Wednesday, August 13, 2014

HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) / RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR (1984)

HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) / RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR (1984) 

Label: Blue Underground

Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 196 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD Mono with Optional English SDH, French, Spanish Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Bruno Mattei
Cast: Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Ottaviano Dell'Acqua, Geretta Geretta


Director Bruno Mattei had quite a hard-on for George Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD when he made this Italian splatter-classic. Not just copping the blue-skinned zombies but also borrowing the iconic Goblin score - watching this you cannot help but know this gory number owes a a lot to uncle Romero. What you're about to see will not be good but it is certainly an entertaining slice of turd-cinema. 


The story such as it is begins as a scientist accidentally unleashes a zombie plague upon the people of New Guinea when a ravenous rat chows down on one of the science nerds - next thing you now a poisonous cloud of gas escapes and zombies are munching on guts and flesh. Now the fate of the world lays in the hands of a female journalist and a SWAT team - the SWAT element is yet another pretty damn obvious swipe from DAWN OF THE DEAD - the boys in blue definitely smack of the opening scenes from Romero's classic. The Italians were never shy about borrowing or outright theft of a good idea, and bless 'em for it. 

Directed by the notorious Bruno Mattei (THE OTHER HELL) this one is fast-paced and splatter-tastic. The gore hounds will be shitting themselves with delight throughout as we have scene after scene of intense blood and guts - even a zombified kid is mowed down in a storm of gunfire by the SWAT team - not sure why it pleases me when horror films go with the death of kids - but it does. While it might not make a lot of sense most of the time this one shamelessly prefers splatter over substance with scene after scene of gut-munching mayhem and I can appreciate that. There are some great gore gags including a cat clawing its way from a cadavers guts, eye-trauma and tongue ripping, some fun gratuitous nudity and a bug-eyed soldier in a tutu being eaten alive - sometimes a cohesive story is not needed when you have scene after scene of gore. 


It's utterly ridiculous and  quite awful but I nonetheless enjoyed this slice of splatter cinema with it's ample amounts of gore and nudity. Some of the zombie make-up effects are suspect but the gore is damn strong  with loads of gut-munching mania. 

The second half of this Bruno Mattei (WOMEN'S PRISON MASSACRE) double feature is RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR, a post-apocalyptic shocker set in the year 225 A.B. --  After the Bomb! A marauding bikers gang with goofy names take refuge in an abandoned research lab that seems to have all the creature comforts of home, until they discover it's infested by hordes of painted guinea pigs... or ravenous rats with red eyes. 

While HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD was pretty entertaining and moved along at a pace that prevented me from dwelling on what a piece of shit it was this one is SLOWWWWW and unfortunately lacks most of the gore and nudity. What it does have is some of the most  atrocious dubbed dialogue you might ever hear - so there's some decent unintentional comedy to be had. Had hoped for something along the lines of DEADLY EYE with this one but it's pretty awful. Things do pick-up in the last twenty minutes and it's capped off with one of the strangest shocker endings but this is damn awful and not nearly as entertaining as HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD - the highlight for me was spotting Garetta Garettea from DEMONS as one of the biker chics with maybe the funniest eye-rolling line in the entire film. 

Blue Underground presents the film with brand new HD transfers with an AVC encode and the results are simply gorgeous. Transferred from the original vault elements and presented in the proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio these Italian splatter films have never looked better! There's a nice fine layer of film grain and along with it some very nice fine detail and a pleasing amount of clarity and crispness. Colors reproduction is strong, the skin tones are natural and the black levels are damn fine. Of the two films HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD is the winner here with some great outdoor cinematography and crisp cinematography. RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR is a bit less impressive and a bit softer - shot on sets and in enclosed spaces its a dark film and colors don't pop the way they do on HELL. 

The English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono does a fine job exporting the at times hilarious dubbed dialogue and score - including a re purposed Goblin score from Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD. Not overly dynamic but it does have some depth and includes English SDH subtitles. 

If you're upgrading from the previous Anchor Bay DVD double feature you not only get improved PQ and audio but a brand new making-of featurette BONDED BY BLOOD with interviews with Co-Writer/Co-Director Claudio Fragasso and Stars Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Ottaviano Dell'Acqua and Massimo Vanni. Fragrasso has a ton of stories to tell about working with Mattei and explains their partnership and how Mattei took sole directing credit for the films even when Fragrasso co-directed them. At fifty-minutes in length this is a pretty substantial extra and really goes to some fun places and touches on both films. Finishing up the disc we have an interview with director Bruno Mattei carried over from the previous release, trailers and a still gallery. 

Special Features: 
- Bonded By Blood - Interviews with Co-Writer/Co-Director Claudio Fragasso and Stars Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Ottaviano Dell'Acqua and Massimo Vanni
- Hell Rats Of The Living Dead - Interview with Director Bruno Mattei
- Theatrical Trailers
- Poster and Still Galleries

Blue Underground come through like champs yet again with a sweet transfer and a fun making of doc that make this a must-have double dose of Italian schlock and splatter for fans of outrageously bad cinema sure to please connoisseurs of turd-cinema. 


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