Everyone’s got their favorite horror director. Not just the guy that did your favorite movie, because sometimes those dudes bail after one classic. Example: Texas Chainsaw Massacre is my all time, absolute favorite horror film. Ever. But, we also know what Tobe Hooper’s spotty filmography looks like. Not so good, right? Right. Then, there’s the guys that spent their career down in the bloody trenches. You know, the names. They adorned many-a horror flick and basically spent their career in the genre. For these ladies and gentleman, we will forever be grateful. There are going to be different responses to who are considered favorites, depending on who you talk to at The Blood Sprayer staff. But for Mr. Editor, it’s always been and always will be, The late Lucio Fulci.
Arguably one of the most recognizable names in the modern history of the genre, Fulci, did more to put Italy’s horror film community on the map than most folks would give him credit for. He’s given the horror genre some of it’s most riveting and visually stunning films and has left a legacy that is now, crossing over another generation of film fans. Traces of his work can be seen in most every horror filmmaker’s work, who’s worth his weight in entrails. Take a look at Eli Roth. Or take a look at Adam Green. The gore, the way it’s presented-moments that scream of Fulci’s influence. While his name holds some sacred weight, some of his work caught its fair share of flack. “The New York Ripper” was considered misogynistic and people hated “Touch of Death” because of the excessive gore and it’s attempt at black humor. Regardless, Lucio Fulci was a master storyteller who could tap into the most visceral of elements. At his best, Fulci could terrify the viewer, all while still captivating with stark images that evoke visions of another world: A world where we haven’t quite entered into hell, in the biblical sense. But we’ve woken some dark forces that want to see mankind suffer for it’s shortcomings. Whether it’s evil, zombies, voodoo, serial rapist/murderers, Lucio Fulci had the ability to lure you into their world. And as vile as they may be, you wanted to live amongst these vermin. They’re outrageous characters with insane lifestyles, yet the concept behind each is very simple: When you delve into wrongdoings, you suffer great consequences. Pretty much a concept as old as time, but it was in the vivid ways that he told those tales that made them so inviting.
I can safely say that I’ve seen most every film of Mr. Fulci’s that is in circulation still. With the rise of so many distribution companies over the last 10 years who shared the same affinity for his work as his fans, scads of his movies have re-entered the world via DVD, giving new generations of horror film lovers a look at the roots of truly great horror. Sure, I love the old Universal monsters and the early black and whites, but that era in the 70’s that produced fellows like Lucio Fulci are where horror begins and ends for me. We can honestly look at Fulci’s filmography as a road map to a better time in horror’s history. How many filmmakers can you think of that have created exact images that will forever be carved into horror infamy (The eyeball, the melonballed-like head)? Not just their movies, but single damn shots!!! His movies are snapshots of their time but have a timeless quality in terms of fright. There are outlandish moments of hysteria that will be followed by claustrophobic moments of quiet. You’ll find yourself tensing up as the music swells, the camera closes in, and all hell breaks loose. It’s a hell ride, but a great fucking hell ride!!!
I’m under the assumption that if you’re already on our website, then you’ve seen at least one Lucio Fulci film. Well, I’ve decided to give you a little peak at my favorites of his flicks. Believe me when I say, it was difficult to choose only 5, but I did my best. I didn’t use any sort of criteria-just choosing the ones that I’ve fallen in love with. I am fully aware that I will get responses telling me why I should’ve chose this one, or didn’t choose that one. To that I can say, Fuck off! These are my favorite Lucio Fulci films. Some you know, possibly some you will hate, but still my favorites. So enjoy…FULCI LIVES!!!!!
p.s. And before anyone asks, yes, I do like “Conquest” and “Murder Rock”. So, there…
The Beyond (1981): Considered by most to be his finest hour, The Beyond surpasses most of it’s predecessors by combining the real world with an evil, purgatory-like, parallel world. The story revolves around a hotel built on the seven gates of hell that ends up turning on those who dare enter it, by eating them alive. Some of the most profound moments in his film career are found in this beast of a movie. It finds a way to hit you on an emotional level while piling on a shitload of gag-inducing gore. There is no shortage of disgusting gags, but the silence in this film is the true star. As the dialogue becomes more and more sparse, it’s as if there’s no story to follow. Rather, you’re wandering into the underworld and have no real chance at escape. The Beyond is everything great that was the Italian horror movement, and in my humble opinion, the crown jewel in Fulci’s catalog.
