Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

Hell of the Living Dead (1980) movie poster

director Bruno Mattei
viewed: 10/19/2015

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet


How about Virus? or Zombie Inferno? or Night of the Zombies?  or Zombie Creeping Flesh?

Yes, Hell of the Living Dead would indeed smell as sweet.

Bruno Mattei’s wacky zombie flick is equal parts bizarre, terrible, racist, and really cool.  Purportedly set in Papua-New Guinea though looking much more as if Papua-New Guinea was set somewhere in Africa, this zombie contagion is a man-made one, a altruistic corporate experiment gone awry.  Starting with a zombie rat, the badness spreads throughout the land, infecting the natives.  Only a team of scientist/filmmakers and a special forces elite team seem to be able to track the course of the disease.

Peppered throughout with stock footage from other films, notably Barbet Schroeder’s La Vallée (1972), Hell gets its geography and fauna all mixed up.  And the natives?  Ouch, the natives.  It almost verges into “Mondo” or cannibal film territory, but with a very European/Western judgmentalism in the camera’s eye.

But then it’s got lots of weird shocks and moments of gruesomeness.  The kid zombie was a nice touch, especially the brutal handling of him.  It bounces back and forth between flashes of absurdist offence (amazingly glib sexism) to near Surrealist weirdness (the soldier who dances with a dress — what was supposed to be going on there?) to cheap effects and some surprisingly good effects.

This is definitely one of those films that is hard to affix a star rating onto.  So bad yet quite entertaining throughout.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *