A journalist uncovers a story with macabre implications.
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) October 2, 2021
I remember going to Adi’s Video to rent movies on Beta back in the early 1980s. Hard to believe now, but Adi’s was the largest chain of video stores in Winnipeg. This was years before Blockbuster, Jumbo and Rogers came to town. Adi, as far as I know, was a just a local guy who started a business that grew and grew as more people bought VCRs. Sadly, he was wiped out by the corporate chains years before the internet and streaming services started to kill the whole concept of video stores (although, oddly enough, they’ve never completely gone away – and some local mom-and-pop stores have actually outlasted Blockbuster and those other assholes).
Adi’s is where my family bought our first VCR, as I may have mentioned a while back. It’s also where I rented most of the tapes I watched in those early years. They had a pretty good selection of unusual stuff, which was great for a guy like me. While other people were putting their name on a waiting list to be able to get hold of Risky Business (1983) starring Tom Cruise, I was renting movies like The Witching (1972), Zombie (1979) and Revenge of the Dead (1983) – which in retrospect must have been pretty brand new.
I rented Revenge of the Dead with my brother, and what attracted us to it was the cover art on the Beta box (just look at it! If that didn’t scream rent me to every young horror fan in the store, then there was something wrong with the universe) and the title, of course. Revenge of the Dead – this sounded (and looked) like an unauthorized sequel to Dawn of the Dead (1978) – and what could be better than that?
As it turns out, Revenge of the Dead was not like Dawn of the Dead at all. Or Zombie for that matter, which was in fact a sequel of sorts to Dawn of the Dead. We didn’t know it at the time, but Revenge of the Dead was originally titled Zeder, and was not really a zombie movie as we had come to know them. It’s more of a weird, creepy mystery about a writer who (thanks to a used typewriter ribbon) stumbles onto a story about a scientist who had discovered places in the world, called K-Zones, where the dead could be brought back to life.
Oh, that old chestnut, you might say! But at first it seemed to hold some promise to my brother and me. After all, if the dead could be brought back to life in a K-Zone, that could lead to a zombie apocalypse, couldn’t it? SPOILER ALERT: It doesn’t.
My brother and I were greatly disappointed that there were no George Romero, or Lucio Fulci, style zombies ripping people apart in impressive displays of blood and gore. No, there was really nothing like that. What did we get instead? Plot and dialogue – perhaps even some character development. We were very unhappy about that. In fact, we felt completely ripped off by Adi’s, the people who made the film, and the people who made the box cover art (it’s the best part of the movie!). Revenge of the Dead was on my list of most hated films for a few years. However…
I never forgot about it. Something about the weird story, the K-Zones and the typewriter ribbon kept coming back to haunt my memories. As an adult, I actually found myself wanting to track it down and watch it again. Why?!! my twelve year old self might have screamed. Maybe it’s nostalgia for an almost forgotten experience, maybe it’s because I’ve never seen another movie quite like it (at least the way I remembered it) – I simply had to find out what that crazy old movie was all about.
Zeder, or Revenge of the Dead, was almost certainly retitled by greedy distributors who wanted to cash in on the lucrative zombie genre. They are the ones I should have been mad at – not the filmmakers. Pupi Avati wrote and directed the film. He’s had a long career, and has made over fifty movies and TV shows (so far), but is probably best remembered for The House with Laughing Windows (1976). Knowing more about him now, it’s no surprise that Revenge of the Dead was not just another typical zombie movie. And as much as I love that kind of movie, I can now say that Revenge of the Dead is actually much more interesting than that. It’s creepy, atmospheric, intriguing and unusual – if you accept it on it’s own terms. When I was a kid, I wanted to see more of a Fulci styled gore-fest and was disappointed. It’s much better than I realized back then.
Probably due to it’s misleading promotional campaign, Zeder, or Revenge of the Dead, doesn’t seem to get talked about very often. It’s #NotQuiteClassicCinema that could have achieved more respect if it had been given a fair chance. But regardless of how respected it was, or how much money it made back in the day, it would still be a perfect addition to any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn – provided that the audience isn’t full of screaming kids expecting to see a non-stop spectacle of blood and gore.