★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Simone Scafidi
Some will say the epicenter of the Fulci universe lie in the greatness of the gory triptych: The New York Ripper, The House by the Cemetery, and The Beyond. Others will point to the early, less gory but equally frightening confines of The Psychic, Don’t Torture a Duckling, and A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin.
Fulci is genuinely revered and talked about in glorious tones by many a horror fan, but little is known about this gregarious intellectual whose life was over taken by horror films of the 1970s and 80s. Sadly, after watching 2019’s Fulci for Fake you may not have a much better understanding of his filmmaking as when you started.
Director Simone Scafidi concocts an interesting device to tell the story of Fulci’s life, unfortunately it’s incredibly uneven and not very engaging. Scafidi uses a Fulci look-alike, Nicola Nocella, to meander from one boring dramatization to the next. Mind you, Nocella never talks as Fucli, he just looks sullen and distant. However, in addition to playing Fulci, Nocella, is also the narrator and interviewer.
Scafidi does manage to interview both of Fulci’s daughters, a cinematographer, a couple film writers, and a couple actors, but given Fulci’s vast talents and tales these limited narrators create a confined and cramped view of his life.
Even more frustrating is that the chronology of the film is very fluid and incomplete. Throughout, each interviewee could be speaking of the 1950s or the 1990s, but the vague way the film is constructed leaves that for you to figure out on your own. In addition to the hazy and imprecise timeline is that lack of care in explaining the various phases of Fulci’s life. If you didn’t come in to the film with a fairly solid knowledge of his repertoire you will be completely lost.
Where Scafidi excels is the very personal interviews, and in particular, with Fulci’s daughter Camilla Fulci. Of all those interviewed it’s clear that Camilla, as a frequent film collaborator (Zombi 3 and Aenigma), understood her father’s drive as well as his foibles. Fulci, like many directors of the era, had a very complicated relationship with women. Often this played out on the sets, at their home, and on occasion, on the screen. Several of the interviews speculate that some of the more renowned Fulci images were a direct reflection of his insecurities, his menagerie of girlfriends, and several powerful tragedies in his life.
If you’re looking for a fun dissection (no pun intended) of Zombie Flesh Eaters (AKA Zombi 2), or torrid tales from the set of A Cat in the Brain, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Fulci for Fake, by way of its title, as well as its strangely concocted narration, portends to tell the story of a troubled man hiding secrets and manufacturing a double life, but what it really tells is the fairly simple story of a great filmmaker.
Fulci for Fake is not rated and currently streaming on Tubi.