Hell of the Living Dead (Review)

Hell of the Living Dead

aka Virus

1980
Starring
Margit Evelyn Newton as Lia Rousseau
Franco Garofalo as Zantoro
Selan Karay as Max
Directed by Bruno Mattei

Low budget Italian Xerox copy of Dawn of the Dead, except this machine is out of toner and keeps giving a “PC Load Letter” error. Large portions of this film are just completely ridiculous, and I’m not talking about the fact the dead is rising to eat the living. If I were to take out the stock footage, the film would be around twenty minutes long. The long scenes are made even longer by their consistent slow motion state. Why bring attention to the stock by dragging it out and separating it from the rest of the inane film? Italy is known for making low budget rip offs of US films, especially around this time when they were pumping out hundreds of films, most of which had quick lives if they even made it to theaters before they helped found the video cassette boom of the eighties. In this case, someone figured that if they took Dawn of the Dead and added a few cannibal scenes, they’d score two genres for the price of one! Instead, they got an incomprehensible mess that succeeds only in spectacular failure on all fronts. So put on a tutu and top hat, grab your cane, and get ready to live the Hell of the Living Dead!




On a secret government facility in the darkest heart of New Guinea, (New Guinea?) an experiment is brewing. What is going on? Well, some technicians are banging away on what looks like a crazy quilt combination of Enterprise bridge panels in an attempt to look like NASA with ADD. What does this accomplish? Who knows, the director was hoping that if the extras looked like they knew what they were doing, you’d think it was all “SCIENCE!!!” and go with it. The whole thing is monitored by some white-haired scientist named Professor Barret, who fritters around like there’s so much science going on he doesn’t know where to start. Two technicians wearing radiation suits also stolen from Star Trek are checking pipes for something or other, as we’ve had zero explanation as to what is happening at this point, nor will we until after this rat attack, where one technician get a rat in his suit, who precedes to tear him to shreds. I never knew rats were that vicious or deadly. His friend just stands there watching. The attack caused a pipe to get knocked loose, and soon gas is flooding everywhere. This causes the newly dead technician to get up and snack on his companion, who deserved it for allowing him to be killed by Mickey. The leak causes the technicians back at the control panel room to begin freaking out, a team is sent in to investigate, and they get eaten as scientists in this movie have reaction reflexes that cause them to just stand around as horrible monsters approach and attack. Professor Barret manages to get to his office where he records a message before he is overtaken with gas and becomes a zombie himself where he asks “May God forgive us…” We also find out the program was called “Project Sweet Death” so I can only conclude they were making Nutri-sweet.

Enough of the Zombies, we land now in a completely different movie. This one is a Seventies hostage drama, where a gang loosely patterned after the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) except double the dumb has taken over the US consulate. So it appears we’re done pretending we’re in the US. The police cars all have “Espanola” written on the side, showing the Spanish/Italian origin of the picture. The terrorist organization makes a bunch of demands showing that they are eco-terrorists, in a world before the idiots from ELF and ALF and PeTA oozed into the forefront. None of the actors appears to have ever held a gun before in their lives, which means their deaths will be even quicker. And how. The Police, lead by Interpol, don’t bother to try to negotiate, they just stall until they send in their special forces. The special forces team is four people, who get in through the roof, and up and slit the guard’s throat without even trying to take him prisoner. The special squad is called “special” because only “special” people would get hair like theirs, at least from what I can determine. Interpol gasses the building and then goes in shooting. The terrorists are all killed without trial, and the dying leader curses the Special Squad so that they will be killed by being eaten by their fellow man. Not a curse to take lightly when you are in a Zombie movie. You could interpret it that the Terrorist just wanted the Squadmates to have their jobs taken by more ambitious people, but where is the fun in watching a movie about that?

