Triple Feature Friday: Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell Trilogy

Here at the Horror Syndicate, we all love Italian horror films, Giallo films. From Mario Bava, Dario Argento to Lucio Fulci and we have tried to educate anyone who is not aware of this kind of underground horror movement.  I say underground, mostly because I only found out about some of these films from way more hardcore horror fans than myself.  The average horror fan knows about the bigger names movies, Friday the 13th, The Exoricist, Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  But beginning in the late 1950s and going strong into the 1990s there were so many Giallo style and gore fest horror movies made by Italian film makers.  Some are stylistic, like Bava and Argento and some are just plain disgusting gore fests like a good Fulci film.

Eventually I would like to delve into the world of Mario Bava, as if not for him, Argento and Fulci may not be where they are today…their works.

In 1979, Lucio Fulci released a film called Zombi 2, The film was made from a screenplay by Dardano Sacchetti and is kind of an unofficial sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, released in Italy as Zombi.  This was a film that helped turn me on to Italian horror and put Fulci on my map.  Soon after seeing Zombi 2, I found City of the Living Dead, I needed more gore.  This was around 2004 or 2005, it took me so many years to find out City of the Living Dead is the beginning of Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy.  The next film I had to find was The Beyond and the final movie The House by the Cemetery.  I was luck enough to catch them on Hulu plus while they were available in 2015.

So, today, I have tasked myself with watching all three movies back to back.  I have only seen each of them, alone.  Currently I am at the end of City of the Living Dead.  One thing that stands out, the score, I love it.

So let me tell you why you should watch these and ultimately buy them for your collection if you have not do so yet.

City of the Living Dead (1980)

Released: August 11, 1980 Italy

Released: May 6, 1983 USA

City of the Living Dead beings with a priest hanging himself in Cemetery.  Well there is a seance where Mary Woodhouse having a traumatic vision of the priest, Father Thomas in a small town called Dunwich.  Mary dies of the the trauma and the police are skeptical.  A reporter, Peter Bell is interested in this story about Mary.  He visits the Cemetery where she is being buried.  We get this odd scene with some funeral workers who don’t finish their job.  Which is a good thing, because Mary is not dead.  Peter rescues her from being buried alive.

Mary and Peter work together to find Father Thomas’ headstone and the village of Dunwich to find the City of the Living Dead

Now, I don’t want to go too far into the story, but there are some horrific gore scenes in the film.  Some brains being squeezed out the back of people’s heads, a drill press going into a man’s temple.  But there is one scene, it was very disturbing.  A girl and guy are in a car and she being spitting out, what look to be her organs, the fall so slowly out of her mouth and it turns the stomach.  It is referred to as the purging scene and during filming, actress Daniela Doria actually vomited sheep entrails during the intestine purging scene.  It was one of the sickest looking things I had ever seen at the time.

The score for the film is damn near brilliant.  You get the feel City of the Living Dead it belongs in the same world with Zombi and Dawn of the Dead, a Goblin like soundtrack preformed by Fabio Frizzi.  He did do the music for Zombi and The Beyond.  Not to mention countless other horror films.  He worked with Fulci on other projects like Manhattan Baby and Cat in the Brain.

IMDB.com has a rating of 6.3

Even if this is not a full review, I give it 8.0 

The Beyond (1981)

Release Date: April 22, 1981 Italy

Release Date: March 11, 1983 I have also seen April 22, 1981 for USA

Oh, the Beyond.  This was such an interesting story.  It begins in 1927 and takes place in New Orleans.  Seven Doors Hotel a lynch mob murders an artist named Schweick, whom they believe is a warlock.  Killing Schweick opened one of the seven doors of death.  When the door opens it allows the dead to cross into the world of the living.

Years later a young girl, Liza inherits the hotel and begins to rehab.  There are a couple of accidents and Joe the plumber gets his eye gouged and dies.  Late Liza meets a blind woman who is standing in the middle of the road with a German Sheppard. Liza encounters Emily at the hotel. Emily tells Liza the story of Schweick, and warns her to not enter room 36. When Emily examines Schweick’s painting, she begins to bleed and flees the hotel.  Emily begins to see things and her doctor friend, Dr. McCabe offers not help.  He is not seeing what she is seeing.

The story picks up from there and gets really interesting.  The ending is bleak and fantastic.  The gore is there, the zombies and Joe the plumber are all juicy, it is great.

The score is top notch, just like City of the Living Dead, it is done by Fabio Frizzi.  The Beyond is great.  I will also say, these two are perfect Halloween time movies.  There are some great quotes from the book of Eibon as well.

IMDB.com has a rating of 6.9

I give the Beynold a flat out 9.0

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Release Date: August 14, 1981 Italy

Release Date: June 1, 1984 USA

The House by the Cemetery is certainly interesting and very different from the other two movies.  It is very tame and takes place with a smaller group of people and this big house with the creepiest basements of all-time.

The beginning of the movie starts off really great, Daniela Doria getting stabbed in the back of the head with a knife and it comes out of her mouth.  Fulci must have liked working with her and having stuff come out of her mouth.  She is the same girl from City of the Living Dead who vomited Sheep entrails.

The movie centers around a house, Oak Mansion or the Freudstein.  It is more of a giallo mystery and less of a gore fest.  There is a kid named Bob, with the worst dubbed voice of all-time.  Dr. Boyle and his family move into the Freudstein house and Bob, their son keeps being visited by a young girl around his age.  She warns him to stay out of the house.

This movie is harder to explain.  It is strange and entertaining, but for sure the least impressive of the three movies.  It has a solid opening and a solid ending, but overall, it is just ok.

The score isn’t as great as the other two, it is possible due to the fact Fabio Frizzi did not return.  But Walter Rizzati did a fine job with this one anyway.

IMDB.com has a rating of 6.2

I give The House by the Cemetery 6.6

There you have it, the Gates of Hell trilogy.  I did sit down and watch each one while I wrote this article.  They are very entertaining and you gotta love gore with great effects.  The music is solid and the dubbing is actually tight for most of the actors.

I hope you get the chance to check these out.  They are available on Shudder is you want to go that route.  Otherwise, I would just go ahead and add these bad boys to your collection.  Let’s face it, you need more Fulci in your collection.

About Ray Marek III 401 Articles
I have been watching horror films since I was 6 years old. The story, one Saturday night, my mom and I were watching movies and she fell asleep on the couch. We had the channel set on HBO and the movie we were watching ended and the next one, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. This was some time in 1986. I watched then entire film, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. When my mom woke, she asked me what just ended and I told her, “Freddy”. That was all I talked about for weeks and finally she broke down and rented more horror films for me. She rented, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2, Re-Animator, Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives and Halloween II. I watched all and fell in love with horror films forever. 5 Horror Films to Watch Inferno (1980) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) The Beyond (1981) Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) Horror of Dracula (1958)