A Cat in the Brain (1990)

Cat in the BrainThe film opens with Dr. Lucio Fulci sitting in his deep, almost trance-like concentration as he writes down a series of murder scenes for his new, gory horror film. As he groans like Freddy Krueger while he writes, we hear his inner voice describing what to expect for the next 90 minutes:

 

A woman hacked to death with an axe … her face cleaved in half…another strangled… yet another hanged… someone chopped to bits by a chainsaaaw … or drowned in boiling water, or throat torn out by a maddened cat! Buried alive! Tortured! Scarred! Stabbed! Sawed in two! Crucified! Decapitated…

 

There’s no room for any imagination here, so we dive right into a bizarre, messy scene where we see some cats chewing on a big, mushy brain. The cats are clearly prop effects since they obviously didn’t find one, single cat who would eat that nasty-looking shit. But if you’re still hungry, we’re only one minute into the film, and this is just an appetizer.

 

Then we see some guy in a basement, cutting a fresh corpse to pieces with a chainsaw while we hear classic music playing. He makes some of the flesh into a nice steak that he eats together with some red wine, while he watches some weird fetish porn on TV. The rest of the corpse gets thrown to the pigs. And what we just witnessed was Lucio Fulci transferring his latest draft of the screenplay into his new cinematic masterpiece. A regular day in Fulci land, in other words, and business as usual. Now it’s time for lunch.

 

And as you have probably figured out by now, Lucio Fulci plays himself as the aging, legendary “Godfather of Gore” who shows no sign of slowing down, physically, at least. But his mind, however, seems to loosing its grips as he begins to see morbid visions from his films, left and right. He can’t suddenly enjoy meat anymore, as he gets flashbacks from his own films. Then his neighbour turns into a madman soaked in blood who threatens him with his chainsaw, and he also soon starts witnessing women getting brutally killed.

 

A Cat in the Brain

 

We soon learn that all of this is just hallucinations and mind-games, carefully orchestrated by his shady psychiatrist, Egon Schwarz, who hypnotizes Fulci to make him believe that he’s gotten influenced by his own films to kill people.  Why, you ask? It’s too easy to guess, and what could be a decent plot-twist, is already wasted thirty minutes in.

 

But we’re not first and foremost watching a Fulci flick for the plot, are we…  we’re here for the gore, the juicy stuff, and that’s what you get. Limbs and heads gets sawed off, a head gets melted in a microwave, tongues get ripped off, there’s Hitchcock-style stabbing, and of course one of Lucio Fulcis’s trademark with slimy corpses with maggots, and much more. We also have several scenes with some sleazy nudity, and a Nazi orgy scene if the shock values already wasn’t enough. It’s complete and utter madness. But if you’re looking for some scares, just forget about it. The tone here is completely off with some eye-rolling killing scenes with “In the Hall of the Mountain King” playing on block-flute. It’s a comedy, I know. But still…

 

This is far from the same level as his earlier films, for sure, and considering that this was one of his final films and way past the golden era of Italian horror films, and produced by a TV company, it should be no surprise. There’s no atmosphere here, no time for any stylish visuals, and hardly no time to write a script. Fulci’s script for the film was on 49 pages with no dialogues, and consisted of descriptions of bodily mutilations/imagery and sound effects. So there you have it. It’s fast and cheap and out of control, with a more and more confused Lucio Fulci wandering from the next gory scenario to the other to show as much blood and guts as possible. And we are as puzzled as he is, for the most part. And as sloppy the film is on the technical aspects, and not to mention the schlocky acting, it’s still one of Fulci’s truly entertaining films with a lot of awesome and fun moments.  Fulci also seemed to have a blast playing himself in his own world of insanity, and makes himself an amusing character to watch.

 

A Cat in the Brain is available both on DVD and Blu-ray from Grindhouse Releasing and 88 Films.

 

A Cat in the Brain A Cat in the Brain A Cat in the Brain

 

Director: Lucio Fulci
Original title: Un gatto nel cervello
Country & year: Italy, 1990
Actors: Lucio Fulci, Brett Halsey, Ria De Simone, David L. Thompson, Sacha Darwin, Jeoffrey Kennedy, Robert Egon, Malisa Longo, Shilett Angel, Paola Cozzo, Adriana Russo, Luciana Ottaviani, Paul Muller
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0099637/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manhattan Baby (1982)

Manhattan BabyWe are in Giza, Egypt, where the archaeologist George finds a stone tablet with mysterious writings which he believes is the answer to an ancient riddle that is linked to the tomb nearby. He enters the tomb with a guide who falls right into one of the traps with spikes, while George is attacked by dark forces that shoot two cheesy neon-laser beams in his eyes, which makes him temporarily blind. At the same time his wife and daughter are tourists in the local area, where Susie meets a mysterious blind lady who offers her to buy an antique amulet before she cryptically says “tombs are for the dead” and disappears into thin air like a ghost.

