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Six Definitive Films: The ultimate beginner's guide to Lucio Fulci

Lucio Fulci is one of the most revered cult figures in Italian cinema, well known and celebrated for his forays into wide-ranging genres. However, Fulci’s legacy mostly revolves around his contributions to the world of horror and Italian giallo through unforgettable gems such as Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and The Beyond among many other iconic works.

Born in Rome, Fulci’s childhood interests in art and music were nurtured and taken seriously because he was raised by his leftist, anti-fascist mother. In his youth, Fulci was also active in party politics and was a youth functionary of the Italian Communist Party. Although his mother wanted him to go to law school, Fulci pursued a degree in medicine before eventually dropping out.

Chasing the elusive dream of getting rich in the filmmaking business, Fulci started out as an art critic before applying to film school and climbing the ranks. Although he made westerns and comedies as well, most fans remember Fulci for his brilliant constructions of cinematic horror experiences which have continued to inspire future generations of filmmakers.

Check out some of the best works by Lucio Fulci below.

Lucio Fulci’s six definitive films:

Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)

One of the landmarks in the evolution of giallo, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is a fantastic example of the true potential of the genre. With this film, Fulci set the bar high for future entries to the genre which owed a lot to films such as this and other pioneers like Dario Argento.

Set in London, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin follows the bizarre nightmares of a woman who dreams of engaging in wild sex orgies and using LSD recreationally. After dreaming of brutally murdering her own neighbour, she wakes up to find that her neighbour has actually been killed.

Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

Another highly effective giallo film, Don’t Torture a Duckling has a fascinating set-up that is bound to attract fans of horror as well as the crime genre. It explores the mystery of a small village where young, adolescent boys strangely turn up dead very frequently.

The film’s narrative chronicles the efforts of a detective who tries to uncover the mystery behind these gruesome child murders. While the locals believe that this is the work of a supernatural entity like a witch, others insist that more nefarious forces are at play.

Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

Zombie Flesh Eaters (also known as Zombi 2) is an interesting addition to Fulci’s impressive filmography because it is actually an adaptation of a sequel meant for a very iconic film. That film was none other than George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

It focuses on the mythology of a small Caribbean island where dead people become zombies due to some voodoo curse. When a scientist’s boat is found abandoned, his daughter takes it upon herself to visit the cursed island in order to find out what really happened.

City of the Living Dead (1980)

A love letter to H.P. Lovecraft, the success of Zombie Flesh Eaters inspired Fulci to direct a film that would be based on the unique artistic sensibilities of the horror pioneer. From passing references to the atmospheric setting, Fulci tried to recreate the world of Lovecraft.

The film imagines a strange scenario where the gates of hell have been opened and in only three days, there will be a horrific invasion from the realm of the dead. When a reporter and a psychic set out to prevent it, they encounter nightmarish events.

The Beyond (1981)

Probably the most accomplished creation by Fulci, The Beyond is a unique supernatural horror film that incorporates elements of Southern Gothic. When a woman inherits a creepy hotel in rural Louisiana, she soon discovers that there is something else going on.

It comes to her attention that the hotel was actually built over one of the entrances which serves as a gateway to hell. While the film received mixed reviews when it first came out, it has become the crowning jewel of Fulci’s oeuvre due to critical re-evaluations and a cult following.

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

The last addition to Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy, The House by the Cemetery continues the investigations of the two previous instalments. Fulci tells the story of a young family who moves into an ominous house with a dark past, slowly learning about the previous owner of the house.

They discover that the house was actually owned by a deranged surgeon during the Victorian era named Freudstein who conducted all sorts of illegal experiments. While many critics complained about Fulci’s use of gratuitous graphic violence, the film remains one of his key works.