Hell of the Living Dead (1980) Film Review: What is the Most Stupidly Amazing Zombie Film in History?

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Holy shit guys, have you seen this? My wife was kinda watching this with me. She was doing crafts and not really paying attention. I get the impression that she thought it was pretty stupid. I guess I thought it was stupid too; I thought it was stupidly amazing, and here’s why.

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This is the second film I have reviewed for this site from director Bruno Mattei. I did one for Rats: Nights of Terror about three months ago. It was in that review that I also mentioned how this filmmaker is notorious for creating tons of films on microscopic budgets. I would like the reader to note that for this review I have not watched a making of documentary of the film. I am only assuming, based on his reputation, that Mattei got pretty creative when it came to making this film happen.

The most glaring budgetary loophole in this film was the use of an amazing amount of stock footage. It seemed as if the scenes with the tribal folks were torn directly from a National Geographic documentary. They were so roughly edited into the film that the cuts were actually a distraction. I found myself blown away by how bad this looked; yet, I could not bring myself to look away. Like other Mattei films, he was obviously working to quickly capitalize on what was popular at the time. He has made films in every genre of exploitation cinema. This is one of a few of his attempts at the zombie film. Specifically, Hell of the Living Dead seems like it is his zombie film that simultaneously wanted to capitalize on the cannibal craze.

The first portion of the film seems like it is going to follow along the lines of the Italian zombie films of the time. It has some pretty good music, nice gore effects, and lots of action. It is only when it makes its absurd jump to the jungles that it almost becomes a different film. At this point the viewer doesn’t know if they are watching a voodoo zombie movie or a virus zombie movie. At this point, though, who really cares? What we’re really looking for is the two most important aspects of the zombie film, blood and gore. So despite the fact that it is a completely absurd film, it does a great job with blood and gore.

Sadly, it is not the blood and gore that makes it stand out. What makes this film stand out among other zombie films is the incredibly stupid dialogue. The voice over stuff doesn’t bother me. I know there will always be some kind of dialect issues when translating for films. This film, however, has so much absurd dialogue, one would almost think it was purposely written this way. The good thing about this is the fact that sometimes, this is exactly the film for which I am looking. These types of horror films are my comedies. I love making fun of the word choice, dialogue, and translations. While my wife wants to watch Anchorman over and over again, I could watch a film like this a hundred times to fulfill my comedic desires. Most people, however, will find the dialogue distracting, thus hurting their opinion of the film.

Despite the fact that I loved this film on the day I watched it, it is still only worth owning because you can find it very cheap. Only the zombie fanatic really needs to own this film. There may also be a market for the Italian film fan or even the soundtrack fanatic. This is a pretty specific audience though. These factors make me think that I really can’t go higher than a 3/5 on this film for the common viewer. It is only because I am a zombie fanatic that it was a must-own for me. I would caution a buyer, however, to really pay attention to what they like before buying this film.

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2 thoughts on “Hell of the Living Dead (1980) Film Review: What is the Most Stupidly Amazing Zombie Film in History?”

  1. Was this, in fact, your first viewing? I’m not usually a big fan of “so bad it’s good” movies, but the ineptitude on display here is something special. it sails right past inept and straight on into surreal. I believe you have the right idea treating it as a comedy. Did you notice during all the stock footage that the accompanying animal sounds often don’t match the animal in the footage? I love the even-more-slight-than-usual reason for the non-native boob exposure in Hell Of The Living Dead, too.

    Like

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