|release date||January 20 1984|
|starring||Margit Evelyn Newton, Frank Garfield, Selan Karay, Robert O'Neil|
Hell of the Living Dead begins much like any other zombie flick that you have ever seen. There is a chemical leak at a factory, inept scientists scurrying around, and a hapless worker who ends up getting infected and (in turn) infecting everyone else. There is even a secret government conspiracy to create a serum that is supposed to revolutionize modern warfare as we know it. And for some inexplicable reason, we are transported to a hostage crisis situation in which a SWAT (oops, too much like Dawn of the Dead) “special forces” group take out the terrorists. To make matters “ironic” the last terrorist that they kill foretells them of their impending doom before he is killed.
Soon after that, the scene cuts to a jungle where a photographer and her hapless crew unwittingly fall into the clutches of the undead. We are left to assume that the chemical factory that had the outbreak at the beginning is somewhere near this jungle. The beautiful photographer, Lia (played by Margit Evelyn Newton), along with her cameraman, escape the undead. Luckily, they run into the Special Forces group (who were sent there to contain the factory outbreak and investigate).
This is the beginning of obviously bad dialogue, less than mediocre acting, and a storyline that is thinly veiled, but strangely intriguing. To watch the group try to keep their sanity together as they battle the overwhelming forces of the undead is comical (in a very dark way). The acting is thin. One of the characters, Zantoro (played by Franco Garofalo), spends most of the film teasing the zombies to eat him. He devolves into a caricature of himself near the beginning of the film and continues to spiral downward until (thank God) he is eaten by the zombies himself. Even the look of shock on his face when he is taken is god-awful and very humorous.
The ending of the film, like lots of other zombie films before and after, ends in a very apocalyptic fashion. I am a fan of films that make me think. I especially like films that leave me with an uneasy feeling at the end. Hell of the Living Dead did neither. It seemed as if this film was trying to imitate Dawn of the Dead (right down to ripping off the score by Goblin). However, it did make me laugh. It does have a very campy quality to it. With the grainy jungle stock footage that reminded me of what was done so masterfully in Cannibal Holocaust and a script that had a decent storyline and little else, this film made me long for what it COULD have been rather than what it actually was.
Except for a few laughs, and interesting moody scenes (check out the scene in which they enter a mansion that is somehow stuck in the middle of the jungle) that create the hope of a scary ambiance, this film does disappoint. However, I have found myself watching it on DVD to tap into that guilty pleasure that yens for attention.