Fulci’s Gates of Hell Trilogy…Quadrilogy?

For years now I have watched the Gates of Hell movies, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond and the House by the Cemetery.  We know these are the Gates of Hell trilogy.  Really they have nothing to do with each other and can be seen as single serving films.  Especially due to the fact, Katherine MacColl plays the female lead in each movie, but as a different character.  In City of the Living Dead she plays Mary Woodhoue, The Beyond she is Liza Merrill and The House by the Cemetery she plays Lucy Doyle.  So yeah,a all three movies are separate films and have nothing to do with each other.  But that is ok, for the most part these are all good movies and different enough and yet similiar enough make a night out of.

But recently, for the hell of it, I have been thinking of a ultimate watching order for the films.  I mean, it is simple, right?  City of the Living Dead is first because of release date, then The Beyond and House last…right?  Based on release dates and filming, yes that is how I have watching them for years.  But, what if we toss a wrench into the “traditional” chronological order?  What if!  What if we added Lucio Fulci’s 1979 Zombie to the mix?  I know right, weird!

Hear me out.  All four movies were released within a 2 or 3 year span, 1979-1981. Zombie was released first and does have a different vibe and the situation in the film is completely different.  It also acts as a sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, kinda.  Dardano Sacchetti wrote all four storys and to me it totally makes sense.  Sacchetti is also responsible for Mario Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve, Lamberto Bava’s Demons, Demons 2 and the Church aka Demons 3.  Sacchetti is one of the most underrate recognized names in Italian horror and deserves almost as much love as Fulci and Mario Bava and Lamberto Bava.   Dardano Sacchetti deserves more notoriety than he gets.

One of the other connections to the films are the score.  Fabio Frizzi scores Zombie, City of the Living Dead and the Beyond.  House By the Cemetery was scored by Walter Rizzati and you can tell the difference between Rizzati and Frizzi.

The House by the Cemetery (1981)So, my argument for a Gates of Hell Quadrilogy.  We will tackle each one on these my new watching ultimate viewing order, I myself will be doing soon.

By far the tamest movie of the bunch, as far as gore goes and this one is the most story driven than the others, oddly enough.  The reason I even say that, there isn’t much, nasty in this one and has to depend on the story.  A family moves into Oak Mansion, which was renamed after what happened.  The story of Dr. Freudstein and the basement is super strange and other than the others.

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.

The first gate has been opened.

City of the Living Dead beings with a priest, Father Thomas 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.

When Father Thomas dies, the gate opens one of the gates of hell.  That sets up the events of the movie.  The strange this is the ending, all seems good in the world when Father Thomas is stopped, is the gate to hell closed? Also, why in the hell did Mary scream when the kid comes running.  Either way, a second gate has been opened.

The Beyond is seen as the best of the Gates of Hell movies generally.  I do think City of the Living Dead may be very close, or even equal.

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.

I would say, Gate 3 is the hotel itself and it leads to the Beyond. At the end we see what is known as the Beyond, my question, us this beyond the gateways to hell?  Generally when the gates open, hell comes to Earth, right.  But Dr. McCabe and Liza crossed over into the Beyond…into hell?

Gate 3 is open.

Finally we get to the finale, Zombie.

Zombi was adapted for film by Fulci, from the script by Dardano Sacchetti. It can be confusing as the film is known as “Zombie” and “Zombie 2” and is meant to act as a sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  Zombie 2 for the Americans and everyone else, while released in Italy as Zombi.

Zombie begins with an investigation aboard a boat near New York and zombie kills a policeman.  Tisa Farrow plays Anne Bowles, who is doing research on a Caribbean island of Matul, whose dead residents rise as zombies to attack living people.  She is questioned by the police, the boat belonged to her father, she journeys to Caribbean island where we find Dr. Menard and his wife.  Dr. Menard is running a hospital, while researching voodoo and people are strangely dying and rising.  It takes me back the quote from Dawn of the Dead, “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”  We actually get to see buried people rising from the grave and coming out of the ground.

While, it may not be a gate, but like the death of Father Thomas, fiddling with voodoo and bringing the dead back to life.  This is on a major scale versus Father Thomas and the few underlings he had in City of the Living Dead.  Zombie ends with the dead invading New York City.  This to me means the hell is full and the final gate is open.

So, that is the order, I mean you can watch them how you want.  Based on tone and the way the film is shot, Zombie does belong with City of the Living Dead and The Beyond, more than House By the Cemetery for sure.  Why not look at them in a different way, each movie is a gate and with zombies moving in to New York, the Gates of Hell are open and the dead are walking the Earth.

Regardless, watch these movies, Zombie, City of the Living Dead and the Beyond are gorefests and wonderful, but House by the Cemetery has a little something special.  His name is Bob.  But these movies are so much fun and good to watch, rather than over thinking them, like I just did.

Also, check out Eibon Press, they are printing comics based on the movies, City of the Living Dead aka Gates of Hell and coming soon House By the Cemetery.  But the best part, printing Zombie and now they are bringing us a sequel story, rather than the awful Zombie 3, which I love…it is terrible.

Thanks for reading.

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About Ray Marek III 409 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)