoxiously-strong wind blows mist and fog around everywhere, all the time. Next, Dunwich must be the homicide capital of the world! Horrible, grisly murders seem to be the daily norm here, but no one really cares, especially the police force, which must be simply the largest police force in the history of the world. Seriously, every scene is flowing with policemen, all of whom know about the grisly series of murders, but all they can think to do is to blame the local town hooligan, 1950s Criminal Guy. I call him that because he is supposed to be some well-known criminal on the run, but he never does anything wrong or commits any crimes! He simply farts about from empty house to empty car! But with a complete lack of any shred of evidence, the police chief swears that he “will fry Joe this crime.” Yes, that is exactly what he says. What the hell does that mean anyway? What an ass! Next, Dunwich must consist of literally hundreds of miles of underground tunnels, and nothing else, as we will see later in the plot review. Finally, despite being a ridiculously-retarded, backwoods hellhole, Dunwich is sophisticated enough to host a world-class psychiatrist who, despite his sterling reputation,has only one patient. Now let’s talk about the plot. God help us.
Meet Father Facepalm, the handsome Italian priest, who mysteriously looks like a completely different actor after the first scene of the movie. My bet is that the original actor saw how crappy this movie was going to be, and just walked off the set. In any case, Father Facepalm is walking around a creepy, foggy cemetery at midnight. Why? No reason given. Ever. He looks deep in thought, and then he pauses. For no apparent reason — and no reason is ever given for this plot point that controls the rest of the plot — Father Facepalm produces a rope that was clearly not there before, manages to tie it to a tree branch 30 feet above his head (without climbing up), and proceeds to quickly hang himself, without using a ladder of any sort. Keep in mind that this suicide is the pivotal basis of the movie’s plot, but no explanation is ever given.
Father Facepalm must be quite an important man, for his suicide suddenly opens the gates of hell and sets off the countdown to the end of the world, which will be a zombie apocalypse. Why did his death do this? Again, no explanation is given. Ever. Now, cut to New York City.
A crazy old woman psychic and her friends are holding a seance. A young woman, whom I call Victim #1 because she looks and acts just like the other female lead, despite having no connection to Father Facepalm whatsoever, nevertheless manages to channel him, and witnesses the suicide. She also sees, in her vision, a corpse rising from a grave. Nevermind that this corpse was apparently buried half an inch below a few leaves, although the tombstone is hundreds of years old. Well, this vision is so disturbing that the young woman psychic shrieks and falls onto the ground and dies right there.
The detective sent to investigate the crime scene is a maniacal black man whose acting seems to be a really bad imitation of every really bad film noir ever made. His leaps around from suspect to suspect, shouting groundless accusations into their faces. All of them pretty much just laugh at his retarded antics. Suddenly, in a classic Lucio Fulci moment, a fireball appears in the apartment, shoots around, then disappears. This is never explained, and never mentioned again. Oh, and the detective never appears again in the film. Sigh.
A newspaper journalist shows up at the apartment. I call him Smiley because, despite whatever horrible, terrifying, deadly situation he fins himself in, he just grins and speaks in a comical, friendly voice. This character is not only shallow, but literally only has one facet. Even in the depths of a grave, near the very gate of hell, he never changes his demeanor. He must be one hell of a positive thinker. Well Smiley is looking for a scoop, but he is turned away by a cop whose acting is probably the best in the film, and that is not a compliment of any sort.
Smiley goes to a local cemetery to see if he can find a lead on the story of Victim #1. The cemetery overlooks a town that is clearly not New York City, even though it is supposed to be there. Well, Smiley finds to gravediggers eating lunch over an open tomb with bones in it. Smiley winces, but the gravediggers ask him sarcastically, “What, you’ve never seen an unearthed body before?” Hey, I know a good answer: “Why no, asshole! In fact, most human beings have never seen an unearthed body! Now piss off!” Smiley walks away and, in a feat of convenient coincidence that would challenge even Charles Dickens, stumbles onto Victim #1’s coffin. Wow! The gravediggers come over and harasses him some more. They lower the coffin into the grave, toss a few specks of dirt over it, then leave. I never realized what complete asses gravediggers are.
