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  Zeder Sometimes Dead Is More ConfusingBuy this film here.
Year: 1983
Director: Pupi Avati
Stars: Gabriele Lavia, Anne Canovas, Paola Tanziani, Cesare Barbetti, Bob Tonelli, Ferdinando Orlandi, Enea Ferrario, John Stacy, Alex Partexano, Marcello Tusco, Aldo Sassi, Veronica Moriconi, Enrico Ardizzone, Maria Teresa Tofano, Andrea Montuschi
Genre: Horror
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: 1956, Chartres and in the grounds of his country house the body of an old woman has been found with her throat cut, but who could have done such a thing? The house is deemed structurally unsafe and the detectives in charge of the operation order the area closed off to traffic while they go inside with a teenage girl who may be the key to the whole mystery. She lies in bed with her nurse beside her, and come the next night they are horrified to see the floorboards erupt as something pushes through from beneath - then the detective takes the girl to the cellar where she has convulsions.

Are you following any of this? Zeder continues from this opening prologue by leaping forward to the present day where events are occurring which appear to have nothing to do with what we've just watched, including the girl getting her leg mangled and a shallow grave uncovered which contains objects indicating this is all the result of the location being a K Zone. But what's a K Zone? You'll be wondering that for quite a while as we move to centre on Stefano (Gabriele Lavia) who has just been gifted an electric typewriter by his girlfriend Alessandra (Anne Canovas). Eager to use it - he's a writer after all - he finds the ribbon has some strange words on it.

Copying these words out, he takes them to a friend, cop Guido (Alex Partexano), who puts Stefano on the right track, but even then what that track is turns out to be extremely difficult not only for the lead character to work out, but also the audience. In its way, this was less a horror movie than it was a conspiracy movie, as Stefano investigates like a man possessed to uncover what is really behind the mystery which is consuming him, but unlike the more obvious templates to such works, there was no easy answer at the end of it. Or rather, there was an answer which was something to do with bringing the dead back to life, but if you started to think about the details the amount of sense they made was lacking.

Seriously so, although the main problem audiences had with Zeder at the time was that it was promoted as yet another Italian zombie flick, when really it didn't fit with those expectations at all. Therefore if you were hoping for a collection of shambling flesheaters advancing on their victims, it's no surprise that many were let down by the more obscure goings-on here. Certainly there were the walking dead featured, but they weren't acting like a George A. Romero menace, and seemed to have some kind of agenda in mind, though what that was remained a puzzle the film kept to itself in the main. The expression on Stefano's face set into a look of grim confusion, and don't be too taken aback if yours did the same while trying to fathom this weirdness.

Far from the over the top schlock of many of its peers, Zeder was if anything understated, allowing a creeping atmosphere of dread to complement the bafflement as Stefano gradually works out that the typewriter belonged to some scientist or other who was experimenting in those K Zones, which are actually regions around the world where time loses all meaning (and possibly films like this do as well), so anyone who dies there, or is even buried there, can theoretically come back from the dead. It was evident writer and director Pupi Avati had recently read Stephen King's Pet Sematary, or heard about it at any rate, because many who have seen this have pointed out the similarity of plot points even if they are arrived at from different directions, although the ending aside Avati's effort stood on its own terms. There were some solid sequences here, most famously the defrocked and deceased priest returning from the dead as seen by Stefano via a camera in the coffin, but mainly this was confounding stuff. Music by Riz Ortolani.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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