The Clumsy World of Bruno Mattei

Back in the 1970s, Italian horror cinema tended to have a good reputation – the greats like Dario Argento were producing some of the most aesthetically interesting entries in the genre, the “giallo” trend paved the way for the modern slasher movie but always seemed to be a touch more thoughtful than Friday the 13th and its imitators, and even the B-grade material had at least some interesting ideas underpinning it.

Then in the late 1970s and early 1980s, things changes. Whilst you still had good, thoughtful directors producing good, thoughtful films, the industry shifted and a greater emphasis on producing cheap rip-offs of more popular films took hold. A few islands of arthouse horror remained, but they were increasingly threatened by the rising tide of exploitation trash.

One of the most infamous producers of terrible B-movie trash in this scene was Bruno Mattei. Often working closely with his regular scriptwriter Claudio Fragasso – who’d go on to direct Troll 2 – Mattei would leave a trail of cinematic wreckage behind him. Astonishingly, some of these managed to attain controversy – in particular, Hell of the Living Dead actually made the Department of Public Prosecutions’ video nasty list, though a failed prosecution led to it being removed from the most serious category. This can only be due to confusion between Hell of the Living Dead and one of the various zombie films it rips off – for it’s more of a “video clumsy”, a piece offensive not because of inappropriate content so much as incompetent delivery.

Hell of the Living Dead (AKA Zombie Creeping Flesh, AKA Virus)

At a mysterious chemical plant an experiment that is not really explained to the audience in any way is in progress. (At one point it’s referred to as “Operation Sweet Death”, which is hardly encouraging.) Some of the scientists are conducting checks in hazmat suits with large, flappy hoods which aren’t actually tucked in or secured in any way – as a result of which the suits are not in any way airtight, watertight, or capable of resisting… say… an out-of-control zombie rat that jumps into one of their suits and starts attacking one of them, or for that matter a massive leak of toxic gas when the scientist who’s been attacked falls over in a bloody mess.

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“They’re Rereleasing It… and Then They’re Going To Rerelease Me… OH MY GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWD!”

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

The story is well-known, Troll 2 having been skewered on bad movie websites since the early days of the Internet. The Watts family – father Michael (George Hardy), mother Diana (Margo Prey), older teen daughter Holly (Connie McFarland) and preteen son Joshua (Michael Stephenson) – have had a rough time of it, what with Grandpa Seth (Robert Ormsby) having died six months ago and Joshua regularly seeing vivid visions of Seth delivering bizarre warnings about goblins.

These warnings come thicker and faster as the Watts family embark on a holiday trip to Nilbog, a tiny rural town that happens to be the home of a gang of goblins with a remarkable knack for disguising themselves as human beings but absolutely no subtlety when it comes to coming up with town names. (Joshua only figures out the Nilbog/Goblin thing after seeing the town’s name reflected in a mirror, because ultimately he’s just not that clever a kid.) The goblins are strict vegetarians, but also love murder and anthropophagy, so they have a fun little compromise: before they kill people, they feed them an evil potion concealed in ordinary food which transmutes unsuspecting humans into vegetable matter.

There’s a wildcard factor provided by Holly’s loser boyfriend Elliot (Jason Wright) and his loser friends Arnold (Darren Ewing), Drew (Jason Steadman), and Brent (David McConnell) coming along in their RV in the vague hopes of getting laid – but they’re made short work of by the goblins and their leader, the gothy druid Creedence Leonore Gielgud (Deborah Reed). Will the Watts family be able to summon Grandpa Seth back from the dead in a necromantic seance to help out in the final conflict? Will Seth and Joshua be able to destroy the “Stonehenge Stone” which gives Gielgud her powers? And what power lies within Joshua’s special double-decker bologna sandwich?

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