Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

Ok, so perhaps you’re wondering why the movie poster says this film is called Virus while the header says Hell of the Living Dead. That’s because this movie has half a dozen names, such as Hell of the Living Dead, Apocalipsis canibal, Virus, Virus – l’inferno dei morti viventi, Night of the Zombies, Zombie Creeping Flesh, Zombie Inferno, Zombie of the Savanna, and so on. It wasn’t a success under any of them.

Oh man, this has gotta be the worst zombie movie I have ever seen. Some scientists working to create a system to wipe out some of the Earth’s population accidentally release a cloud of gas that brings the dead back to life, which then heads to Papau New Guinea. Meanwhile, a couple of reporters show up as well as an Italian SWAT team, who are apparently on both vacation and on a secret mission. In their SWAT uniforms. With sixty-year-old Thompson machine guns. And no equipment. And no idea what their secret mission entails. Add in stock footage of animals from tropical jungles and the savanna. And then there are the jump cuts where characters suddenly change their positions and their attitudes towards one another, such as switching who has a gun or hating each other to suddenly sitting around laughing together. And there is this undertone as all of these Italians interact with the natives that feels vaguely racist…

It’s not all bad, though. The music is good…oh wait, nevermind. The music was apparently ripped directly from Dawn of the Dead and Alien Contamination. But the footage of natives…no, that came from the movie La Vallee. Seriously, half of this movie is stolen from other movies, and the other half makes no sense. Characters run around shooting willy-nilly and change their motivations mid-scene. Day becomes night in a split-second, and our heroes completely forget what they are doing and act like lunatics. Heck, there is even a scene where our lady hero rips her shirt off to prep for meeting natives and we get a full view of her topless for a good thirty seconds as the camera just sits there and stares at her. If blood drips on you from the ceiling, or zombies walk up and grab the person next do you, do you stand there screaming until they can shove their hands in your face and tear your tongue and eyeballs out? Because in this movie, yeah you do!

Then again, this is exactly the kind of exploitative garbage-fest I expect from Bruno Mattei, who was given a script but not the budget to produce it (which is admittedly something he was known for handling…though the quality he would reach is suspect at best). The script was written by Claudio Fragasso based on someone else’s treatment as a Zombi 2 knock off, and Fragasso ended up paired with Mattei to handle the film. Yep, it’s an Italian knock off of an Italian knock off. Unfortunately for them, the studio didn’t do the rewrites they had asked for and already filmed, so their original footage was worthless. They then split up, filmed different things, combined it with other movies, and released it. Considering the conditions, I’m surprised anything works in this movie. The one thing that does? Gore.

This movie absolutely brings the gore, even if everything else is terrible. Zombies snack on folks left and right. The makeup department was largely inspired by Dawn of the Dead‘s blue zombie craze, but many of these zombies have had a good bit of their faces eaten off. Unfortunately it’s not consistent, so you get a mix of great-looking zombies next to folks who look constipated, but when they bite into folks, they take chunks out and then pull out the organs. Want to see an old woman zombie whose house cat has burrowed into her stomach? It’s here! A child zombie eating some guy’s intestines. Oh yeah! Gotta give these guys credit, they did a good job with this. It’s just basically everywhere else that the movie fails.

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