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.