Gruesome Galleries: 1980’s HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD



SHOCK splats out a stack of shots from 1980’s cannibal zombie epic HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD.

We lost the veteran Italian exploitation filmmaker Bruno Mattei in 2007 and he left behind a hefty body of work, movies that largely mimicked other (and better) films and were often astonishing in their delirious, go-for-broke, exploitative brashness.

Among his mid-period efforts sits his 1980 film HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD, an early collaboration with writer and eventual director Claudio Fragasso (TROLL II) that aimed to trade on the success of George A. Romero’s 1978 landmark DAWN OF THE DEAD and its Italian ripoff, Lucio Fulci’s revered 1979 opus ZOMBI 2.

HELL, however is something of a jewel midst the Romero riffs. Not only does it sport a SWAT team that wear similar (yet far shoddier) costumes to DAWN’s chief protagonists, but it clones the opening raid on the building and the producers even licensed the exact same iconic Goblin score for the film! Other Goblin cues from Luigi Cozzi’s 1980’s CONTAMINATION and Joe D’Amato’s 1979’s BUIO OMEGA also pop up in the key places, but it’s those alarming DAWN cues ladled liberally over endless scenes of flesh-eating that really push HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (aka VIRUS, NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES and ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH) into the terror-film twilight zone.

Credited under his pseudonym “Vincent Dawn”, Mattei’s magnum opus sees that gaggle of SWAT schmucks romping around Spain, firing at Eco-terrorists before jetting off to Papua-New Guinea to check on a Government-sanctioned lab whose aim was to find a “final solution” to third world hunger. Instead, a chemical spill sets off a zombie virus that spreads all over the jungle, with our truly insipid heroes then teaming up with a comely reporter (Margit Evelyn Newton) to evade the massive legion of walking dead…not to mention a National Geographic-worthy miasma of grainy animal stock footage inserted every 5 minutes to beef up the running time. Incidentally, much of this footage was in fact spliced in from director Barbet Schroeder’s 1972 film OBSCURED BY CLOUDS, a movie most famous for having a score composed by space-rock legends PINK FLOYD!

HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD is a typically tone-deaf Mattei affair but its status as one of the most shockingly gory films of its kind is secure.

Feast on this series of fetid photos from the film and see for yourself!




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