Extreme comics adaptation of Lucio Fulci’s gore classic The Gates of Hell is a visionary work
In this previously published essay, we cited our fervent adoration for Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci’s baroque 1980 gorefest City of the Living Dead, a movie that we will always refer to as The Gates of Hell. And if you’re a fellow fan of the film who had the pleasure of falling in love with it in North America, you’ll know why. It was under that title that Fulci’s operatic surrealist Lovecraftian zombie headtrip was released and circulated under and it just sounds better. Despite the fact that the horror in the film happens in a town, not a city, the American title works because the actual on screen aesthetics of the Gates title card just looks scarier, more ominous. It looks cooler.
Artist, writer and comic visionary Stephen Romano must have thought so too because that’s the name he’s christened his second Fulci film adaption for his jaw-dropping line of “Fulci Comics” in his astounding Eibon Press horror comics imprint. The first issue comes — like the previous title, Zombie, did — inserted into a sturdy slipcase adorned with artist Derek Rook’s delirious alternate art and signed and numbered by the Romano, who wrote, edited and lettered this book.
Like he did with Zombie, Romano uses the original film as a template to expand the story, inventing a perverse mythology only hinted at in Fulci and co-writer Dardano Sachetti’s magnum opus. Like the film, we begin with a seance and the hanging suicide of a demon priest. Except here, the gathering of mediums flashes to a series of panels illustrating subterranean, ritualistic carnage and the priest himself is a emaciated, one-eyed ghoul with his mouth sewn shut. The depravity and ugliness is beautifully drawn by Rook and delivered in an abstract, lyrical way by Romano. It’s as if one has watched The Gates of Hell, drank Mescaline, fallen asleep and hallucinated an entirely new pornographic version of the movie. Remarkable stuff.
The rest of the first issue follows the same formula, re-interpreting characters and set-pieces from the source film, but pushing them into obscene and Bosch-esque extremes. Remember the scene of Catriona MacColl being buried alive and exhumed via pick-axe? That heart-stopping bit is as mild as cricket-pee tea compared to the seething, screaming four-color nightmare splashes onto these slick pages.
The biggest take away I have from absorbing this first issue of Gates of Hell is…more. More. MORE.