Oh boy! It’s 1983 and we get to dive in to the world of 80’s horror.
The two posters here reflect the Italian and American releases of the film. Released as Zeder in Italy in 1983 and Revenge of the Dead in 1984 here in the U.S. The Italian poster feels a bit goofy to me only because of the demented smile on the character in the Z. He almost seems like a Bella Lugosi-like figure and doesn’t frighten at all. Then again, at the time, the maniacal smile might have been more easily accepted by audiences.
The American poster feels more generic to me and almost reminds me of other painted pop media at the time like Garbage Pail Kids or Metal album covers like for Iron Maiden. Even the title sounds generic. It feels like a typical repackaging of a foreign film for U.S. audiences.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find a copy of this in English and watched it in Italian so forgive me if I’m a bit off here.
The dead are brought back to life when they are placed in particular areas called K-zones. The start of the movie is all a bit jumpy to me and it’s a bit tough to follow the narrative. An old woman is attacked by a spring loaded zombie, then a young girl in a hospital? orphanage? is for some reason taken to the basement after something tries to burst through the floor of her room. She’s on an upper floor though and people below don’t see anything so I’m left thinking this was some sort of magic or psychic connection?
In the basement she is attacked but by … something… and some workers start digging only to discover a corpse identified as Dr. Zeder. He turns out to be the person who discovered these areas where the dead can be brought back or at least someone who wrote about them.
Horror ensues as a writer tires to uncover the mystery behind these strange zones and encounters a secret organization trying to keep the whole thing under wraps.
Aside from the jarring opening the plot is actually pretty good and the story benefits from the sense of mystery it instills. A lot of the acting is more realistic to me than many other Italian horror flicks of the period because they get so badly dubbed over into English. It’s actually a pleasure to hear the original Italian.
Not being able to watch it in English isn’t so bad but I wish I’d found a copy with subtitles so I could get into the characters and the story in a bit more detail. That’s not fault of the film makers of course.
One other thing, if you’re looking for your classic zombies, look elsewhere. The living dead hardly appear in this film at all and when we do encounter them they are more the supernatural undead killer types rather than the classic flesh eaters we all love so well.
A good example of how the film has aged but one which still sort of works is when the main character discovers the writings of Dr. Zeder on an ink ribbon. (He’d gotten the typewriter as a gift from his girlfriend.) The scene is really well put together so that the audience can see just what the man finds and how he finds it. It might look a bit odd to younger audiences unfamiliar with typewriters and ink ribbons but it was so clearly shot at the time that even they should be able to see what’s going on without too much trouble.
(Oh my god am I getting old?)