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10 Best Lucio Fulci Horror Films

These are the finest fright flicks from the Italian Godfather of Gore that helped earn him the title Master of Horror.
Lucio Fulci Horor Movies
By  · Published on October 19th, 2020

5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)

A Lizard in a Woman's Skin

Fulci saw your glossy English murder mystery and decided to raise you one. In this dreamy, psychedelic giallo, Florinda Bolkan plays a sexually frustrated woman tormented by her desire for a neighbor and salacious fantasies that haunt her every night. When the neighbor is murdered, it brings to light all the frenzied and forbidden desires that have been buried deep. The film has a hazy, seductive sheen, an (un)healthy dose of gaslighting, and because this is Fulci, special effects that nearly got the director arrested. I can’t believe I’m not kidding about the last part. (Anna Swanson)


4. Zombie (1979)

Zombie

Italian copyright laws in the 1970s meant that any film could be marketed as a sequel to another. That’s why so many of the country’s genre movies are “sequels” to films they aren’t remotely connected to from a story standpoint. Zombie (a.k.a. Zombi 2 and Zombie Flesh Eaters) was produced as a follow-up to Dawn of the Dead, but it’s very much a standalone movie that doesn’t adhere to the same rules of the undead. It marked a return to the subgenre’s voodoo roots, albeit with the gore and video nastiness that Fulci was notorious for.

The movie boasts a handful of memorable scenes, including one in which a shark fights a zombie. The scene was included after producer Ugo Tucci insisted that the film included a shark. Fulci protested, and a second unit director was hired to deliver the scene in question. The film benefitted as a result. Maybe the end product wasn’t Fulci’s original vision, but the film certainly helped cement his status as a genre legend. (Kieran Fisher)


3. The House by the Cemetery (1981)

House by the Cemetery

On paper, The House By The Cemetery reads like any other haunted house flick: a couple and their son move into a decrepit but beautiful house where the son begins seeing apparitions, Mom gets spooked, and Dad reassures them that everything is fine long after it’s clear that things are not fine. Of course, since the story sprung from the mind of Lucio Fulci, it turns out to be a stylish and singular film with cool camerawork, a gnarly mad scientist backstory, and a fantastic, underrated score. Compared to Fulci’s more splatter-heavy films, it’s downright restrained, with a creepy atmosphere so thick you could cut it with a knife, but when the climax rolls around, no one’s viscera is safe. (Valerie Ettenhofer)


2. The Beyond (1981)

The Beyond

If you’re looking to introduce someone to Lucio Fulci, there may be no better place to start than with The Beyond. Just hit them with all the Fulci weirdness at once. Why beat around the bush? This classic from the Godfather of Gore is about an old hotel in Louisiana that contains an entrance to Hell. It’s a surreal film meant to knock you off-kilter, so the story isn’t the most coherent, but you should already know that because it’s Italian. It features one of Fabio Frizzi’s most iconic scores, some of Fulci’s most gnarly effects, and a lot of gross spiders. One interesting tidbit is that most of the film was actually shot on location in New Orleans. This is a bit of a rarity as a lot of Italian horror films from this era that take place in the US were typically shot in European cities. (Chris Coffel)


1. City of Living Dead (1980)

City of the Living Dead

From the first snare of Fabio Frizzi’s synth score to the ominous melodic guitars that accompany the hanging body of a priest, the opening scene of City of the Living Dead – the first film in the unrelated Gates of Hell trilogy – fills you with palpable anticipation in that deliriously dreamy way Italian horror, but especially Lucio Fulci, just inherently exudes. After a priest kills himself in the rural community of Dunwich, and a séance in New York City leads to the death and resurrection of a young woman, a reporter is led to the small town where, quite literally, the gates of hell have been cracked open and bodies start piling up; people are vomiting their intestines, corpses are taking bites out of people, skulls are being both drilled and crunched, so you know – general Fulci stuff!

Released in 1980, decades before Lovecraftian occult kookiness became both cool and commercially successful, this was Fulci indulging for the very first time in that gruesome aesthetic that would become his legacy. Why I find we flock to a Fulci film is because they have an expressionistic theatricality that we just don’t find in Western productions both before and since. Sure, he’s got a way with blood, guts, and gore, but it’s his striking visuals – like shards of glass stuck into walls that bleed – that make his distinctive eye unparalleled. (Jacob Trussell)


This list of Lucio Fulci’s greatest hits may be over, but the celebration continues with more of our 31 Days of Horror Lists!

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Jacob Trussell is a writer based in New York City. His editorial work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Rue Morgue Magazine, Film School Rejects, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the author of 'The Binge Watcher's Guide to The Twilight Zone' (Riverdale Avenue Books). He is available to host your next spooky public access show. Find him on Twitter here: @JE_TRUSSELL (He/Him)