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Review: Lucio Fulci Documentary ‘Fulci for Fake’ Honors The Master of Gore

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Lucio Fulci Documentary 'Fulci for Fake' Honors The Master of Gore

Fulci for Fake is a new documentary about horror director Lucio Fulci, known as the ‘The Master of Gore.’ Directed by Simone Scafidi, it examines the director’s life with archive footage, interviews, and reenactments of Fulci’s state of mind. Fulci, known for his extreme use of gore, directed over 40 films and yet felt unrecognized. The title recalls Orson Welles’s film F for Fake but it refers to the myth of Fulci, master director.

Who was this genius director for real? What kind of person was he that he made so many bizarre films? Where did he get his ideas? Why for the love of God did he melt a body with acid in The Beyond? What’s his deal with spiders? Or bleeding eyes? What was he like most of the time?

Scafidi writes in his director’s notes that he wanted to discover the ‘real’ Fulci beyond the cult of personality. Film directors like Rock Stars are buried (and sometimes destroyed) by gossip and the press. How much of it is true? Some say Fulci enhanced his image out of playfulness and perhaps self-defense. Who can blame him? If we create art to hide, where do we go when our art is dissected and criticized with bias?

Lucio Fulci Gore Master

The film opens with a superb Nicola Nocella, who plays Fulci with heart, discussing the director, wondering if he can understand him as he sits in a make-up chair, preparing. He is made up to look exactly like Fulci. It’s amazing. I love this sort of thing, it recalls a time when great actors were great, of the stage by god. Later, Nocella will be the one to interview Fulci’s family and friends so it seems as if Fulci is interviewing himself through the actor.

The interviews with Camilla Fulci — Fulci’s daughter, paralyzed after an accident, are the most revealing parts of the documentary. For one, she loved her father but their life was a tragic one: Camilla’s mother committed suicide. The story is grim: the young mother sent her two daughters to the movies and killed herself with gas after learning that she had terminal cancer.

What effect did this have on Fulci’s psyche? It couldn’t have been easy to create after such a tragedy. And yet he did. He created the greatest gore films ever made: The Beyond, Zombi 2, The New York Ripper — pure visual horror. I sat stunned after watching The Beyond. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…that someone would, or could, create such a thing: TARANTULAS CRAWLING AND EATING A PERSON’S FACE? Dear God, no.

Fulci for Fake Documentary

But true horror is what he was going for…he wants you to see his nightmares, the dark side. It’s gross. It’s extra. Disgusting. Beyond comprehension. But I say imaginative, thrilling, and creative. Some people don’t like it. Roger Ebert didn’t like Fulci much. In his review of The Beyond he wrote: “The plot involves … excuse me for a moment, while I laugh uncontrollably at having written the words ‘the plot involves’.” So there you go. And yet he also writes that “he lives for moments like this,” about absurdities in Fulci’s supernatural script. Is that praise?

Did it bother Fulci? He’s often compared to Dario Argento. It’s said that Fulci lost his technical abilities over the years while Argento kept his intact. But Fulci didn’t have the same circumstances to create as Argento. Why compare the two? Although both were genre directors with similar interests and flair, it’s unfair to compare them. And it’s important to note that when Fulci passed in 1996, it was Argento who paid for his funeral. Being a horror director isn’t always profitable.

Fulci never had it easy, though he later became celebrated — respect came for him but not soon enough. He made over 20 films before he was regarded well enough for critics to crow about his work on a film poster. He’s considered a legend in the genre though always controversial. But he was unhappy for years with health and emotional issues which he kept secret. He was afraid he wouldn’t be hired as a director again, so he kept his troubles hidden.

Fulci for Fake Documentary Still

What was his relationship with women? Well, it’s revealed that he was attracted to the actresses he cast and that he slept with one (or some) of them, but he also dated women his age, identified as “Old Woman 1” and “Old Woman 2.” Camilla says that “Old Woman 1” was not beautiful and didn’t understand what Fulci saw in her…but perhaps he saw more than looks. Why refer to them as “Old Woman” though? But is that necessarily an insult? Is it so bad to be old and a woman? But in the film, Fulci admits that his life was filled with misogyny.

In one of the reenactments, Fulci says that he loved women and that he created for them, but his critics said otherwise. Later, a collaborator says that in one scene when worms were placed inside a woman’s mouth — Fulci insisted that he do it himself. Like Argento, with his black gloves mock strangling women. Is it weird? It’s playacting, many of us do it harmlessly enough on Halloween, dressing up as Jason. But worms? Why would he want to do it with his own hands? I’d like to think it was because he trusted no one but himself to do it. But perhaps there was something darker lurking in Fulci’s psyche.

His second daughter Antonella Fulci, who is most like her father in looks and spirit, said it’s impossible to fully understand Fulci. She says to watch his films and absorb all the madness. I don’t think I know who Fulci ‘is’ after watching Fulci for Fake. There’s so much to unpack. He put worms in a woman’s mouth but loved horses. He wrote and directed films with extreme violence but also cried in front of crew when his daughter was thrown by a horse. Fulci is an enigma, no matter what. But aren’t we all?

Fulci for Fake is screening at the 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival, online for the first time since its inception due to the global pandemic. For the horror community, Chattanooga going live is a godsend. It’s four days of features, shorts, and live events. If you’re a fan of Fulci or new to his work, buy a pass and check out Scafidi’s inventive documentary — because Fulci is Forever.

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