The Review: Somewhere in the annals of Italian cinema history, at one point Dawn of the Dead knockoff zombie films were successful and so were mondo films full of graphic native rituals. Somewhere along the way Bruno Mattei was handed a script that molded these two genres together into one painfully inept film. It’s really easy to just bash a movie like this to bits, and trust me I plan to do some bashing, but in all seriousness one can imagine it never had any chances of being anything other than a George Romero ripoff, but that’s part of why we like flicks like this. Zombi Holocaust took a similar route in ripping off all of the famous cannibal films of the time and plugging them into a film that ripped off Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, but Bruno Mattei outdoes that film in the degrees of just how much it flat out steals. If we weren’t dealing with something that takes it’s self so serious, a knowledgeable film geek might take the film for a spoof at first glance. I mean, two reporters meet up with a group of military men who escort them around. Who are they fooling? Placing our ‘elite’ military men in blue jumpsuits similar to those in Dawn of the Dead is only salt on the wound. Then there are the dozens of other moments of deja vu that I probably can’t even get into because if I did I would just go over the whole film rather than having any analysis. It’s a lot easier to just slam the film than to try and understand it I suppose, so what good qualities does it have? For one, it’s unintentionally hilarious. You can say that for just about ever b-movie ever made, but the seemingly moronic characters in Hell of the Living Dead make me laugh everytime they open their mouths. Some of the better moments are in the beginning where our characters sit around spitting this bland ‘macho’ dialogue, talking about chicks and their mission. The whole ‘toughguy’ bit rubs thin only minutes after they’re introduced to the camera. These characters aren’t exactly likable, not in the usual sense at least. The only real reason to like having them around is to laugh at just how inconsistent and far from reality they are. Much like most of the rest of the film, the only truly entertaining aspects of it arise from just how bad the film gets. The things that are genuinely good aren’t the things that solidify a ‘good’ film, like the score and gore effects. The score shouldn’t even count because it wasn’t even meant to be used in the film, they just lifted it from other films. The gore effects, while always being somewhat amateur, only seem to work well on occasion. Let’s get it straight, this isn’t a Hollywood production or anything so most of the budget on this thing went directly into the purchasing of meat and fluid to make blood. You judge the gore by comparison with other films of the same time and the same genre. Sometimes the gore is good and sometimes it’s miserably bad. Many of the bitings in the film work very well, and can be quite entertaining but there are other moments where it can seem embarrassing. At one point we see a zombie eating a man’s leg, but it’s quite obvious to anyone paying attention that the zombie is just using his teeth to drag out a hunk of meet he has hidden under his hand. Look for that in the native scenes, which I’ll talk about later. Also around that same scene, I swear I seen the same actor playing a zombie, shot in the head twice. That one I’m not so sure of, but the meat incident I still find funny. Hell of the Living Dead is a terrible film and anyone who plans to watch it should already know this, the only thing you can do while watching is make the best of a lousy situation.
Where should I start with the film’s inadequacies? How about the beginning, the staging for the rest of the film. During this sequence we see a lot of scientist and lab workers running around, talking about “Operation Sweet Death” until finally we’re stuck with two bozos in protective suits checking for radiation or something of that sort. Their conversation about boobs should have the audience in stitches. Finally they find a dead rat, this of course shows that there has been a leak even though later in the film the leak is shown to be a giant green gas which one would assume they would have seen if that had been the cause of death for the rat. I digress, the rat comes to life (ZOMBIE RAT!!!) and bites one of our suited fellows and somehow jumps from his hand to under his padded chest area. Now there is a zombie epidemic starting, blah, blah, blah. This whole sequence is so far removed from the rest of the film though that it almost seems as if it has nothing to do with anything. By the time we join our ‘mercenary’ fellows you’ll likely have forgotten all about this little detour because the two stories are so shabbily introduced to one another that it becomes easy to just not remember. After this we begin following our ‘elite’ agents, who I think it is stated work for Interpol but who knows. We’re never given any idea why they are sent into their mission in New Guinea, at least no reasoning that makes much sense on a second thought. What really makes this team so humorous though is the fact that even though they’re supposed to be the best of the best (or so the audience can imagine from their amazing work with the terrorists near the beginning), they all seem to be complete morons. For one, they’re walking around the jungle in bright blue jumpsuits so I guess they didn’t really see fit to camouflage themselves even though their are supposed wily natives running around. Then there’s the fact that even though one of them repeatedly tells everyone to shoot the zombies in the head, rarely does anyone ever heed his warnings. Not even the guy who made such a stink about shooting them in the head. There’s a moment in the film where this very character who scolded one of his friends for wasting ammo shooting a zombie in the stomach, proceeds to waste both his and another character’s ammo by firing off all their rounds into the belly of some undead ghoul. This whole fact has been documented several times in almost every review written for the film, but I can’t help myself, it gets so ridiculous that it almost makes you angry. My favorite segment in the film though is when one of our elite, best of the best, tough guy commandos actually has his holstered pistol stolen from his side by the female reporter. I couldn’t imagine anything more embarrassing if I was in his situation. Of course, not only are our living character’s completely inconsistent for the sake of cinema, so are the living dead. A personal favorite moment of mine is when Zantoro (The ‘wild’ member of the squad) starts taunting the zombies who try to kill him and his friends. He actually takes his arm and puts it close to a zombie’s mouth, yet for much of the film characters are shown being devoured by these unstoppable beasts. How does anyone die from these things? Obviously they’ve got the strength of a small child and the brains of a plant, what possible threat do these things hold? Romero never went so far as to show that his zombies were weaklings in his films, just slow. Zantoro actually walks into a horde of zombies and holds his arm up in their faces asking to be bitten. They grab his arm, but he’s just too strong for them, yet we’re supposed to be frightened of these unstoppable monsters? I think not.