Zombi 2 (1979): Given its title to entice viewer’s into believing in was a sequel to “Dawn of the Dead”, Zombi 2 is ride into the origins of the zombie folklore. Set in the Caribbean, the film finds a scientist (played by the incomparable Ian McCulloch) who’s experiments have gone too far to be stopped by mortal man. The impending doom threatens the very existence of mankind, as the walking dead close in on the film’s main cast for a fantastic bloodbath that sees the end of civilization, possibly. Some have viewed the film as a metaphor for consumerism, but horror fans know it as a gorehound’s delight. Zombi 2 is a photobook of classic shots: the slowly impaled eyeball on the wood shard, the now-legendary zombie vs. shark battle, and of course the iconic maggot-eyed zombie himself. It’s not a rocket science sort of flick. There’s nudity and gore by the truckloads. Some of the acting is waaaaaaaaaay overboard, but in the context of the source material, fits just right. Zombi 2 is the type of film you can throw on when you’re friends are over and you’re getting drunk. You’re going to laugh at some of the absurdity but are sure to have a great time.
A Cat in the Brain (1990): Also known as “Nightmare Concert”, this film is often heavily contested by Fulci purists as being a weak, late entry into his horror catalog. I believe it to be quite the contrary. The film stars the director as himself and poses the question “Could a horror film director’s constant filming of violence leads him to his own violence/madness?” The film comes with the goods: Chainsaw dismemberments, crushed heads, piano wire throat slashing, tons of nudity. Fulci is being convinced by his therapist that he’s committing vicious murders that are caused by his direct contact with re-enacting death, enabling the evil doctor to go a murder spree of his own. A Cat in the Brain is as close as Lucio Fulci were to ever come to existentialist idealism. On the surface, it’s a nasty gore film, but when you dig deeper, you find a man who’d become disillusioned with his work and his legacy in the pantheon of film. You see the use of scenes from a few of his other flicks (namely “Touch of Death”) to set up how he actually viewed the messiness of putting images like these into the world. Though supremely violent, the film seems as though it’s Fulci winking at his audience, letting them know that he is aware that these are just films. Nothing more, nothing less-it’s a strong “fuck you” to the doubters of his work.
The New York Ripper (1982): Maybe it’s the outright violence. Maybe it’s the sex/nudity. Maybe it’s the seediness of New York in the 80’s. Maybe it’s the Donald Duck voice used by the killer. Whatever it is, this film gets a bad rap for being a pigheaded, woman-hating, slasher film. But if you have a shred of intelligence and perhaps a very awful sense of humor, then you realize that The New York Ripper is indicative of the heyday of sleaze films. The plot is as subtle as a trainwreck: A serial murderer is stalking and massacring women on the streets of the Big Apple, usually focusing the slaughtering on the naughty parts of the female anatomy, and is seemingly unstoppable. We witness a bumbling batch of dipshit detectives trip and fall into all of our killer’s traps and still wind up not getting their man. When compared to its predecessors in the giallo subgenre, Ripper keeps itself held together much better. The story isn’t hard to follow and it gives us a pretty clear idea of how insane Manhattan was at that time. The killer leads us through sex shows, ferry rides, and all other odd situations as he shreds his way through woman after woman. I’ve never viewed this movie and thought that Lucio Fulci hates women, but there are some out there who claim that’s ALL the movie says. In the grand scheme of things, it moves along at the same pace that your typical slasher movie does nowadays. But it’s so much more because it’s a Fulci slasher. You’ll get a kick out of how obnoxious the film really is, and see that there was much ado about nothing. Dare I say it, I consider this mandatory Fulci.
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971): This is an early Fulci film and without a doubt, his definitive entry into the world of giallo. If you’re familiar with that subgenre, then you know what to expect. If not, then know that you’ll see a black gloved killer, and a woman in peril. Not too far of a stretch from what its contemporaries were about, but Fulci gave us a glimpse at what was to come from him in the near future. Yes, there’s a great story to follow here, as we ride shotgun to a young woman’s nightmares of sadistic violence coming to life. The colors are vibrant and the acting is consistently melodramatic. But the greatest attribute to be gained from Lizard is a prophetic look at a filmmaker who’s ability to convey extreme violence, would soon turn the horror world on its ear. Not unlike a great number of Fulci films, there’s memorable scenes that have become staples in the annals of horror history (the legacy of the dog disemboweling thing is the stuff nightmares are made of). It’s a film that pushes the boundaries of it’s audience’s acceptability. There are some bold and brutal moments to withstand but there’s also gorgeous colors, a fantastic soundtrack, and some maginificent cinematography. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is an intelligent and hip film that carries itself with rich confidence. It exceeds the many counterparts that it competes with a deserves a spot amongst its Italian brethren.
Tags: A Cat in the Brain, A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, cinematography, giallo, Gore, Ian McCulloch, Italian, Lucio Fulci, soundtrack, The Beyond, The Blood Sprayer, The New York Ripper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper, Zombi 2, zombie