Today, I thought a double feature would be fun for the 13th of 30 Days of Terror, but which two films? Well, that’s easy, the first two installments of the Gates of Hell Trilogy. I know few people who’ve heard of these films.
The grouping of films in the Gates of Hell Trilogy is on the more obscure side. Lucio Fulci created them, and I applaud him, they are some of the most amazing films I’ve seen. City of the Living Dead (1980) a.k.a. The Gates of Hell is the first film in the trilogy. It’s followed by The Beyond (1981) and finished with The House by the Cemetery (1981).
I have the knack for reading lips, and these movies are dubbed. At times, I get distracted if the mouths don’t match the lips. Especially when they are in English; both the lips and the words spoken. At first, I thought they were filmed in Italian, but within a few minutes, I saw that it wasn’t the case.
City of the Living Dead
City of the Living Dead is set in Dunwich. I’m not clear if it’s the same Dunwich as in The Dunwich Horror (1970) or not. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be, that town is fucked up. Catriona MacColl is in all three but different characters in each, giving the trilogy an anthology feel. Mary Woodhouse (her character in this one) dies from the complications of a traumatic séance. It’s as good of a reason to die as anything else, I guess. However, that’s not what’s fantastic about this film, it’s her being buried alive.
And that’s all I’m going to say about the story for City of the Living Dead. You need to experience this one if you haven’t already. The effects are surprisingly advanced for the decade. The creepiness of everything that happened is off the charts. It’s no wonder that I give it 4 out of 5 Stars.
In The Beyond (1981), Catriona MacColl plays Liza Merril, a woman who inherits the Seven Doors Hotel and plans to reopen it. The legend around the hotel is that an artist, Schweick, made a painting that unlocked one of the doors to hell. The beginning sequence of the film is done with a sepia tone to imply it was in the past, 1927 to be exact, though I find filters of this type to be annoying in any setting.
This is installment of the trilogy is a little harder to follow as there is so much happening and it quickly jumps from one POV to another. The gore effects are harsher, which never hurts my feelings, and the zombies are very well done and gruesome. I’d love to get inside of Lucio Fulci’s mind for a minute or two to see how it works since there is no real tie to the previous film. Well, except the gates of hell theme and the dead awakening.
There are a few scenes that are beyond bizarre. The first was when Liza is driving down the center of the highway and screeches to a halt because there’s a blind woman and her dog standing on the center line. What’s with being in the center of the road? The second is the ending, which I will not describe in any way. I just couldn’t help but think What the fuck just happened? and then it ended.
Both of these scenes just added to the love I have for the film, and I give The Beyond 4 out of 5 Stars.
I’d previously reviewed The House by the Cemetery (1981), the final in the trilogy. You can check it out here.