Smiley begins to leave, but Victim #1 wakes up in her coffin and starts screaming. That’s right folks, she somehow both actually died, but was also accidentally buried alive! And I know for a fact that New York practices autopsy and embalming, but this gaping plot-hole is never dealt with. Smiley hears her, and runs over to the coffin. Realizing what has happened, he grabs a conveniently-placed pickaxe and slams it down into the coffin, right in the place where her head would be. Missing her face by centimeters three times in a row, he finally frees her.
What do you do when you rescue a woman who has been buried alive? You take her to a hospital, right? No. Apparently, you and she ignore what just happened and go back to the creepy old woman psychic’s apartment. The old woman begins ranting about “The Book of Enoch” which contains a 4,000 year old prophecy that, on All Saints Day (two days away), in Dunwich, the gates of hell will open and the zombie apocalypse will begin. Somehow, the old hag equates this with Father Facepalm’s suicide, and begs Victim #1 and Smiley to go to Dunwich and find Father Facepalm’s grave. Then what? She never says. Yes, great idea! The world must be saved, so let’s send a newspaper journalist and a woman who was just buried alive to do it, but let’s not tell them precisely what to do! Sounds like a plan.
Meanwhile in Dunwich itself, renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Malpractice, and his sole patient, Victim #2, are in-session. She is telling him about her failures with men, when suddenly, Dr. Malpractice’s 19 year old assistant, Slut, walks right in and begins mocking the patient. Dr. Malpractice laughs along with her, beginning his long list of professional and ethical violations that continue throughout the movie. Slut leaves to find 1950s Criminal Guy, because she is trying to help him. She finds him sleeping in some burnt-out building. He wakes up and they hear something that sounds like an angry baboon. This annoying sound will continue throughout the movie every time that a zombie appears. He runs off, leaving Victim #2 alone. Suddenly, the revived zombie of Father Facepalm shows up. Apprently, these zombies can teleport themselves, because he appears out of nowhere. He then reveals his evil, villainous plot by committing the horrid act of — rubbing dirt and worms in her face. Yes, that is all he does. It is implied that she dies of fright.
Next, two random young people — Horny and Hornette — are getting hot and heavy in an old Land Rover. As he is about to get to second base, Father Feelgood appears again. He stare at the girl until her eyes bleed and she vomits up her own intestines. Alright, I will admit that this was pretty cool. She then rips her boyfriend’s brains out with her bare hand. I have no idea who these characters were or where they came from. Horny is never heard from again, while Hornette is a zombie, and returns to her family’s house to torment them, especially her young brother, John John. Yes, that is his name.
Well, here is where the plot really becomes confusing and ridiculous. The rest of the movie is, for the most part, a series of random, unrelated scenes where characters who never mattered anyway, get killed. I cannot even remember what happened when. I know that at some point, a bar owner and, apparently, his only two customers, are in the bar chatting. I will call them Andy Capp, Archie Bunker, and Snyder, because they are all three caricatures of working-class bar goers. Also, these three characters have absolutely no relevance to the plot, and no apparent connection to any other character. I can quickly summarize their little story.
First, they are in the bar when the mirror cracks and a giant crack splits the wall. Ignoring the fact that the structure has been compromised, Snyder offers the other free beer, but they leave. Next, they are back in the bar, the giant, foundational crack mysteriously gone without explanation, when they see a zombie in the mirror (also mysteriously whole again). The third time you see them, they are attacked by zombies. Despite the fact that these zombies move slowly, the three idiots just stand there and let themselves be eaten. That is their stupid story.
