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Published on March 26th, 2015 | by gareth

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The Five Best Italian Zombie Flicks

Thanks to Brandon Engel for his great article.

Italian zombie movies deserve more attention. After the success of George A. Romero‘s groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead, Italian directors rushed the scene with a vengeance. Dario Argento’s giallo films had already achieved an international cult following, but zombies? This was new territory to stake. Lucio Fulci, Bruno Mattei and Andrea Bianchi, among others, capitalized on gore in a market that daringly embraced cannibalism, degradation and eroticism — often in the context of the same film…if not the same scene.

 

  1. Hell of the Living Dead (1981)

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RUCuLnsLeA]

 

Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead was released in the States as Night of the Zombies. The finished product is a patchwork monster of chunks of earlier existing films. The zombie head from Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead poster is reprised. Ample stock footage of an early ’70s Papua New Guinea documentary titled La Vallée was used to pad out Hell‘s running time. Mattei even tapped Goblin, the band known to supply Dario Argento with shock rock for his gruesome scenes, to record the soundtrack for his zombie fest. Hell‘s musical underscore is suspiciously similar to Goblin’s for Dawn of the Dead, which suggests Mattei may have merely swiped it.

 

  1. Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981)

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOOwXX-uuso]

 

Andrea Bianchi’s love letter to Romero and Fulci focuses on an ancient unearthed crypt that yields some bad news which translates as the “Prophecy of the Black Spider.” What that really translates to is zombies, of course! Decapitations, maggot-drenched cadavers and Fulci-styled mistreatment of the human eye are on the menu. The gore holds the film together better than the less-than-spectacular cast, which includes an adolescent boy who is portrayed by an actor in his mid-twenties.

 

  1. Zombi 2 (1980)

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9JuX__CPYQ]

 

Were the Italians merely imitating? The notion is a commonly trumpeted but erroneous one. Along with Romero’s, Lucio Fulci’s movies remain the benchmark for zombie cinema to this day. Fulci whipped out back-to-back classics in the early 1980s called Zombie (aka Zombi 2) and City of the Living Dead. When Dario Argento released his cut of Dawn of the Dead in Europe as Zombi, Fulci shamelessly retitled his film and marketed it as an unofficial sequel set in New York. It’s no less entertaining. In fact, it ramped up the gore with gratuitous makeup effects and its unflinchingly brutal treatment of the human eyeball. Fulci also pitted an aquatic zombie against a shark, which predated Romero’s bayfront zombies in Land of the Dead by over twenty years.

 

  1. City of the Living Dead (1981)

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPOI89uhei4]

 

Fulci’s successor to Zombi 2 is a quasi-epic tribute to H.P. Lovecraft that examines the consequences of a gateway between Hell and Earth opened by a priest’s death in New England in a town called Dunwich. An excellent old school Italian nasty, that you can catch periodically on El Rey’s Friday night “Grindhouse” showcases (here). The bar was again raised thanks to two oft-quoted moments: a man whose head is impaled by a huge mechanical drill, and a woman who regurgitates her own intestinal tract — the actress actually swallowed sausage links in order to perform the scene.

 

  1. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x54TlYs94s]

 

Spanish director Jorge Grau’s Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is something of a curio that beat the others to the punch by a few years. It’s a mystery that moonlights as a horror film by way of zombies. Exterminators experimenting with radiation accidentally raise the dead. It’s a film that takes its sweet time to pick up, but once it does…spilt crimson aplenty. Grau has remained relatively obscure throughout much of his career, but if you enjoy this film, you might also consider viewing the first ABC’s of Death film, which features a segment directed by Grau.

 


About the Author

Syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. His work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site and publication “Skewed and Reviewed”. He has three books of film, game reviews and interviews published and is a well-received and in demand speaker on the convention circuit. Gareth has appeared in movies and is a regular guest on a top-rated Seattle morning show. He has also appeared briefly in films such as “Prefountaine”, “Postal”. “Far Cry”. and others. Gareth is also an in-demand speaker at several conventions and has conducted popular panels for over two decades.



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