Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hell of the Living Dead

Dir. Bruno Mattei, 1980

This is a bad movie. Bad, but not unwatchable. It follows a group of loutish soldiers and the two journalists they've picked up through the jungles of New Guinea on their mission to do...something. They shoot a lot of zombies, drive a jeep, and establish their patriarchal relationship with the primitive tribesmen through a bit of "nude anthropology". It's not exactly original, but it moves through it's video game-like structure (i.e. the jungle level, the house level, the factory level) at a pretty decent clip.

Today, Bruno could probably defend some of his moves under the post-sampling/mashup aesthetic, for example the preponderance of National Geographic-style footage that he clumsily cut in and the fact that he outright jacked the music that Italian synth-prog band Goblin did for Romero's movies for his soundtrack. His directorial pseudonym is "Victor Dawn", and the even the soldiers' uniforms are identical to those of the cops in Dawn of the Dead.

Contribution to the zombie canon: Mattei frames the film with some explication of the zombies' origin, and it's actually pretty good. Instead of the zombies being the result of the dark-skinned natives' hoodoo (as seems to be standard for Fulci and many other jungle-cannibal-zombie-holocaust movies of the 70s), it turns out that they were created by the Western military-industrial complex to depopulate the Third World and presumably free up their resources for the taking. Cue cuts to hilarious U.N. scenes during the climactic carnage.

Favorite moment: Aside from the nude anthropology and bad English-over-Italian dubbing, I liked the dvd interview with Bruno Mattei (titled "Hell Rats of the Living Dead", of course). It just goes to show you that a hack who has the distinguishedness of age, a nice suit, a melodic Italian accent is still a hack. However, though he opens with the statement that all fifty or so of his films are his children, he ends by admitting that he doesn't really like his movies anyway...though he can see why Quentin Tarantino does.

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