Hell of the Living Dead

While Fulci’s zombiefests were busy traumatizing audiences around the world, Bruno Mattei’s insane Hell of the Living Dead rode along in their wake, to become one of the most ridiculously entertaining Italian gut-munchers of the early ‘80s. A chemical lab in New Guinea is sent into an uproar when two of its workers accidentally unleash a plague, thanks to interference of a pesky rat. Rampant flesh-eating madness ensues as this company, designed to provide for its third world environment, instead unleashes zombies on the jungle-dwelling populace. In a desperate, zero-budget attempt to patchwork together a hit that would ape Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (right down to cribbing its Goblin score, along with a handful of the band’s other cues from fellow Italo-schlockslinger Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination), Mattei throws just about everything against the wall here to see what might stick: a little mondo footage, some nudity, some city mayhem, jungle mayhem, and in the oddest bit during the climax, one character turned into a human puppet, years before Peter Jackson did the same bit with Brain Dead. This film is madness — and it is fun.
Dirs. Bruno Mattei & Claudio Fragasso, 1980, 35mm, 101 min. (Archival 35mm print courtesy of the American Genre Film Archive)

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