Dawn Of The Dead + Wild Discovery—originality = Hell of the Living Dead
If you ever see a movie with the name Bruno Mattei on the cover, run for the hills. Hell of the Living Dead is the only movie I've ever seen by the director, though from just this single effort I can tell that the guy doesn't have a creative bone in his body. A complete rip-off of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead in every sense of the word (including the exact same music score), Hell of the Living Dead is just that: HELL! Starring a bunch of Italian actors that should never be allowed in front of a camera again, this freakish little flick comes to DVD care of Anchor Bay, who should know better (but thank God they don't).
Facts of the Case
When an accident at a local chemical plant unleashes a green, putrid gas, the dead rise to devour the flesh of the living! Soon an elute SWAT team is sent into New Guinea ("Visit beautiful New Guinea! Bask in the sun! Swim in the ocean! Be eaten by the dead!") to contain these creatures of doom. Also along for the ride is a sexy reporter who feels the need to get naked so she can "blend in" with the local tribesman. As expected, the results include lots of people eating each other, shoddy effects, horrid dubbing, and the most ludicrous use of stock footage I've ever seen.
Did you like Romero's Night of the Living Dead? How about the sequels Dawn of the Dead and Day Of The Dead? If so, then you're going to absolutely hate Hell of the Living Dead. This is one of the most ineptly shot films I've ever seen. First off, let me say that Bruno Mattei might be a really nice guy. He may give to charities and volunteer with disabled children. Mattei might be a saint in ever facet of his life. If this is the case, it still doesn't cover up the fact that Mattei is the biggest plagiarist I've ever seen. Shame on him. Hell of the Living Dead is nothing but a cruddy quickie to cash in on Romero's vastly superior zombie trilogy.
I'm going to admit this right off the bat: I fast forwarded though much of Hell of the Living Dead. You would too if you saw how many stretches there are of stock footage of tribesmen dancing or monkeys swinging from trees. From my calculations, Mattei shot around 32 minutes of zombie footage, then stuck in about an hour's worth of cheesy nature footage just as filler. Yes, nothing is more terrifying then hearing Goblin's atmospheric music score over scenes of flying…deadly…EVIL…butterflies. And if that doesn't float your boat, then just wait for the horrific stampede of elephants! AHHHH! Such horror! I went screaming from the room! [Editor's Note: "Why if I had half a chance, I could make an entire movie using this stock footage. The story opens on these mysterious explosions. Nobody knows what's causing them, but it's upsetting all the buffalo. So, the military are called in to solve the mystery."]
The zombie make-up is passable at best. So you've got some guys with their faces dripping off. Big deal. It means very little if there's no story behind the madness. In fact, most of the zombie effects look like they were just thrown in for the hell of it. For you gore hounds there's some nasty footage of a tribal death (and a woman subsequently painting her boobs with her dead husband's (?) blood), as well as some men carving up an animal and pulling out its innards. However, you can see all that stuff free on the National Geographic Channel. At least there you get some educational value out of it. In Hell of the Living Dead, it's all there just to titillate and shock.
Finally, we come to the acting, which is…well, terribly dubbed and amateurish. Need I say more? Let's just wrap this up. Hell of the Living Dead isn't worth your time unless you're a hardcore (and by hardcore I mean either incarcerated or homicidal) zombie fan. This is a bad, bad movie. Even the liner notes state that this is a suck-fest of highest proportions. Stick with Romero's films, or at the very least writer/director Dan O'Bannon's comedic splatter-fest Return of the Living Dead.
Hell of the Living Dead is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film has all the enticement of drinking a urine sample, and the same might be said of the transfer. There are many instances of grain in the picture (mostly due to the cruddy stock footage used throughout the film), and a small amount of edge enhancement shows up during a few key scenes. The bulk of the colors are somewhat muted, though the black levels look solid and well saturated. This is an only slightly passable transfer for a highly un-passable film. The audio is presented in Dolby 1.0 Mono in English. There's nothing impressive about this soundtrack: a lack of fidelity and depth make this mono track flat and uninteresting. No subtitles or alternate soundtracks are included on this disc.
Shockingly, Anchor Bay has thrown on a few extra features for Mattei fans (which includes his immediate family and some guy living in Jersey). To start with there is an all new interview with the director titled "Hell Rats of the Living Dead." This short piece includes lots of clips from the film interlaced with Mattei discussing his influences (i.e. people he stole from) and how he makes his movies. It's never a good sign when a director notes that he's made over fifty films and he wishes he could re-shoot every one of them (don't worry Bruno, you're not alone in that sentiment). This interview piece is dubbed in English for those who don't speak the director's native language of bullshit. Also included is a theatrical trailer for the film, a poster, and still gallery with lots of images from the movie and some promo materials, and a Bruno Mattei biography.
(Insert sarcastic, ramblingly negative statement about the movie here.)
Hell of the Living Dead is found guilty on all counts! Anchor Bay is acquitted because even among the diamonds they're bound to release a few lumps of coal once in a while!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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