Had the other “Godfather of Gore” not stepped into the beyond on March 13th, 1996, Lucio Fulci would be turning 89 today – and no doubt still churning out gory horror films of the finest order! While Maestro Fulci was taken from us far too early, he has a firm cult following and his films remain staples of the horror genre. While, admittedly, not every film he directed is regarded as a classic – Manhattan Baby anyone? – the man has five films to his name that are definitely worthy of the attention of any and all horror fans. Today, in honor of Fulci’s 89th birthday, we’re gonna take a brief look at these films.
The House by the Cemetery (1981)
The conclusion of the unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy, The House by the Cemetery follows a family who’ve moved into a New England house harboring a very unexpected – and very undead – guest. Of these five films, this one is undoubtedly the weakest. While it does have the requisite gore and make-up effects Fulci fans expect, the movie has an air of apathy about it and you get the sense that Fulci didn’t have his heart in it. Still, it’s a fan favorite and definitely worthy of your time.
The New York Ripper (1982)
Fulci had his fair share of controversy, but this is definitely his most controversial film. The film follows a serial killer, who talks like a duck, as he stalks and kills numerous women in New York. Naturally, charges of misogyny were hurled in Fulci’s direction because of this flick. Never mind that most gialli feature women getting bumped off in brutal ways or being treated like sex objects, only Fulci is a misogynist. What critics say is holy writ after all, right? Morality aside, this flick is Fulci at his sleaziest. You’ll definitely have to take a shower after watching.
City of the Living Dead (1980)
Fulci at his most Lovecraftian (even the town in the movie is named Dunwich, a name borrowed from Lovecraft’s stories). A priest commits suicide; as a result, a gateway to Hell is opened and the living dead pour forth. This extremely atmospheric horror film is the first entry in the “Gates of Hell” trilogy and it does a marvelous job setting us up for the capstone of this trilogy that was unleashed the following year…
The Beyond (1981)
A warlock is crucified in the cellar of the Seven Doors motel. A few decades later, a woman inherits the motel – only to find that it sits over one of the seven gateways to Hell! Ask any Fulci fan what their favorite Fulci flick is and you undoubtedly receive either Zombie or this flick in response. It is not hard to see why The Beyond is considered Fulci’s masterpiece. The film is overflowing with a dream-like atmosphere and proceeds via nightmare logic to a conclusion that will leave your soul feeling empty. Of course there are plenty of pit-stops for gore including head explosions, throat-rippings, and three instances of ocular damage. The Beyond is prime viewing material and a must-see for any and all horror fans.
In this writer’s not-so-humble opinion, Zombie is the greatest zombie film ever made. Period. End of discussion. No dissent allowed. A search for a woman’s father leads our heroes to an island – where the dead are returning to life and devouring the living! This was the film that propelled Fulci into international stardom and earned him the nickname “The Godfather of Gore.” Zombie features plenty of iconic scenes and images. This definitely needs to be on your viewing list and put in heavy rotation. (For more information about Zombie, you can read our editorial here.)
While Fulci has made plenty of other great films (horror and otherwise), these five flicks mark the peak of the Maestro’s output and are the films he’ll forever be associated with. For anyone interested in Fulci or Italian horror in general, the preceding five films make a perfect jumping-off point. So get started!