NOTE: This week is ITALIAN HORROR WEEK over at WWW.DOCTERROR.COM, which is the blog from which I hail, Dr. Terror’s Blog of Horrors. I’ve cooked up some extra special giveaways, some extremely fun content and a bunch of guest contributors that will make you bleed red, white and green. Stop by, enjoy the festivities. This particular entry is a crossover entry into the IT CAME FROM 1980X feature as the title suggests. It’s important to note before we begin that so much Italian Horror and Giallo is stuck on VHS. That isn’t to say that you should appreciate it any less, but that does mean you might need to go an extra step or two to make sure you see ‘em all. VHS is not a dead format. That’s half the reason we write this damn column and why magazines like HorrorHound and Fango continue to impress the importance of collecting and preserving what we can of the magnetic tape we adore. Save what you can. Explore and make sure to get those tapes into a digitized format if at all available to preserve history. Now on with the show…
The instant that the words “of the dead” are featured in a movie title I start thinking Romero, Russo, Dan O’Bannon. If it ain’t one of those fellas they we push on to our faithful friends in the Mediterranean, the Italians. While I don’t know of many films that take on this naming convention, we all know that Italians are specialists in the art of zombie films. We’re not talking quality. We’re talking about money in the bank and entertaining. The back story behind this particular choice for IT CAME FROM 1980 X this week is due to my recent attendance at the Italian Splatter Fest in Phoenixville, PA at the Colonial Theater. These guys put on one hell of an Italian movie spectacular. I couldn’t take my eyes off one particular T-Shirt, the Revenge of the Dead shirt. I hadn’t previously heard of the Pupi Avati classic. I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to procure it, but lo and behold VHSPS (that’s the VHS Preservation Society to you squares) came through with shining colors. I’m not sure it’ll be your cup of tea, however I strongly encourage you to give this film a go if you have any care in the world for Italian cinema.
BACK OF THE BOX:
THE DEAD SHALL RISE… THE LIVING SHALL SUFFER!
This bizarre tale of madness and blood-chilling horror focuses on the mysterious findings of a European archeological team who discover the existence of a powerful, unstoppable force that allows the dead to return to life.
Within the confines of three obscure archeological digs lies a mystical power known only as the K-Zone. A scientific team dispatched to investigate the strange phenomenon accidentally releases it. Before they can reverse the effects of their indiscretion they are brutally killed by the very cadavers they restored to life. Thus unleashing a hopeless, unrelenting flood of destruction… with no end in sight.
You might presume that with story like that this movie might knock you on your ass and take you for the zombie ride of your very lives. Well I’m sorry to say that this film doesn’t quite measures up to the hype on the back of the box. This isn’t clever marketing though. All of this wholesome goodness does in fact happen, just with less flair. Less drama. A certain somber quiet that drudges along like a funeral procession rather than a rock concert. Not that you’ll be bored. There’s plenty of goodies to enjoy from some exceptionally awful special effects to equally awful acting and dialogue. The problem is the space in between moments of unintentional humor and minor gross out with creative intent. The best analogy I might be able to offer you comes from one of the great Italians of our generation.
Mario. Super… Mario or at least the game that draws upon his holy grail namesake. Super Mario Brothers for the Nintendo Entertainment System ain’t the most difficult level hopper on the rack. You can warp and warp and 1UP your way all the way to the end with great ease. And once you’re there you’ll have to get through… WORLD 8. When I was a kid I could never get past the giant, gaping chasm with the teeny, tiny little island at one end to assist you in your super jump. I know it can be jumped. I’ve seen it jumped. It’s all about getting the correct speed and making sure you jump ever so far. The gaps in between the scenes of value, the scenes you’ll want to adore in Revenge of the Dead… they’re the size of that very chasm in Super Mario Brothers World 8-1. I know that it took me awhile to get to the point of that damn metaphor. Thanks for playing.
How many of you are familiar with Gabriele Lavia? If you love Italian horror then you’ve seen him. The Assassin in Rome, Beyond the Door, Deep Red, Inferno… these are some exceptionally big titles and Gabriele has had a part in each of them. You may remember names like Bava and Argento, but let’s get Lavia in your vocab too. Another name to keep in your memory banks is Pupi Avati, the director of Revenge of the Dead. He has a sizeable resume, but giallo/horror fans will know him from House of the Laughing Windows. Rizo Ortalani helms the music composition which is exceptionally well done and will be well adored by fans of the genre. Rizo is the fella behind Mondo Cane’s amazing soundtrack and, my personal favorite soundtrack to write blogs to, Cannibal Holocaust. His scores have been used in the Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds and even Drive. By now you must realize that I am a soundtrack hound and that every review I’m going to write is going to feature the composer.
The film is brought to us by Motion Picture Marketing who is responsible for films like Hell of the Living Dead, City of the Living Dead and Savage Streets (Go HERE for a complete list). Lightening Video was responsible for the distro and is considered to be one of the fan favorite distro companies of the VHS era.
The bumper says it all. Nightmare Weekend, Chopping Mall and Neon Maniacs were all distributed by Lightning Video. They’re cover art is clearly a thing of beauty and Chopping Mall belongs in a museum. Check out the gallery HERE.
Toward the end of the movie, after some of the sparse but worthwhile bloodlettings I was finally confronted with the simple fact that Revenge of the Dead bore resemblance to another piece of horror fiction. Pet Sematary. Now I don’t fully believe that the likeness to Stephen King’s novel could even remotely hold up to intense scrutiny, but ultimately, when you bury someone under the ground and they come back only not with their good nature you start to make connections. Both Stephen King’s novel and Pupi Avati’s film were released in the same year although both were working on them in the years prior. If you’re watching this one with a group of folks and you find yourself with an awkward silence to fill in between lip smacking and heavy petting make sure to whisper, “The ground is sour”.
Best Quote: ALESSANDRA!
Plain and simple. I actually lost it laughing for a could ten seconds with that one.
Revenge of the Dead like so many Italian films goes under a variety of names. You may see it referred to as Zeder. I’ve always read reviews that state that this is clearly the Italian zombie subgenre maturing. I want to dismiss this now and state, for the record, that maturity is overrated and that what Revenge of the Dead actually achieves is a step away from copycat cinema in the zombie subgenre that folks like Mattei and Fulci made popular. At least there’s a goddamn original thought in somebody’s brain.
Because it’s VHSPS you get a little extra when you buy their selections. They feature a wonderful pre-La Sexorcisto White Zombie track in the title menu. Also, the trailer for Devil Dog follows the movie.
Please stop by VHSPS and support them buy purchasing as man $10 movies as you possibly can. Here’s today’s featured selection.
KEEP YOUR HEADS CLEAN! CIAO!