The Interpol Squad gets sent on their vacation, to the tropics, and they end up stuck in some native boneyard in the middle of the jungle. Enough of that noise, it’s Movie Number Three time, as a family is driving around the jungle. They have a small boy with them, as well as a reporter and cameraman boyfriend who are tagging along for some unknown reason. The small boy is injured due to a gigantic gash in his stomach, and is close to death, so the parents move him around a lot so he’ll bleed more easily or something. They get to a mission, but it looks like it’s abandoned. The TV crew goes to look around, while the father yells at everyone because he’s a failure. His wife gets mad at him and wanders off herself, leaving the kid to slowly die in daddy’s arms while daddy is mentally breaking down. The mother finds a priest, except he’s now a zombie! Finally, some action. More action as the son dies, and then becomes a zombie immediately, and looks hungrily at daddy’s neck. The Reporter, named Lia Rousseau and her Cameraman wander around some, before zombies appear and start shuffling toward them. They scream and run. Eventually, the Interpol Squad arrives to investigate the mission, and sees the zombies. They shoot them repeatedly, but the zombies don’t die easily. Eventually, they figure out to shoot them in the head. Or so you think. Despite them mentioning it repeatedly throughout the film, they rarely bother to do it, instead wasting hundreds of rounds shooting into the chests of zombies not three feet away. Again, they are the “special” squad, it seems. Even worse, during the firefight and subsequent execution of the zombie son, Lia is wandering around calmly looking for the mother, who eventually pops up as another zombie. The Interpol Squad takes the reporters with them as they go on their mission. Even though they were on vacation. Looks like something made it past the script rewrite, or when they were translating they just wrote random things down.

Some scientists in Who Knows Where have some scenes where they explain what is going on. What is going on is Zombies in New Guinea, I believe, but sometimes the stock footage looks like Africa. There is a Guinea in Africa, but one of the monitors mentions New Guinea. So Papua New Guinea is in trouble, at least for now, until the stock footage shows the African Guinea. Just pretend it’s magic! To drive in the point that they are in the jungle, jungle animals are shown for stock shots, including such exotic animals as monkeys (I don’t think monkeys are on Papua New Guinea, but I could be wrong), bats, Barn Owls (Barn Owls in the Jungles of Southeast Asia?), some sort of diving bird, a hopping rat thing that gets eaten by a fox, and a Blyth’s hornbill (native to Indonesia, so they got this one right, even though there are African Hornbills, good job movie!) The movie returns to New Guinea, where Lia is revealed to be an expert on the natives, having spent a year with them. She goes ahead to see if it is safe for them, and in doing so rips off her top and paints herself up all native like. Then she wanders around the various stock shots of natives wandering around, crying at a funeral, and wearing clay masks. Some of these shots look like they’re from Africa, some from New Guinea. We also get a few shots of animal mutilation, showing the film was making reference to the terrible Italian Cannibal films that had lots of animals being killed by natives. Eventually, she’s mauled by a bunch of extras who aren’t stock shots, which means it’s safe for them to enter. The village decides the visitors are there to help them, so they have a goofy ceremony. Meanwhile, One of the Special Squad members who I think is named Vincent wanders around outside, observing a woman eat maggots out of a skull, and soon Lia joins him as they look at the beauty of the native village, what with it’s maggot skulls, dead bodies (they won’t bury the dead) and smells. Right about now is when the Barn Owl appears in stock shots, and I am wondering where Hedwig is taking a letter from Harry Potter on this day. Soon the secluded character development is ruined by ZOMBIE ATTACK!

Zombies overrun the village, and the terrified natives just run around screaming and getting chomped on. Human flesh seems to act like playdoh when the zombies grab a hold of your limbs. The Special Squad and the Reporters get back in their jeeps and run off, leaving the village to be decimated. Good job helping, guys! A little later, the team is prepared to dump the reporters, but Lia pulls a gun and they have a Mexican Standoff (except they ain’t got no Mexicans, just Italians pretending to soldiers) Lia mentions she’s shot a rapist before, and we get stock shots of Elephants, who are not from Papua New Guinea but are found in Africa, so it seems we just jumped back across the globe again. Who knew that the New Guinean forest is full of tiny wormholes? At this time we shall also point out there has been little character development with the Special Squad. So far, all we know is one guy is sort of the leader, and another guy looks a lot like him to the point that I’m confused as to who is who. One of them is named Vincent, but not sure which. There is also Zantoro, who is crazyish. The final member looks like Gene Wilder with long balding hair and bad teeth. None of these people are that distinct, and you can see what we in America take for granted, the stereotypes as soldiers shortcut. If this was an American production, we’d have the squad be made up of a blue-eyed square jawed hero type, a guy named Tex (from Texas), a black guy who fights “Da man” and a nerdy guy with glasses who figures everything out but gets killed before the ending. Instead, we just get four dirty, oily Italians.

