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One of the absolute goofiest of the early eighties DAWN OF THE DEAD knock-offs from Italy. However, HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD is not without a fair amount of bad movie charm.

The Package
     The director of this 1980 mess (also known as VIRUS and NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES) was the shameless sleazemeister Bruno Mattei (credited, as he often was in the eighties, as “Vincent Dawn”), who never let things like logic or consistency affect his filmmaking--he’s not referred to as “the Italian Ed Wood” for nothing! Other Mattei atrocities include S.S. GIRLS, THE OTHER HELL and RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR.

The Story
     Workers in a New Guinea chemical plant are at work on an experimental project that quickly goes haywire. Two goofball employees are shocked to find a dead rat in the most sterile section of the plant--but then the rat unexpectedly springs to life and chews up one of the workers! Following this several people in the plant become ravenous zombies who devour their fellow workers.
     In the meantime a gang of terrorists have taken several hostages in the American embassy in New Guinea. The terrorists are taken out by a SWAT Team, but before he dies the head terrorist cryptically informs his killers that they’ll soon be devoured by their own sons and brothers.
     Also afoot are two men, a woman and a young boy whose car breaks down nearby where the SWAT Team is stationed. The two groups join forces in time to witness the young boy devouring his father’s innards, as well as several shambling zombies who have to be shot in the head.
     Looking to interact with the native tribes, the woman strips down and adorns her flesh with native markings. In this way she blends with the natives (who apparently don’t notice her white skin) and learns their village is contaminated with the zombie virus. This fact is confirmed when the group is attacked by native zombies. They attempt to make their way to the ocean, entailing several more zombie attacks and much bad behavior by the supposedly virtuous protagonists. Somehow they end up at the chemical plant where the whole mess began, where they confront its now-entirely zombified workforce.

The Direction
Obviously one doesn’t watch a Bruno Mattei movie expecting “good” cinema, and HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD is far from good. It is fun, however, and for sheer mind-numbing ridiculousness outranks other Mattei yuckfests like RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR (no mean feat!).
     HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD is distinguished by risible acting, patently unconvincing gore effects, mismatched stock footage (taken from an anthropological documentary) and bleached-out photography. There’s also some gratuitous nudity (when the heroine strips down we’re given a loving close-up of her flopping tits) and lingering shots of squirming maggots, an alligator’s innards and zombie extras ravenously devouring what looks like raw steak.
     The noisy synthesizer score was by Goblin, who did the same chores for DAWN OF THE DEAD, the admitted reason they were hired for this film. The proceedings obviously aren’t in the same league as Romero’s masterwork, nor even Lucio Fulci’s 1979 ZOMBIE, which with its jungle setting and extreme gore seems a much greater influence on the present film.

Vital Statistics

Beatrice Film S.R.l.-Films Dara

Director: Bruno Mattei
Producer: Sergio Cortona
Screenplay: Claudio Fragasso, J.M. Cunilles
Cinematography: John Cabrera
Editing: Claudio Borroni
Cast: Margit Evelyn Newton, Frank Garfield, Selan Karay, Jose Gras, Gabriel Renom, Robert O’Neil, Josep Lluis Fonoll, Pietro Fumelli, Bruno Boni, Patrizia Costa, Cesare Di Vito