In the small New England town of Dunwich, a priest commits suicide by hanging himself in the church cemetary which somehow opens the gates of hell allowing the dead to rise. Peter, a New York City reporter, teams up with a young psychic, named Mary, to travel to the town where they team up with another couple, psychiatrist Jerry and patient Sandra, to find a way to close the gates before All Saints Day or the dead all over the world will rise up and kill the living.
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
. Starring: Christopher George
, Catriona MacColl
, Carlo De Mejo
, Antonella Interlenghi
, Giovanni Lombardo Radice
, Daniela Doria
, Fabrizio Jovine
, Luca Venantini
, Michele Soavi
, Venantino Venantini
, Enzo D'Ausilio
, Adelaide Aste
, Luciano Rossi
. Music by: Fabio Frizzi
12 The first time you come face to face with the sour nature of exploitation horror can be a revelation, especially when 'Friday the 13th' flicks are the hardest stuff around. The filth caked, maggoty realm that Fucli conjures in his hellish visions of End Times is beyond such limited hard R queries. Sorry Jason.
Soiled & foul in a really dedicated way, Gates of Hell possesses a palpable pulpy texture that's slimy & almost pungent through the screen. Sergio Salvati's washed out colors speak of a spoiled planet, where rot & decay are commonplace now that the world is past its sell-by date, the ripest possible conditions for Apocalypse. The dialogue & characters are pathetically easy to ridicule but Fulci brought a doom- laden spirit of nihilism to these drive-in flicks that wasn't as simple to laugh off; it's that grim austerity that took his ridiculous gore scenes to uncomfortable, sado-porn heights too. Unlike 'Zombie's undead, the metaphysical ghouls of Gates (I refuse to call it'City of the Living Dead') aren't bound by reality's rules, appearing at will like sadistic specters to feed on pink brains- its that sense of cosmic inevitability, ready to descend at any moment in any crazy manner, from zombie hordes to pneumatic drills- life is arbitrary & cruel beyond reckoning in Lucio Fulci's clumsy shoestring nightmares. No wonder then the Lovecraft references to cursed Dunwich or forbidden texts such as in 'The Beyond', secret trans-dimensional doorways to hidden yet omnipresent evils in both.
That said, Gates of Hell remains more of a dry-run for the kind of cultivated irrationality that 'The Beyond' was & as such is far cruder and jarring than that later giant WTF moment. Its scene after scene of dramatically inert chit-chat, empty narrative with form & structure like 'The Beyond' but without nearly the same fluidity & grace, enlivened occasionally by set pieces of stunning repugnance amidst all the choppiness.
Fulci's favorite whipping girl Daniela puking up her intestinal track, literally spilling her guts while her boyfriend watches in horror will always remain in my top ten of the most disgusting movie moments EVER.
The village idiot Bob skulking round a wind swept dirt road early on, staring with suspicious eyes as the camera pulls back to reveal lonely countryside establishes Dunwich post-hell loosing, where nature itself is in uproar against outer-realm invasion & the cozy town itself is already half deserted, desolate. One other such moment occurs when our semi-heroes, Peter & Mary (now finally met up with the alarmed denizens of Dunwich) are deluged by a storm of squirming maggots, the Horseman of Pestilence name-checked as wriggling worms pulse in sacks of vile putrescence. Inspired heights like this though are undermined by scenes of dull psychoanalysis, painful small talk & meandering. In a way though it just adds to the dislocation, unrelated loops of inconsequentiality punctuated by more reality rending. The climatic descent into the bowels of the earth especially is the kind of old-time baroque of many past genre efforts, cobwebs & coffins & catacombs, only updated with a fresh coat of 80's sensationalism that makes it all far less hoary, restoring maybe some of the thrill these kinds of motifs originally aroused in less jaded audiences.
As it stands though, that foreboding sense of pulsing menace & defeatism remains (as well as lovely Fulci regular Catriona Macoll as Mary, bleeding from her eyes in the movie's twist on Catholic iconography) in the tradition of Fulci's best Gothic cheddar operas, anticipating the fulfillment of the schema set here a year hence with L'Alida ('And you shall face the sea of darkness & all that dwells therein....').
Review by Kaliyugaforkix from the Internet Movie Database.