 

Then we cut back home in Manhattan, New York, in an apartment complex where we are introduced to Susie’s annoying little brother, Tommy (most known as Bob from (The House By the Cemetery). The amulet is around Susie’s neck, which soon turns out to be a cursed object (who could ever imagine), and lots of weird things start to happen. The apartment transforms into some kind of warp zone that teleports people to the desert area we saw in the beginning, and things such as scorpions, poisonous snakes and desert sand appears in the apartment while Susie loses her mind and gets possessed by the dark forces of the amulet.

 

And we also get a completely random scene were some random dude falls through an elevator floor. Just because.

 

As mentioned, the blonde kid from The House by the Cemetery shows up, with far more screentime and dialogues. Uh-oh. And if you thought his dubbing was bad in the aforementioned film, they managed to fuck it up even worse here, believe it or not. I laughed and chuckled every time he opened his mouth, but since the film itself is an incoherent goofball which is hard to take seriously anyway, it didn’t ruin or distract my attention from anything, really. So, yeah, Manhattan Baby is clearly one of Lucio Fulci’s weaker films when it comes to tone, pacing and…well, the absent of any logic when it’s actually needed. It isn’t totally hopeless, though, and just to repeat myself as I always do when I’m talking about a Fulci film, it has some great qualities among the cheesyness. The horror elements sticks out with some gory scenes, as always, with the highlight being a scene with some attacking stuffed birds (with the wires clearly visible). There’s a great soundtrack, competent camerawork, and a dose of atmosphere.  I especially liked the Egyptian scenes which are beautifully shot. And of course there’s no Fulci film without a countless use of obsessive eyes-close-ups.

 

Manhattan Baby

 

Director: Lucio Fulci
Country & year: Italy, 1982
Actors: Christopher Connelly, Laura Lenzi, Brigitta Boccoli, Giovanni Frezza, Cinzia de Ponti, Cosimo Cinieri, Andrea Bosic, Carlo De Mejo, Enzo Marino Bellanich, Mario Moretti, Lucio Fulci, Tonino Pulci
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0084298/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

The House by the Cemetery

We’re in New England where Dr. Norman, Lucy and their son Bob moves to a big old victorian house, which by a coincidence lies right by a cemetery. How cozy. One of the former residents was a surgeon in the Victorian era, who did some really shady experiments in the house’s basement. And on top of that, his last name was Freudstein. Nothing bad could ever happen here, right?

 

Bob starts seeing visions of a mysterious girl with a doll, who says it was a stupid idea to come here, which has to be one of the first The Shining references. His parents do not believe in him (of course they don’t) and his mother is already struggling with her emotional problems while she refuses to take any medicine. After they have entered the house and started unpacking, the babysitter, Ann, comes in, straight from nowhere. A young lady with a menacing stare, ready to trigger Lucio Fulci’s eye fetish to its full maximum. And as soon the door to the basement is open, so is the can of worms.

 

House by the Cemetery is Fulci’s last part of the “Gates of Hell” trilogy, where he mixes zombies with the supernatural. This has a more of a cohesive narrative compared to The Beyond and City of the Living Dead, but is really slow at times with scenes that just seem to drag on forever. We get a long scene with a bat that could have been cut down to ten seconds, where it cuts straight to a guy who starts the scene with a yawn. Talk about timing. The kid who plays Bob has one of the most ridiculously out of place dubbing ever, that unfortunately ruins every scene he’s in, which just adds far more chuckles and eye-rolling than tension. It’s not the actors fault, but the movie would gain a lot just to remove the dub with a better one.

 

It’s not my favorite Fulci film, but far from the worst, and it has some great qualities. The soundtrack is good, in which the intro tunes give some serious Castlevania vibes. The technical aspects are pretty solid, with its thick, moody and sometimes gothic atmosphere, just as the predecessors. And several messy gory scenes, filled with maggots, of course.

 

The House by the Cemetery

 

Director: Lucio Fulci
Original title: Quella villa accanto al cimitero
Country & year: Italy, 1981
Actors: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander, Dagmar Lassander, Daniela Doria, Giampaolo Saccarola, Carlo De Mejo, Kenneth A. Olsen, Elmer Johnsson, Ranieri Ferrara
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0082966/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beyond (1981)

The Beyond (1981)

We’re in a hotel room in Louisiana, and the year is 1927. A thunderous evening is setting in as the artist Schweick (Antoine Saint-John) is brushing his last strokes on his latest grotesque painting, which is also to be his final. The painting is apparently representing Hell, and the locals believe that Schweick is an evil, ungodly warlock that uses the painting to open one of the Seven Gates of Hell. The hotel is said to be built upon one of the gates, and a group of men in full mob-mode storms the hotel and into Schweick’s room to stop him. They drag him down to the basement to cut him up with a chain before bolting him to the wall and torturing him to death. But what they didn’t know is that the sacrifice of the artist just opened the gate, and the dead from beyond are now free to enter the world of the living.

