Monday, April 18, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Day 18 - Your favorite foreign horror film

I love me some foreign horror. It really does make me sad when I see “horror fans” that don’t bother to seek out the great stuff beyond their country's borders. In recent years, the French have really been bringing it with some truly intense flicks. I’m not a big fan of the J-ghost, but Japan has given us some insane flicks. Germany has had some great hardcore horror fare, mainly in the 80’s. My favorite, though, is Italian horror. From gothic horror to giallo to spaghetti splatter and exploitation, no one does it like Italy. There are so many masters there; Argento, Fulci, Bava (both of them), Deodato, Soavi, D’Amato, Freda, Lenzi. I, as an American, may be biased, but two countries stand head and shoulders above the rest in the world of horror cinema, USA and Italy. The Gates of Hell, or City of the Living Dead, was the movie that introduced me to Italian horror.

I’m gonna tell you a little story. It’s about a kid who had just turned 14 and was discovering the world of horror movies. He grew up in a very religious house, so horror flicks were off limits. He would sneak to watch the cut for TV versions of the Elm Street or Friday the 13th movies or whatever was being offered on basic cable whenever he could. In his rabid search for every shred of information about horror movies he could get his hands on, he would “acquire” issues of Fangoria. This was back in the days of yore when he had no internet access. This budding horror freak ordered the bootleg catalogs out of Fango’s classified section, and read them like textbooks.

He had gotten the family’s hand me down VCR when they upgraded, so one day he took some lawn mowing money, got a ride to the mall with a friend, and went into Suncoast Video to buy the first horror movies in his collection. He saw a bin labeled “3 for $20.” Yes kids, there was a time when VHS was expensive. There were also stores devoted solely to selling them in those days. Anyway, he grabbed a special edition 2 tape set of Night of the Living Dead, because he had seen it on late night TV and loved it. He also got Plan 9 from Outer Space, because he had gotten a book about Ed Wood from the library. He recognized the name Lucio Fulci on another box and couldn’t believe his luck. This was one of those forbidden fruit movies from the catalog! In big bold red letters across the front it read “UNCUT!” and he knew he had to have it. He picked up The Gates of Hell, which was the American release title of City of the Walking Dead.

Later, when he watched it, his mind was absolutely blown. This kid, who had never seen a horror movie that wasn’t edited for TV before, was watching an Italian splatter flick in all its glory. He saw a girl vomit her intestines. He saw a drill press through the head. He saw a priest hanging and a maggot storm. The coffin/pickaxe scene embedded itself in his mind. It didn’t matter that the plot barely made any sense. As this movie heaped weirdness upon creepiness upon bizarreness upon gore, he realized that in an Italian horror movie anything can happen at any moment. The thrill of that kind of frenzied, visceral thrill of the unexpected was something he never got over. He was now an unabashed Italian horror fan thanks to The Gates of Hell. I, er…HE would never be the same again.

Obviously the kid was me. That movie watching experiences changed my life. It was both my first splatter flick and my first foreign horror flick. It introduced me to the nonsensical plots, bad dubbing, beautiful actresses, killer music, enthusiastic bloodletting, and overall awesomeness of Italian cinema. In a more general sense, I had only seen the horror that the mainstream had to offer, this introduced me to the world of extreme horror that existed beyond cable. The Gates of Hell, by the way, is a much, much cooler title than City of the Living Dead. I still have that old beat up VHS tape. I also own two different editions of the DVD, but I wouldn’t ever dream of getting rid of that outdated copy. They say your first time is always special, and The Gates of Hell deflowered me but good. Thankfully it wasn’t very gentle. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.


Cash Wampum said...

I just recently exposed one of my friends to The Gates of Hell. He didn't know what to think. I warned him of a couple of things beforehand. First off, up until Gates I had shown him mainstream horror movies that are huge hits that he had never seen before. I promised I wouldn't lead him astray in the world of horror. If I sat down and watched Demon Wind with him, I doubt he'd want to watch another flick with me. So far, they've all been American (except for REC, which he also loved). This time, I told him he was up for a treat but to keep this in mind; this was a 30 year old, Italian Horror flick by the godfather of gore, Lucio Fulci. I asked him if he could handle it....he said yes and I hit play.

I knew what to expect. I'd seen this one a dozen times. I wanted to get his reactions to the good scenes. The intestine puking was a key point. I loved watching him squirm as it just got worse and worse. That awkward smile as he watched this monstrous gore vision unfold. His verbal detestation while cringing and shrinking from teh screen. I think he would have looked away had it gone on much longer, but he endured. Even as Michele Saovi has his head crushed afterwards.

The drill scene gave him another jolt.

In the end, he enjoyed some degree. Gates of Hell is a movie that separates the boys from the men. Everyone, horror fans or not has seen Friday the 13th, Nightmare, Hellraiser. Pinnacles of the genre are had by all. But sitting down for something from Fulci or Bava or Saovi...that just screams, "I'm a horror fan!" so they're some of my favourites.

Gates is my favourite Fulci flick (say that 5 times fast). Followed by a personal tie with The Beyond and House by the Cemetery. Anything Cathrine McColl is great in my book.

SonOfCelluloid said...

I did a post back in Feb about some of the women of Italian horror. On it there's a really cool interview MacColl did about working with Fulci.

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