Hell Of The Living Dead (1980)

DVD Cover (Blue Underground)
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Overall Rating 55%
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Ranked #3,124
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Margie Newton
Margie Newton
Franco Garofalo
Franco Garofalo
Selan Karay
Selan Karay
Josť Gras
Josť Gras
Gabriel Renom
Gabriel Renom
Review by Chad
Added: July 27, 2009
The zombie genre is all but dead now thanks to a flood of imitators and wannabes who consistently release absolute garbage in an attempt to cash in on those poor horror fans who simply want to see another decent zombie flick. It's easy to look at the new releases for any given week and see a handful of these films begging for your dollar, but it's painfully obvious that the genre is either dead or well on its way. This is not a new thing. Sure, horror fans may pine for the good old days of the seventies and eighties, what with their Romero's and Fulci's, but these fans forget that there was just as much trash then as there is now. The difference is that the old trash has been long forgotten about, but sometimes, we decide to pick through it in hopes of finding a long-lost gem. Bruno Mattei's Virus, aka Hell of the Living Dead, aka Zombie Creeping Flesh, aka about a dozen other titles, is not one of them.

We kick things off inside the Hope Center, a scientific research plant where they are attempting to discover... something, I don't know, but it's not very important. What is important is that a pipe starts leaking toxic gas in one of the most airtight rooms of the facility, so naturally, a couple of men are sent in to repair it. Unfortunately for our repairmen, this gas turns them into flesh-hungry zombies. It doesn't take long before the commotion draws the attention of the other nearby scientists, and you know how it goes in these movies: two zombies becomes four, four becomes eight, and you soon enough have a horde on your hands.

Moving ahead in time a bit, a commando squad is sent out to the jungles of New Guinea to investigate the strange disappearance of those scientists. There, they run into a pair of journalists who are also out for some answers, and all six of them decide to team up in order to get to the bottom of this. They quickly discover what we at home already know: these jungles are packed full of the living dead, and it's not just the scientists who now crave human flesh. Oh no, the virus has spread throughout the jungle, and now the savage natives are also turning into zombies.

Bruno Mattei is a name synonymous with Italian garbage, and the man had a knack for pumping out movies that were awful in the strictest sense of the word, but these films tend to possess that certain something that makes them somewhat enjoyable. You wouldn't see a revolutionary take on whatever genre that he was tackling in his latest release, but you'd certainly get plenty of exploitation sleaze. You might not see cutting-edge special effects, but he'd make up for that by painting the screen red with gallons of blood - quantity over quality, if you will. This is what I was expecting from Virus, and I got it to a certain extent.

Let's get this out of the way right now: Hell of the Living Dead, as it's labeled here in the States, is exclusively for hardcore fans of the zombie genre. If you've seen three or four of the classics and have yet to dive into the mountain of Italian imitators, you can go ahead and stop reading right now as this movie is not for you. Now, those of you who do consider yourselves fans may enjoy this film to a degree, but even the most rabid amongst you will find that it's merely average at best thanks to Mattei throwing caution to the wind and ripping off everything that he could to get this one finished. That's not entirely unusual for the man, but it seems as though he went a little overboard with this one.

Yes, this film is a mish-mash of other, far superior films that were hitting it big back in the late seventies. The score was copied from Dawn of the Dead and Beyond the Darkness, and by "copied", I don't mean that the composers here tried to imitate it; no, I mean that they literally copied Goblin's musical contributions from those two films and threw them in here. There's also the commando squad, a foursome that looks to be rejects from the aforementioned Dawn of the Dead, and let's not forget the appearance of a certain elevator scene from that same movie. The whole idea behind the savages in the middle of the jungle was inserted to milk the cannibal genre, and yes, we even get some of the "genuine animal murder / mutilation" that those movies made infamous. I'm not even going to detail the thirty minutes of animal stock footage used to pad out the running time, but I will say that this film will do wonders for the "National Geographic nerds who also love zombie movies" demographic.

The gore and zombie effects vary wildly throughout the film, with some of the zombies looking like they have a fresh coat of blackface applied while others look shockingly good. The gore is just as erratic, with some scenes featuring gunshot wounds that look like a single dot of red food coloring while others are actually quite memorable (I loved the fist through the mouth gag). Gorehounds will find a handful of scenes to cheer for, but they'll also find just as many scenes to laugh at.

Still, I do have to give the film credit for holding my attention for the ninety minutes that it ran for. It's by no means a classic of the genre and I'm going to stand firm in saying that only diehard fans should track it down, but those of you who can't get enough of the undead may find that it has a certain charm to it that keeps things interesting. It's nothing that we haven't seen before, but sometimes, you don't need to reinvent the wheel to have a good time in front of the tube. 6/10.
grain of sand #1: grain of sand - added 07/30/2009, 08:30 PM
I have this on VHS! I saw it when I was younger and loved it, now that I see it I see its flaws but still have a soft spot for it, especially that awesome cover.

6/10 sounds right
Andy van Heel #2: Andy van Heel - added 12/09/2011, 01:42 PM
Loved this one. I agree, the movie is overall a mess. Mattei doesn't really pull of anything completely, but still he entertained me. The movie is funny without wanting to be, but never gets boring. Some beers, some friends, some weed, and you got yourself a nice evening. Thank you Bruno!
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