Perhaps the worst segment of the film though is without a doubt the sequence where our characters run into a tribal village and begin to mingle with the natives. The scene begins with our female journalist having to remove her clothes, paint her nude body and walk head on into the village. I imagine this was ripped off of Mountain of the Cannibal God, but it could just be a coincidence. Anyway, it’s the lamest excuse for nudity I can possibly think of. The only thing topping the sight of her running naked with paint covering her body is the blatant and idiotic use of stock footage. I believe most of it comes from some French film called “The Valley”, at least that’s what imdb says. The footage used would be laughable if it wasn’t so annoying. There’s this large, fifteen to twenty minute section of the film largely comprised of shots taken from other films. Mostly monkeys jumping from tree to tree or birds swimming over rivers and other such boring bits spliced between conversations between our characters. Once in the village we’re shown the most disgusting of the footage they bought the rights to, including an alligator’s stomach being torn open and it’s intestines removed as well as a dead body being covered with some kind of wax or mud. The grossest of film shown is a man eating maggots off of a corpse sitting in front of him. The funniest part of all of this though is the fact that in order to make it seem like this is actually happening anywhere near our character, they just cut to surprised looks on the faces of whomever is watching. Sort of like something Ed Wood did in Plan 9 From Outer Space, when that general was watching the Army combat the aliens. This is only less entertaining but equally idiotic. I sincerely hate stock footage in film and it’s always everpresent in cannibal films, but I can say without hesitation that Hell of the Living Dead has the worst ever appearance of stock footage I have ever seen in an Italian film. I hope I never have to see worse. The whole added bits of grossout footage was the last straw, it ended up just being pointless. Then again, the whole film just feels like a series of pointless scenes stacked on one another. Our characters walk through just about every genre cliché you could imagine, and the fact that they are all walking clichés themselves doesn’t help things very much. Each character in the film seems to be based on one pattern. There’s the lead of the squad, he looks like a cross between Marlon Brando and Tom Berringer. He is the patented ‘evil leader’ who never lets anyone have any fun. Then there’s Zantoro who is the wild and crazy guy, meant to be entertaining to the audience but hardly ever is. He’s no Bill Paxton circa-Aliens. The other two members of the commandos aren’t generally that interesting, one is a nerdy kind of guy. He’s always hopping around for something, generally laughing over something that isn’t funny. He’s also likely a homosexual because for some odd reason at one point he dresses up in a woman’s dress (I think it was a ballerina tutu, but I’m not sure) with a tophat and cane and then begins dancing. I swear I’m not making it up. The last member of the militants is the ever present ‘nice guy’. I only give this trait to him because I only remember him taking center stage once when he began talking with the female journalist. He was treating her nice and talking about sleeping with her when the big bad mean leader of the group came along and scolded him for doing so. The female journalist, or as she is listed on the imdb ‘Lia Rousseau’ (but I can never remember that name), probably needs very little said of her except she’s the most annoying character in the film. Being a know it all and her patented incessant nagging are her two strongest suits. Of all the characters, I wanted to see her die the most. The only other character of interest is the man we assume is her boyfriend, a photographer for her magazine/television station/whatever. He has very little to do other than being protective of the journalist so I find it hard to even comment on him. The cast as a whole really needs no commenting, it’s about on equal with everything else in the film.
The direction is shoddy, as is the editing and everything else. There was one shot in the film I rather enjoyed, that of a woman walking to her car while bleeding, with the camera inside the car behind the steering wheel. That’s about it though, the only other idea that I can think of that was rather entertaining was having a kid killing his father. I know that sounds repulsive, but can you really take a film like this seriously? The kid idea was obviously lifted from Night of the Living Dead as well as a few other zombie films, but no matter how cliché I still thought it was one of the funnier moments in the film. Just something stupid that you’ve seen in a million other films, only to see it executed worse here. The film isn’t intelligent, what else is there to say. It’s a cheap zombie film from a time and place where cheap zombie films were made. If you don’t like these rather stupid gore flicks, then it would be best to just pass on this one. I can’t say I could blame you. I’m giving the film a one because even though there are moments where it is extremely entertaining, it’s not the film that is entertaining me, it’s me that is doing the job. How can you recommend a film with almost no redeeming qualities of it’s own?