Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hell Hath No Fury Like Stock Footage Scorned

Hell of the Living Dead
Dir. Bruno Mattei

As Jean-Paul Sartre’s reanimated corpse once famously observed, “Hell is other zombies.” And oh, was hell ever unleashed on the world in hack for hire Bruno Mattei’s 1980 zombie suckfest Hell of the Living Dead (aka Night of the Zombies aka Virus).
Not even a Goblin soundtrack could salvage a cinematic morass that sports such imminently quotable exchanges as the following:
--I may not know much about chemistry, but in bed her reactions are … terrific.
--I’m not surprised with that cute little ass.
And… *scene*
Seriously, crazed rats leaping out of green chemical clouds can’t eviscerate the cast of the stinker soon enough. The plot, which likely didn’t fill the back of a 3x5 note card, revolves around the mullet-encrusted men of a supposedly elite commando unit who strike horrid Charlie’s Angels poses are sent to New Guinea to investigate a chemical spill and attendant zombie outbreak. I the A-, B-, C- and D-Teams were not available at that time. At one point, having just narrowly escaped a horde of the hungry undead, one of our intrepid moron sets aside his firearms in an abandoned house to play dress up in a top hat and tutu (no, I’m not joking), wandering several rooms away from his weapons. Mercifully for all involved, he quickly gets eaten.

Zombology: Though it was released in Italy under the name Virus, the zombies of Hell of the Living Dead are actually the victims of a chemical spill at some s00per s33krit toxic factory in New Guinea. Instead of addressing world hunger by conventional methods, the company is developing a cannibalism-inducing chemical to address the overpopulation problem as part of the hilariously named Operation: Sweet Death. Typical. Other than that, it’s your pretty typical zombie fodder. The chemical outbreak spreads and the locals start chowing down on their neighbor’s liver tartare style. Get bit and when it’s dramatically opportune we’ll see your shuffling undead ass pop back up. In one climactic escape sequence, the “heroes” (I use that term with trepidation) are “menaced” (again, trepidation) from the comfort of their Landrover by brain-chompers that lumber along like a pack of Thriller re-enactors with Parkinson’s.

Final Judgement: Given its dearth of story, Hell of the Living Dead fluffs out its 100 minute runtime as a masterwork of stock footage,as real life images of genuinely starving people get repurposed as zombies, random animal shots serve as scene breaks (I wouldn’t be surprised if Mutual of Omaha got a producer’s credit) and in a thoroughly pointless 15 minute digression, plucky blonde reporter strips down to a leaf thong and body paint carefully placed to highlight her jiggling tits so she can blend in with a village full of the locals mourning their zombified loved ones against a constant backdrop of stock footage of native dances that quite obviously bounce between various tribes/rituals/times of day.
One thing that has to be acknowledged, however, is this movie essentially boils down to some rather rednecky Italian guys with uncontrollable mullets gunning down wave after wave of shuffling black folks, foreshadowing the great Resident Evil 5 controversy of 2008. With the benefit of 30 years, it adds an intriguing dimension to the proceedings that Mattei (fortunately) didn’t really address.

Explanatory Notes: There’s a reason I start with this film (City of the Walking Dead a.k.a. Nightmare City may have also served my purposes). I come to bury Hell of the Living Dead (hopefully this stinking zombie fucker will stay buried) and not to praise it. In fact, where it looks like Rob will get all good cop praising quality films based on the Romero scale of goodness, I intend to be the bad cop up in this bitch, excoriating crap based on the Hell of the Living Dead scale of suckitude. Much like the Japanese gameshow on which The Simpsons must compete, I don’t reward knowledge; I punish ignorance.
So from here on out, all films will be compared to Hell of the Living Dead. Ergo, the rating system will actually be inversed. A stone classic like Night of the Living Dead would score a 0 on the Hell of the Living Dead while Nightmare City would easily be a 95.

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