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Hell of the Living Dead

Hell of the Living Dead (1980) Movie Poster
Italy / Spain  •    •  99m  •    •  Directed by: Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso.  •  Starring: Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Selan Karay, José Gras, Gabriel Renom, Josep Lluís Fonoll, Pietro Fumelli, Bruno Boni, Patrizia Costa, Cesare Di Vito, Sergio Pislar, Bernard Seray, Víctor Israel.  •  Music by: Goblin.
        After a chemical leak at the Hope Centre in Papua New Guinea (an organisation devoted to feeding underdeveloped countries) turns its staff into flesh-eating zombies, a four-man commando squad led by Mike London are sent to investigate. They run into a TV news crew led by celebrity reporter Lea, who are after the same story, but when they discover that the entire country has been overrun by zombies, what are the chances of them getting the message across? Unlike most zombie films, this actually tries to make a serious point - that if we don't feed the Third World, they'll come and feed on us!

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 3:50

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Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Image from: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)
Remember the opening segment of DAWN OF THE DEAD, in which the SWAT team storm a building infected by zombie tenants and proceed to blast 'em all away? Well, that ten minute sequence serves as a basis for ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH, a truly awful sub-Romero Italian zombie film with bits of ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS and THE BEYOND thrown in for good measure. Infamous hack director Bruno Mattei (who made up his 'amusing' pseudonym for this movie, Vincent Dawn) isn't content with just borrowing the plot from Romero's shockers either - he actually goes further to rip off classic music from DAWN OF THE DEAD and occasionally lifts entire dialogue from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD! There's definitely a line between a 'homage' and plain 'plagiarism' and it's obvious which camp Mattei's film falls into.

The one redeeming factor in this film is that, unlike Romero, Mattei actually has an explanation as to the zombie origins (he probably dreamt it up one drunken night with his partner in crime, Claudio Fragrasso). You see, to combat the over-population problems of the Third World, scientists have devised a gas to wipe out the excess human life - unfortunately for them, it does just that, but brings them back to UN-life afterwards! The opening of the film sees an undead rodent burrowing into the contamination suit of a factory worker and chewing through his stomach, causing much splattering of blood (and where would we be without blood in a so-called "video nasty" anyway?). His co-worker stands nearby, slack-jawed in surprise, until a gang of zombies arrive and chew on his intestines.

From here on, the film changes track and introduces us to the would-be 'heroes', a quartet of incompetent SWAT men who spend the rest of the movie blasting their way through the ranks of the undead and desperately trying to avoid getting eaten. Their first trip is to a local village, where they meet a pair of reporters whose family have recently been eaten, and they team up together to infiltrate a native village in their bid to escape. Stumbling from one shoddy action scene to another, ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH offers us the standard downbeat ending, then finishes with an absurd epilogue, a twist ending in which a courting couple scoff at talk of zombies on the television - until they themselves are scoffed by some undead in the local park!

It goes without saying that the acting is bad - particularly so on the part of the guys playing the SWAT team, and the zombies are hardly convincing. None of the actors know the meaning of the term "restraint" which makes much of their actions laughable. The dubbing is extraordinarily bad, and gives the film extra unintentional comedy value as you listen to some of the awful dialogue the characters are given ("They could be drunk, or drugged - or maybe a leper colony!" says one of the SWAT guys on spotting an approaching zombie horde). The production values are non-existent and the zombie 'make-up' consists of a small amount of boot polish smeared over the faces of the white actors (in comparison, the black actors playing the native zombies have white paint on their faces). The sets are dull and uninspired and the action sequences lack consistency and are in desperate need of realism.

Highlights to watch out for include heroine Margrit Evelyn Newton stripping down and painting herself to enter a native village (apparently aping Alexandra Delli Colli's actions in ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST); mondo-style footage of native rituals, clumsily inserted into the proceedings; far too much slow-motion stock footage of wildlife such as bats and monkeys, inserted for no other reason than to pad out the movie; a SWAT guy putting on a dress and hat and twirling a cane before being munched on by zombies; and the memorably bad overacting of another SWAT guy who loses it and attacks the undead with only a torch. Oh yeah, and before I forget, the funniest scene in the film, which takes place back at headquarters, where a government debate is raging. The bad dubbing just makes it funnier, this is one I had to rewind.

The gore content is extreme and over the top at all moments: countless bloody gunshot wounds, exploding heads, tearing flesh, and intestine chewing; a cat clawing its way out of an old woman's stomach; people being ripped apart and spraying blood and all kinds of gruesome mayhem make this one of the bloodiest of the video nasty genre. To make things worse, we get mondo footage of natives smearing themselves with rotting human flesh and a native woman eating maggots out of a (real) rotting human skull. It's enough to turn the stomach, which of course is the point. ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH is a true trash classic of the genre.


Review by Leofwine_draca from the Internet Movie Database.