The Italian film industry has always had a Jekyll and Hyde quality: the same country that produced La Dolce Vita (1960), L’Avventura (1960) and Il Conformista (1970) also created Alien 2 Sulla Terra (1980), Cannibal Ferox (1981) and, notoriously, Zombie Flesh Eaters (Zombi 2, 1979). Critic, writer and director Luigi Cozzi famously noted that the Italian genre film industry was one that was marked by its exploitation film qualities. In his words, Italian film producers would never ask what your film was like – they would only ask what film is your film like? It was an industry characterised by its parasitic qualities, with genre cinema usually piggy-backing on the success of films from other parts of the globe. After the success in Italy of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), Lucio Fulci quickly released Zombie Flesh Eaters and a new national sub-genre was born: the Italian zombie film. Marked by its high gore content, international casts and often outrageous, credulity-stretching narratives, the Italian zombie film has since become a cult phenomenon in its own right. The text traces the development of the zombie film in Italy, arguing that despite their often highly derivative qualities these films were nonetheless important and, at times, even offered socio-political critiques.

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