Let’s face it, most horror movies are bad and nonsensical. But what happens when a bad, nonsensical movie becomes known as a classic? What makes us like The Gates of Hell so much more than Wishcraft, just to pick something at random off my shelf?
I can’t answer that question, because somewhere out there is a person who considers Wishcraft to be the finest horror film ever committed to celluloid, God bless ’em. What I can do is try to process The Gates of Hell by writing about it, which is pretty much the only way I know how.
I’m probably the last person on earth to see this film, although I’ve wanted to see it since I was a ten year old sneaking around the video store looking at the box art. I remember it had some pretty damn cool box art, and if I’m not mistaken, one of those warnings I spoke of in an earlier post. Would that the zombies in the movie had actually been that cool.
So there’s no shortage of reviews saying this movie makes not a lick of sense, and everyone loves it anyway lest they be shouted down by the fashion commentators in the court of the proverbial emperor. I have just four things to say which may not have been said. First, I was drawn to the reporter, Peter, played by Christopher George, from the beginning. He was so easy going, he was almost like a person who had achieved enlightenment. The cop outside the house where Mary (Katherine MacColl) fell dead told him to hit the bricks, he left. The gravediggers told him to buzz off, he buzzed. And instead of running in fright when he heard Mary screaming in her coffin, he dug her up. He also believed every bit of her story and personally took her to find the city of Dunwich. (I was more than half hoping that because it was off the map, the town didn’t exist on this plane of existence a la 2000 Maniacs, and maybe the story would make more sense if this was the case.) So this reporter fella, he was the Christ figure my college profs insisted there existed in every story, whether the writer liked it or not. He saved Mary and in turn saved the whole world via Gerry’s (Carlo De Mejo) eventual termination of the zombie/ghost evil priest. He even died in his quest to save the world. I believe the priest symbolizes the conflict between Christianity and religion, the first being pure and the second being corrupt. To go the way of the church, that is to say, of man and sin, leads to eternal death in a hell of sentient anger and suffering.
Secondly, and less English 401ishly, when the guy got the drill through the head his jaws clamped shut as he died. This reminds me of the scene in the novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redmption” when Andy’s attackers were trying to force him to blow one of them by holding a knife to his head; he informs them that a person who receives a traumatic brain injury often clamps their jaws so tightly a crowbar would be needed to open them. So you wouldn’t want to stab a guy in the head while he was sucking your dick. I don’t know if this is true, but it is notable that Fulci had the actor (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) clamp his jaws at the point of death when most people doing a death scene go slack.
Third, I read a lot of complaints about the teleporting zombies. I actually liked this device because it lends credence to my idea about Dunwich existing on more than one plane and leaves us to determine whether they were in fact traditional zombies or whether they were spirits.
Finally, you all know you watched this movie to see the chick (Daniela Doria) vomit up her intestines whether you admit it or not. Would anyone care for some sausage?