 

Then we jump forward to the year 1981, where Liza Merill (Catriona MacColl) has inherited the hotel and is in the process of a renovation, after the building has been empty and collecting dust and cobwebs for the last six decades . Shit already starts to happen when one of the workers see a female figure with big, scary, glossy eyes through one of the windows. In shock, he stumbles off the scaffold and almost crushes his skull. The alarm from room 36 suddenly starts to ring, even though the hotel has no costumers. This happens to be the same room where the artist we saw in the beginning was working on his painting. It goes from bad to worse when plumber Joe is brutally killed by demonic forces in the water damaged basement as he finds a secret room behind some worn stone walls. Liza bumps into a mysterious blind lady, Emily (Cinzia Monreale), who advises her to give up the hotel and go back where she came from, without being able to explain exactly why. And more questions than answers arise when Liza learns from Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck) that he has never heard of this blind woman Emily, and that her house has been empty for decades.

 

The Beyond is the second film in Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy. And although the plot may be somewhat diffuse, The Beyond works on more levels than the previous and rather clunky City of the Living Dead. More steadier and focused direction and not least, the acting is significantly better. And The Beyond works perfectly for what it is: an atmospheric, nightmarish fever dream with some really intense and morbidly gory moments. Faces are being melted with acid and eaten by spiders. A girl with pigtails gets her head blown away, eyes being plucked out and so on. Juicy stuff by the great makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi, who’s also worked on Zombie Flesh-Eaters, and a mountain of other films. Also, great and fitting soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi, I must add.

 

The Beyond is also known for its highly visual ending sequence, which was actually planned to be filmed somewhere in an amusement park. But due to logistical restrictions, Fulci had to find an other way to end it and had to quickly improvise. And with reduced budget and resources comes more creative thinking. And I must say that the plan B-ending was a pretty simple, but genius move that sets a unique and satisfying climax.

 

For a completely uncut version, look for a DVD/Blu-ray from Grindhouse Releasing.

 

The Beyond

 

Director: Lucio Fulci
Original title: …E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà
Country & year: Italy, 1981
Actors: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Larry Ray, Giovanni De Nava, Al Cliver, Michele Mirabella, Giampaolo Saccarola, Maria Pia Marsala, Laura De Marchi
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0082307/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City of the Living Dead (1980)

City of the Living Dead (1980)City of the Living Dead is the first part of the Lucio Fulci Gates of Hell trilogy, which followed up with The Beyond and House By the Cemetery. But apart from sharing the theme of the dead being brought to life, with some small doses of inspiration from H.P Lovecraft and with actress Catriona MacColl starring in all three, they work well as separate films.

 

The film starts at a cemetery in the small town of Dunwich where a priest hangs himself, and reappears as an evil deathstaring zombie. At the same time, Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) witnesses a New York apartment suicide during a vision under a seance, which scares her to death. Yes, literally to death. And why, you might ask? Well, because his act of sin causes all the dead in the cemetery of Dunwich to rise from the dead as zombies. And these are not the traditional carnivorous zombies…here, they have the ability to teleport themselves and use telekinesis to make people bleed tears and spew up their own inner organs. Miss Woodhouse’s death is seen as a mysterious case, which captures the curiosity of newspaper journalist Peter Bell (Christopher George). The day she is to be buried, he sneaks around the cemetery when she suddenly comes alive in the coffin and screams. Peter hacks up the coffin to save her, but unlike the ordinary dead who resurrects as zombies, Mary wakes up like from a normal night’s sleep and is straight back into her old self again. Well, good for her. After they learn that the gates of hell must be closed and this evil priest must be stopped, they take a roadtrip to Dunwich. And this must happen before All Saint’s Day. If not, the dead will take over the world.

 

Meanwhile, the evil priest has already started terrorizing Dunwich, while rubbing mud filled with worms in peoples faces as he teleports around the city. While strange and macabre things continue to happen in the city, a group of men sit in the local pub, suspecting Bob, the city’s outcast who has a taste for inflatable sex dolls, to be behind all of this. And this side plot with Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) is completely useless which is nothing but filler scenes that could easily have been cut out. Even though City of the Living Dead doesn’t work all that well with its serious pacing issues, the film has some great ghoulish atmosphere with a fitting soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi, who’s scored several of Fulci’s films. There’s also several memorable gory scenes to enjoy, and some of the actors were dedicated enough to get isolated in a room to be attacked by ten kilos of maggots via two wind machines. Trivia: one of the crew members decided to pull a prank on Mr. Fulci by stuffing some of the maggots in his pipe tobacco. Everyone but Fulci found it funny and he blamed the incident on the heart surgery he had years later with health problems that escalated to ventricular aneurysm, contracted viral hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. No more maggots on set, I guess. And of course don’t forget the drinking game: take a shot every time there’s a close-up of the actors eyes, and you’ll surely die of alcohol poisoning before the first twenty minutes. In advance, rest in peace.

 

City of the Living Dead

 

Director: Lucio Fulci
Original title: Paura nella città dei morti viventi
Country & year: Italy, 1980
Actors: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Daniela Doria, Fabrizio Jovine, Luca Venantini, Michele Soavi, Venantino Venantini, Enzo D’Ausilio, Adelaide Aste, Luciano Rossi, Robert Sampson, Janet Agren
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0081318/

 

 

Tom Ghoul