June 22: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is zombies.
Zombies are boring. Let’s face it — the best things that had to be said about them really didn’t escape the 80s. And outside of perhaps Train to Busan, how can you improve upon movies like Dawn of the Dead, Zombi and Return of the Living Dead? People try and well, you have to give them credit for it. But I was really trying to stretch during Junesploitation and find a zombie movie that no one would choose, as well as one that might rekindle my love for these movies.
Released in the U.S. as Revenge of the Dead, Zeder doesn’t go for the Fulci throat — or eyeball — like nearly every zombie movie made in the wake of the Godfather of Gore’s tribute to the living dead.
The film begins in 1956, as a psychic girl named Gabriella is brought to the French mansion of Dr. Meyer. As a test of her abilities, he takes her into his basement where she immediately begins to claw and dig into the dirt, searching for something. Soon, she’s attacked and taken to the hospital and a corpse is discovered that is identified as Paolo Zeder.
Fast forward three decades and change and we meet Stefano (Gabriele Lavia, Inferno, Deep Red, Sleepless), a novelist who has been given the gift of a typewriter by his wife. He starts to investigate the ribbon of the ancient machine and finds a series of letters from Zeder that detail phenomena he called K-Zones, which are places where death does not exist and even those deceased may be reborn.
Our hero soon loses everything — his wife, any semblance of normalcy, his mind — to penetrate the web of conspiracy that surrounds Zeder and the K-Zones. His wife is even murdered by those who want to keep the existence of the undead world a secret, so the film closes with Stefano attempting to bring her back.
Beyond the dependable as always score by Riz Ortolani, there’s a great scene near the end where a tower of video monitors replays the rebirth of the supposedly dead priest Don Luigi Costa arise in grainy glory.
This was written and directed by Pupi Avati, who is still making movies to this day, but is probably best known for House with the Laughing Windows.
The American VHS art for this — when it was released by Lightning Video — made it seem like this was going to be everything you expect from a zombie film. I’m happy to report that it is not. Instead, it’s a dark mediation on secrets and death.
You can watch this on YouTube.