The standoff ends, zombies arrive and Max the Camera Guy tries to get some more camera footage and wanders right next to the zombies. No one is killed in this scene, though Zantoro acts crazy for a while. Then they just drive off. Back in the rest of the world, the UN meets about the zombie crisis. The UN meets in a college lecture hall, and has a 90% absenteeism rate, according to this picture. The Ambassador from New Guinea is a stereotypical African man dressed in African robes, a common sight in Southeast Asia. He gives a speech about how his country is destroyed and boo-hoo, I’d be crying except the movie can’t make up it’s mind which country they are ruining.

Back with the bungle in the jungle, they find a house built in the middle of the jungle by some wealthy white British family that seemed to want to get away from it all. Gene Wilder Guy goes downstairs, and puts on a tutu and hat, then gets eaten by zombies that swarm out from all directions. Zombies swarm from outside, and start to grab Lia. The Squadleader looks, pauses, states “Damn Bastards,” pauses some more, then finally remembers he should help her. Somehow, she isn’t eaten, and they start shooting the zombies. The Special Squad has amnesia, and forgets to shoot them in the head, wasting hundreds of thousands of rounds. Zantoro acts crazy again, and they survivors leave, heading to a dried riverbed. The haunting image of an decapitated doll’s head is far creepier than anything else in this movie. I’d have rathered the movie be about creepy dolls that attack people. That would make a good movie, a creepier Chucky. The group reaches the Factory from the beginning of the movie, which is swarming with scientist zombies. Max gets eaten as the squad lets him, not caring the least. Zantoro is also turned into zombie kibble. Lia then discovers the Factory was working on a solution to overpopulation by having people eat each other.

Excuse me?

They were making a gas that would make people eat each other? Who thought of this? The Soylent Green Lobby? If only Charlton Heston was in this movie to save us all. Alas…

No one will ever find out what happened, since the rest of the group is also eaten, the zombies win.

Back in America (aka Italy) Zombies show up there as well! It’s doom! DOOOOOM!!!

Actually, that ending sucked, and was easily forecasted.

Now, where in the Universe was this movie supposed to take place? Guinea or New Guinea? The movie played them like they were interchangeable, yet they just left us more confused. Ignoring the ripped off Goblin soundtrack, the ripped off Dawn of the Dead plot, the ripped of cannibal movie scenes, the ripped off slo-mo footage, the horrendous dubbing, and we have nothing left but a bunch of confusion. The movie is what we would get if someone was a zombie, watched Dawn of the Dead, and then tried to write the screenplay from memory. The film even follows Dawn in having lots of different versions and titles, such as: Virus,Cannibal Virus, Hell of the Living Dead, Inferno dei morti-viventi, Night of the Zombies, Zombi 4, Zombi 5: Ultimate Nightmare, Zombie Creeping Flesh, Zombie Inferno, and Zombie of the Savanna. The many titles have made me confused, I feel like I just watched five week’s worth of movies.

Rated 3/10 (Stock Natives, Jungle Owl, The spookiest thing in this film….so spooky…)


Hey, we have a special treat! A quick Interview with a cast member. Done by special guest interviewer, Minya, son of Godzilla! Let’s get started!

Hello, we have a special guest here today, Zombie #345234! Welcome, Zombie #345234!
Mrrruuuhhh!
Zombie #345234, please help us out, what country did this film take place in?
Nyuuuhh!
“New Guinea”? But why all the shots from Africa?
Maarrggh!
New Guinea isn’t in Africa! What idiot’s brains have you been eating?
AAAARRRRRUUUUUUUHHHHHUUURRRHHHAAAUUUHHH!!!!
Okay, okay, calm down! What was the message of this film? Was it a call to action against big government, a damning piece against traditionalism vs. emergency measures, or anti-radicalism?
Fuuuubbbbuuuugggllllleeelllll
Fascinating! Now we must ask, why brains?
MMMMUUURRAAAGGGHH!! MuuuUUuuuuu
Wait, where are you going, Zombie #345234? Hey, put down that small child! No, Bad Zombie #345234! Children are not for eating! Somebody call the Zombie Handlers! I knew this was a bad idea. I’m getting in the chopper and hanging out at the mall for now, see you next interview!

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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!