Well, Victims 1 and 2, Dr. Feelgood, and Smiley, all team up to find Father Facepalm’s tomb. They actually find it, then leave to go to Dr. Feelgood’s office. Why they do not simply accomplish their unstated task then and there, is a mystery. At the office, millions of maggots suddenly fly through the window, covering the floor and their faces. Kudos for using real maggots — probably the single special effect of the entire film that does not totally suck. Instead of running into the next room, the dumbasses stand there for literally over a minute, looking bored while maggots cover them.
Well, they decide to leisurely stroll back to the cemetery, despite the fact that midnight is fast approaching. They find Father Facepalm’s family vault. It turns out to be just an entrance to a vast network of underground caves. As they enter, they see literally hundreds and hundreds of corpses down there. Again, the priest must have had a ridiculously enormous family. And if Dunwich was built on the ruins of Salem, how in the hell are all of these deep tunnels there? Was Salem just a system of tunnels and corpses? Sigh.
The corpses come to life. One of them eats Victim #1’s brains, and she revives as a zombie. Now get this. Dr. Feelgood happens to find a freaking crowbar in the tomb. He picks it up and gently slides it into the zombie, and she is stopped. Yes, it was that freaking easy to kill them the entire time! Geez. Well, Smiley is killed somehow, so it is just Dr. Feelgood and Victim #2 left alive. Somehow skirting hundreds of zombies without a scratch, they find this central chamber with a stained-glass dome over it. Mind you, they are underground, at midnight, but somehow, the dome is illuminated with brilliant daylight.
Father Feelgood appears in full zombie form. He is presumably attacking them, but this involves a hell of alot of standing there and moaning. He never actually attacks them. I mean, the least he could have done was to rub some mud in their faces. Well, Dr. Feelgood, the world’s best coincidental tool finder, happens to find an old, wooden cross and gently slides it into Father Facepalm’s stomach, killing him. Yes, it was rather easy to stop the damned zombie apocalypse, wasn’t it? Well, Father Feelgood’s body, as well as the other zombies down there, all catch fire. To make a long story short, they burn up, the two idiot heroes escape, and the world is saved. Oh, did I mention that midnight was the deadline to save the world, and they do not make the deadline? No explanation, of course.
Now, before I get to the movie’s ridiculous, baffling ending, let’s talk special effects. When I Was in high school, I had to make a film for history class. I am sure that my special effects were better than these. First, when the zombies pull the brains out of heads, it is always from the back, and it is always obvious that they are just Styrofoam heads. They even jiggle as if they are on flimsy bases. Next, when the maggots blow in through the window, you can actually see the opening of the leaf blower that the stuntman is using. That’s right folks, you can virtually see the idiot standing outside of the window, blowing the maggots in. But the best has to be at the end, when Father Facepalm is on fire, dancing around in pain. You can clearly see the silver fire suit and helmet that the stuntman is wearing. They do not even try to disguise it.
The ending of City of the Living Dead is famous for being, well, bizarre. Many horror buffs have proposed intriguing theories as to what was really happening, as to the true meaning. Well, I can tell you the “true meaning.” Obviously, the film ran out of money, or film, or sandwiches for the actors, and decided to splice together a couple of stupid shots. Basically, the two idiot heroes come out of the tomb. They see that two policeman are walking around the cemetery with John John. Yes, it is the end of the world, and the boy has been traumatized and attacked by zombies. So what do the police do? They take him back to the cemetery and wander around aimlessly! But I digress. John John sees the two, and runs towards them in joy that they made it. The camera cuts to the two adults, who are happy. But suddenly, the woman starts screaming something like, “John John! Noooooo!” and shrieking in horror. The camera turns back to John John, who is still smiling and running, and then — the movie ends. Good Lord.
So if you are in for a truly horrible movie, so bad that it is past the point of laughing at, I can highly recommend Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead. I promise you that this movie will easily beat any other low-budget horror film in true awfulness. It is more than a joke — it is a disaster, with the crappiest ending of all time. If only the zombie apocalypse had really happened, then this film would mercifully no longer exist.