In an effort to attract fans of zombie films by the likes of George Romero, American distributors renamed Pupi Avati's 1983 Italian horror film Zeder, releasing it under the title Revenge of the Dead. That, coupled with poster art depicting rotting corpses clawing their way out of the Earth, might lead you to think that watching this would give you some Fulci-tastic undead action. My friends, you would be decidedly wrong, but you can take solace in the fact that it's not your fault.
Revenge tells the tale of Stefano (Gabriele Lavia), a writer who finds himself embroiled in a mystery most mysterious after receiving a used typewriter from his girlfriend Alessandra (Anne Canovas). Stefano examines the ribbon and pieces together what the previous owner had typed; after lots of legwork and interviews with weirdos, Stefano deduces that someone named Zeder discovered "K-Zones", mystical places around the world where the soil can reanimate the dead. You know- like a Pet Sematary. Some Zeder-heads have set up camp in a K-Zone in an attempt to bring back a dead priest.
As I noted earlier, the promises of flesh-eating hordes made by the title and poster never materialize. Sure, you might get a zombie here and there and maybe a death or two, but Revenge of the Dead is far more a psychological horror film than it is an "...of the Dead" film as we know it. False advertising aside, though, I still found Revenge to be a bit of a disappointment, especially considering that I dug Avati's The House with Laughing Windows so very much. While Revenge certainly has some chilling sequences, a heavy atmosphere, and some interesting frame compositions, it ultimately meanders too much and feels much less polished than the director's earlier work. The methodical pace here doesn't work to the film's benefit.
Some of this, however, may be attributed to Gabriele Lavia, who makes a disappointing leading man- somewhat surprising, given his work in movies such as Deep Red and Inferno. Stefano's need to solve this mystery and the obsession that drives him- ultimately at the cost of his relationship with Alessandra (who, thanks to Canovas, is a bit of a charmer)- never really come across.
Revenge of the Dead isn't a film to write off completely, but neither is it an overlooked masterpiece. Enthusiasts of Italian horror are likely to enjoy it...just don't expect the promises of gut-munching madness.