Sunday, May 24, 2020

CFF 2020 Review: FULCI FOR FAKE Humanizes A Horror Deity

FULCI FOR FAKE (2019) Directed by Simone Scafidi

Review by The Rev Dan Wilson



 I have been a fairly casual Fulci fan since I discovered Zombi 2 on VHS as a teen in the 90s but was never a fanatic. I was in awe of the visuals on display but the dubbed voice acting made it difficult for me to connect with it beyond the surface level. Italian gore movies were great to put on at a party full of metalheads, a few memorable scenes would be joked about (Zombie vs Shark, anyone?), but were largely forgotten afterward.

 It was in my mid to late 20s that I gained a greater appreciation for them as my buddy Robert Everett had been sharing a series of his favorite late 70s and early 80s horror films with me, and it hit me at just the right time. This is where I discovered films like Burnt Offerings, The Sentinel, The Car, etc and there was just something to me about the atmosphere, or the way those films were shot, I’m not even sure I can describe it but it awoke something in me and I went on a mad hunt for other films that made me feel the way those movies did. It was this period in my life that really most inspired me to want to make my own films at some point. That’s when I discovered The Gates Of Hell Trilogy (City Of The Living Dead, The Beyond, House By The Cemetary) and those films stuck with me in a significant way. I later saw New York Ripper and it’s eye peeling brutality and outrageousness didn’t evoke any warm fuzzy feelings, but the pure disgust and discomfort it made me feel let me know I was watching something truly special.

 Hey I don’t want cinema to just be moving pictures flashing around in the background, I need it to do something to me. Psychologically, emotionally, spiritually. I don’t care which, but that is generally the barometer upon which I gauge art. I found that Fulci movies at that point in my life did in fact make me feel lots of things, so that’s where I really became a fan but even so knew little about his personal life, or who Fulci was as a man. So now as a guy who hosts a podcast that examines the filmmaking process and has to research hours upon hours of material weekly about historic horror filmmakers I love and admire, I know I’m going to have to do a deep dive into learning about the life and times of Lucio Fulci at some point in the coming months or years.

 I’ve also been watching horror documentaries my entire life going back to “The Making Of Thriller” on laserdisc being one of my first memories. I can find a playlist on Youtube now of John Carpenter interviews and let the Master Of Horror lull me to sleep and subconsciously plant filmmaking knowledge into my brain for 8 hours straight but information about Fulci, particularly his private world or creative motivations isn’t exactly readily available, so I was excited to see that the long awaited bio-pic/documentary hybrid FULCI FOR FAKE was part of the Chattanooga Film Festival 2020 lineup.

Director Simone Scafidi’s 2019 film uses a fictional story about an actor who is playing Fulci in a biopic, who is going around interviewing people who were important to Fulci in his real life to get to know who he was a person in order to better prepare for the role. While I don’t know that the framing device was necessary given there isn’t really a current “definitive” Fulci documentary, I appreciate that the filmmaker had a vision and stuck with it and it does keep the pace of the film moving and keep us from just looking at interview segment after interview segment.

 I was personally fascinated to learn about the death of his wife and how that tragedy greatly impacted Fulci personally to the point most said he never recovered from it, not to mention his daughter Camilla’s horseback riding accident, which was basically salt in the wound at that point and would end up inspiring parts of New York Ripper and the various other triumphs and tragedies that made him who he was. The film paints the picture of Fulci as a layered, intelligent, sophisticated, sensitive, passionate man. His friends and family aren’t afraid to discuss him candidly including his flaws, and that’s really where the film succeeds.

I think to me and a lot of American horror fans Fulci was this great and wise horror deity from “long ago and a land far away” and this film makes him more human, more relatable, a shows a side of him beyond just the work that he left us, and a little more of the man that he truly was. Highly recommended!

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