Zeder (AKA Revenge of the Dead, Zeder: Voices from Darkness, Zeder: Voices from the Beyond, Zeder: voci dal buio, 1999)
Dir: Pupi Avati.
Cast: Gabriele Lavia, Anne Canovas, Paola Tanziani, Aldo Sassi, Adolfo Belletti, John Stacy, Alessandro Partexano, Cesare Barbetti, Ferdinando Orlandi, Enea Ferrario, Marcello Tusco and Bob Tonelli.
It's 1956 and we're in a rundown mansion in France where the cheekily chinned Dr Meyer (Barbetti) is preparing a spooky psychic experiment involving his night gowned daughter, Gabriella, a load of ex rental disco lights and a dirty basement.
I'm sure you can get done for that.
After a wee bit of bollocks regarding the nature of life after death, Gabriella surprises everyone by leaping out of bed and running to the dank cellar before suddenly falling to her knees and clawing at the earth (a bit like an attractively arsed doberman), uncovering a wallet, tickets to Cats and a old bus timetable.
These turn of events seem to throw Meyer into an almost orgasmic frenzy as he hurries about shouting "I've found you!" to anyone who'll listen before rushing back upstairs to grab his camera, leaving his by now filthy (and not in a good way) daughter all alone.
Nothing bad could happen.
Out of the shadows shambles a mysterious figure that pounces on the poor girl, mauling her (smooth and shapely) leg.
None of this seems to bother her dad tho', who is more excited by the identity of the wallets owner, one Mr. Paolo Zeder.
This, he surmises can mean only one thing.
The cellar must be built on one of those spooky 'K' zones.
Jumping forward (in a Quantum Leap manner) to present day Bologna, studly writer Stefano (Lavia, from Profondo Rosso and Beyond The Door) is looking forward to celebrating his first wedding anniversary with his moon faced (yet attractively pixie eared) wife Allesandra (Canovas from, oooh, loads of stuff including my rudest dreams).
Being in love and a thoughtful lady, she's bought her man a second hand electric typewriter (he got her a Fisher Price Knocking Shop and a brass tit from Argos) as a surprise gift.
She can't love him that much tho' or she'd have shelled out for a new one.
He seems to like it tho', seeing as soon as he's unwrapped the gift he's dragged her off to bed for some of 'the sex' that these people in films seem to have a lot of.
Awakening in the middle of the night (due in no small part to his wife’s hideous flatulence), Stefano jumps out of bed and heads downstairs to try out his new typewriter.
I usually just smoke a fag after sex myself.
Obviously I clean up the mess and hide the body first.
Soon bored with all this key banging he decides to remove the ribbon to have a wee nosy at what kind of stuff the previous owner wrote.
and cold Pot Noodle.
I reckon he's hoping it's dirty porn.
No such luck, it would appear that the previous owner was some loon researching life after death, studying a bizarre theory whereby certain parts of the planet are imbued with special chemical properties enabling the dead to literally come back to life.
These highly rare areas are called (wait for it) K zones.
See? It's not just random shite.
After spending all night transcribing the notes, Stefano excitedly goes to visit a professor chum to see if he can make heads or tails of the frankly billy bonkers notes.
As luck (and deft plotting) would have it Professor Chesi (Stacy, star of The Wild Beasts Will Get You and Giant of the 20th Century) recognizes the theories as those of the aforementioned Mr. Zeder, giving him ample opportunity to explain them (again) in arse numbing detail to Stefano (and us lucky viewers).
This blatant piece of unnecessary exposition is ultimately foiled when a whorish student of the Prof's bursts in and offers to have sex with Stefano.
like a box....smells like a fanny!"
Intrigued by all this talk of cheating death and the like (plus thinking it'd make a bloody good book or even a film) Stefano calls his swarthy as fuck police buddy Guido (sex criminal in training Partexano) to help find out who owned the typewriter before him.
Obviously Guido jumps at the chance.
You see, much like our local police in Glasgow, their Italian brethren much prefer to do important work like this - and fining folk fifty quid for dropping a fag end - rather than go out and actually catch criminals.
Rant over, now back to the review.
rather than catching criminals.
Using his fantastic detective skills (and no doubt threatening dodgy sexual acts to anyone who gets in his way) Guido tracks down one Don Luigi Costa (Orlandi), full time priest and part time follower of Zeder's theories.
Especially that is since he contracted lung cancer but there you go.
Stefano visits 'Big Don' for a wee chat and an Empire biscuit, finding himself becoming increasingly more intrigued by the mystery of Mr. Zeder, even going as far as to visit the priests old blind sister for more clues.
Which is where the fun really begins.
You see, it appears that Don isn't, in fact Don at all, but a sweaty fat man with a thing for stabbing whorish students.
This is probably really relevant but I can't be arsed figuring out why.
Luckily for our heroes, a friend of Allesandra's, Doctor Melis (Tusco from Rossella Izzo's 1998 TV classic Leo & Beo) knew the real Don very well and even attended his burial in the local cemetery.
Well that's that sorted then.
Meanwhile, across town (probably) a grown-up (and slightly bearded) Gabriella is back working with her dad, this time for a chubby dwarf named Mr. Big (Tonelli from The House of the Laughing Windows) who also desires the secrets of Zeder.
And a new pair of Cuban Heeled boots no doubt.
Whilst all these bizarro plot turns are going on it's good to know that Stefano is predictable enough to indulge himself in some good, old fashioned grave robbing, stealing what looks like a shoelace from Don's grave.
Look, it'll all make sense in the end.
All this driving around and skulking in graveyards is getting a bit too much for Allesandra tho' who, complaining about missing Eastenders, decides to drive home leaving Stefano at a rundown motel overlooking a huge unfinished French hotel complex famous in the area for a spate of nudist and ghost sightings.
Tho' no nude ghosts.
Could this be, in some way related to all this Zeder nonsense?
The owner of the motel (Belletti) seems to think so and happily lend Stefano his telescope so he too can chance a look at some nude French birds.
No such luck for him tho' as he only catches a glimpse of a greasy haired, big binned pedo bearded priest (Ferrario) that he met at Don's house earlier in the movie.
Running into the woods to catch up with him Stefano is disappointed to find that he's only there to pick blueberries for his Nan's tea and not to look for the secrets of the undead.
Or so he claims before having his throat ripped out by an unseen assailant.
Left alone that night in the motel, our hero joins forces with the local bus driver to break into the building site and discover once and for all the secret behind Zeder.
But meanwhile poor Allesandra is about to discover that this dark conspiracy has it's roots far closer to home....
Something of an undiscovered classic, loved by those who've seen it yet unknown to a vast majority of horror fans, Pupi Avati's masterclass in bizarre atmosphere and oppressive tension is a zombie movie unlike any other.
This fact becomes even more surprising when you realise that Stephen King borrowed (OK blatantly stole) the plot wholesale for his novel Pet Sematary which was released later the same year and filmed in 1989 by Mary Lambert fact fans.
Playing out more like a Giallo than a conventional horror film, Avati fills each frame with hints of conspiracy and throwaway clues that make every character a possible suspect in the mystery of Zeder and it's this skillful writing that raises Zeder to sit amongst the best of Argento and Fulci's works.
Although not totally perfect; what the film makes up for in plot and scripting however it loses out with the directors seeming inabilitly (or unwillingness) to direct the cast.
Luckily the film is full of genre stalwarts of which even the most creaky performances (stand up Lavia) fail to detract from the overall skewed atmosphere.
Hard to find but worth the effort. Buy it now or forever be unfashionable.