Five Essential… Films of Lucio Fulci

Dominic O’Brien selects his Five Essential Films of Lucio Fulci…

Highly regarded the world over by obsessive cult film fans as an often tyrannical filmmaker, as well as the godfather of Italian gore films, Lucio Fulci’s films still hit a nerve with viewers old and new. His nightmarish visuals and dreamlike narrative style still feels fresh and inventive. Granted over the years his work deteriorated – as did his health – which brought an even harsher critical backlash from reviewers and fans alike. Even after his passing back in 1996 he has left a generation of horror fans with some of the most haunting and nightmarish of genre films. Now his work is more revered then ever, so with that in mind I present the top 5 films from Italian maestro Lucio Fulci…

House by the Cemetery5. House by the Cemetery (1981)

Like many of his films released within the United Kingdom, this haunted house picture ran into problems during the video nasty era. Even with its excessive use of knife violence and prolonged physical pain inflicted on the lead protagonists, this is still a chillingly effective horror ride. Considered to be the final part of his ‘unofficial’ Gates of Hell trilogy, it still lacks a certain epic scale to really make it stand out from the previous instalments. It is still a cut above the rest of Italian genre cinema – even if the name ‘Bob‘ is used with chuckle-inducing regularity. But whatever you do, don’t go in the basement.

Zombi 24. Zombi 2 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters aka Zombie (1979)

Capitalising on the previous years’ Dawn of the Dead by George A. Romero, this Italian based semi-sequel has since gone on to be a cult film favourite the world over. Yet again another one of Fulci’s films to run into problems with the British censors, this gory slice of horror Eurotrash is stomach churning and entertaining in equal measure. With its attention grabbing tagline ‘We are going to eat you!‘ and Fulci’s almost, masochistic lingering on violence, only goes to cement it further as a genre classic. Containing a legendary assembling of some of horror cinema’s most instantly memorable scenes. Everything from the infamous eye-on-splinter impalement, through to the zombie vs. shark and lingering close ups of gun shots to the head, this is without a doubt one of the best of Fulci’s more gory cannon.

Don't Torture a Duckling3. Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

The more die hard fans of Fulci will know him to be an extremely diverse director, having been able to turn his hand to almost any genre. Having only discovered Don’t Torture a Duckling quite recently, this is thematically -and narratively – one of Fulci’s more accessible films. Essentially a giallo, this feature is most notable for containing Fulci’s first use of bloody make-up effects, which would of course continue to become a staple within his future projects. The film features cult Italian film star Florinda Bolkan as a reclusive witch who may or may not be killing off a group of young boys. Fulci carves out a suspenseful and often gruesome giallo, but it is one which will enthral from beginning to end.

City of the Living Dead2. City of the Living Dead aka The Gates of Hell (1980)

With an almost dream-like narrative, coupled with the visceral, nightmarish visuals, City of the Living Dead is a gorehounds paradise. It is as close to a living, breathing film nightmare as one is able to experience, with each dream-like sequence cascading into each other. Every grotesque vision forces the viewer further into this frightening rabbit hole, all of which is helped along the way by Gino De Rossi’s stomach churning effects work. It is certainly a surreal exercise in terror and contains some pretty standout moments of gore, but the best is yet to come.

The Beyond Lucio Fulci1. The Beyond (1981)

Quite possibly Lucio Fulci’s gore-soaked masterpiece of supernatural uber-violence. But where to start with this previously-banned video nasty? How about death by sulphuric acid, being eaten by carnivorous tarantulas, a zombified young girl ready to murder, as well as various exploding heads and melting body parts. It will certainly make anyone think twice about buying a new property, particularly if it is based on top of one of the seven gateways to hell. Fulci’s ability to create tense and atmospheric sequences – with the help of cult film composer Fabio Frizzi and cinematographer Sergio Salvati – truly has the ability to take your breath away. Of the three films within the Gates of Hell trilogy, it quickly becomes clear as to why this stands – head and shoulders – above the rest. It shows a master craftsman applying his skills and creating a Grand Guignol experience that will linger long after the credits roll.

Honourable mentions:

The Black Cat (1981)
Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)
Manhattan Baby (1982)

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts…

Dominic O’Brien is an aspiring writer and filmmaker; he is a cult film fanatic and continues to seek out the weirdest and strangest films committed to celluloid.

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