Hell of the Living Dead

03/08/2019 06:33

Film: Hell of the Living Dead

Year: 1980

Director: Bruno Mattei

Writer: Claudio Fragasso and José María Cunillés

Starring: Margie Newton, Franco Garofalo and Selan Karay



This was a film that I actually saw when I was in high school. My father is a sucker for zombie films and this was one that he had seen when he was younger, but haven’t seen for quite some time. I watched it and at the time I thought it was a bit too cheesy. As I’ve gotten older and started to reflect more on these types of films, this one has grown on me. The official synopsis for this film is a tough female reporter and her cameraman boyfriend team up with a four-man commando unit in the New Guinea jungle who are fighting flesh-eating zombies.

We kick off in a plant of some kind. There is an alarm that goes off and they check to see what happened. There is a rat that is found. It comes back to life and kills the worker holding it. Like the rat, the man returns to life and attacks his co-worker. This leads to everyone in the chemical research facility being turned into zombies. The man in charge dictates his last thoughts on a tape recorder as a leak also happens.

The film then shifts to Barcelona, Spain. There is a group of eco-terrorists that have taken a place hostage. Their goal is shut down the plant we saw earlier as well as the others like it around the world. A group of commandos, led by Lt. Mike London (José Gras), are called in to save the hostages and to take out the terrorist group. With him are Zantoro (Franco Garofalo), Vincent (Selan Karay) and Osborne (Josep Lluís Fonoll). They make quick work of them, but they aren’t done there. They are informed that they’ve lost touch with the plant in New Guinea. They are sent there to find out what happened.

This group comes across Lia Rousseau (Margie Newton), a reporter, along with her boyfriend Pierre (Gabriel Renom). They are traveling with a couple and their child, but the child was bit. The child turns and attacks his parents. At this time, Lia and Pierre are attacked by zombies while exploring the village. They are saved by Mike and his crew. They then go about finding out why the villagers are turning into zombies and what happened at the chemical facility.

As I alluded to, this film is pretty cheesy about a lot of things. My favorite horror film of all time is the original Dawn of the Dead. This film is somewhat of a knockoff of that film. The group of commandos are literally wearing the same outfits as from Dawn and they even use the same soundtrack that Goblin did as well. I don’t mind it, because this film is definitely different enough and I love that score as well.

This film is interesting in the deeper meaning that is trying to go for. We have eco-terrorists who know what is going on in this facility and the governments are covering it up. The reason for the research is actually horrible, but it is trying to solve world hunger. Would I put it past some people thinking this is an option? No, I wouldn’t, but I mean I don’t really think it would be the first reason they would go for.

This film does lack some logic at times. The commandos know how to kill the zombies, yet they never seem to hit them in the head. I do like that Mike calls them out on this as they are wasting ammo. There are also times when the zombies aren’t attacking someone and allowing them to do things. This really makes the film look corny when it is happening. The film also uses stock documentary footage to help pad its running time. This I didn’t really mind, because it fit, it was just a bit odd.

With that said, I do feel that the pacing of this film is pretty good actually. It has a low running time and it keeps moving throughout. We never really hit any lulls or anything like that and we get enough action with exposition that we learn what is going on while also being entertained. I’ve probably seen this film 3 times now and I actually had to read up on what is going on, because I do feel like it did lack something there. Not enough to hurt the film, but something I noticed. I do like how the film ends as it is fitting for one of this genre.

That actually brings me to the acting for this film. I will admit, I really thought Newton was solid in this film. She has enough strength that when they tell her what they want to do, she gives input and has her say. She is valuable when it comes to going to the native village to learn more about what is happening. Plus it is nice to see her topless as well. The commandos I thought were good as a group. They all kind of lose their minds at one point or another, but that is understandable. I also thought that Renom was solid as well. The rest of the cast round out the film well. It is funny that clearly some actors and actresses play multiple roles.

This brings me to the effects, which surprisingly I thought were really good. We have realistic gunshots to the body and the head, which I was a big fan of. They were all done practically. I also thought the zombies looked amazing. The amount of make-up and the way they moved were great. I liked that they darkened the skin, one way you know someone was infected. The film was also shot pretty well, having a grainy look to it which I thought was fitting.

Some thing else I’ve also alluded to was the score of the film, which I really liked. I do have to hold it against the film that it is completely ripped off from Dawn as it is the same exact score. I will give the film some credit as it is a great soundtrack. It does fit this film pretty well. This is also from the era in Italy, where it is dubbed over as the actors and actresses spoke different languages.

Now with that said, I know this film isn’t great, but I actually think it is kind of a low budget masterpiece. The story to the film, though it isn’t all that original, I think is very fitting even for today’s standards. Following a commando unit and reporters while they are trying to figure out what is happening is pretty solid. I do think there are some missteps in the film, but the acting I thought was solid, especially from Newton. I thought the effects were actually pretty great and even though the score isn’t original, is still one of my favorites. I would definitely say this film is above average. I will warn you that this is from Italy, so if you are into films from there in this era or like zombie films, I’d give this one a viewing.


My Rating: 7 out of 10