Zeder (1983) poster

Zeder (1983)


aka Revenge of the Dead; Zeder: Voices from the Beyond

Italy. 1983.


Director/Story – Pupi Avati, Screenplay – Antonio Avati, Pupi Avati & Maurizio Costanzo, Producers – Antonio Avati & Gianni Minervini, Photography – Franco Delli Colli, Music – Riz Ortolani, Production Design – Giancarlo Basili & Leonardo Scarpa. Production Company – A.M.A Film/RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana.


Gabriele Lavia (Stefano), Anne Canovas (Alessandria), Paola Tanziani (Gabriella Goodman), Bob Tonelli (Mr Big), Enea Ferrario (Mirko), John Stacy (Professor Chesi), Cesare Barbetti (Dr Meyer), Enrico Ardizzone (Benni), Ferdinando Orlandi (Giovine), Alessandro Partexano (Lieutenant Guido Silvestri)


The writer Stefano is given a second-hand electric typewriter by his girlfriend Alessandria for their anniversary present. In examining the typewriter, Stefano finds it still has a ribbon from its previous owner. He prints out what is on the ribbon – notes from a Paolo Zeder describing having found K Zones. Stefano searches for the intended recipient, the priest Don Luigi Costa, and delivers the notes to him. However, this leads him on a trail where he discovers that K Zones refer to locations where the dead can return to life. At the same time, mysterious people seek to stop his quest.

Italian director Pupi Avati is a largely unrecognised name. He has been at work since 1970 and has directed over fifty films. These have included genre efforts such as Balsamus, Man of Satan (1970), Thomas and the Bewitched (1970), and the giallo films The House with the Laughing Windows (1976) and All Deceased Except the Dead (1977). His work since the mid-1980s has largely been in non-genre comedy, dramas and history, although he has made several returns to horror with The Childhood Friend (1994), The Mysterious Enchanter (1996), The Hideout (2007) and Mr Devil (2019). He also wrote various screenplays including Lamberto Bava’s Macabre (1980) and uncredited work on Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notorious Salo or 120 Days of Sodom (1975).

The Italian horror film of the 1980s was being defined by works of supernatural horror like Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) and down the cheaper end of the market by Lucio Fulci with City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and others, plus a great many imitators. Zeder is a supernatural horror film. Most of the other Italian horror films of this period feature stylistic murder set-pieces and gore-drenched deaths. By contrast, Zeder opts for something like a story, which all the others seemed to regard as an irrelevance, while Pupi Avati aims for an accumulating mood instead of gory set-pieces.

Anne Canovas and Gabriele Lavia with the electric typewriter in Zeder (1983)
Anne Canovas and Gabriele Lavia with the mysterious electric typewriter

Rather than a standard Italian horror film of the era, Zeder plays out more as a mystery with Gabriele Lavia investigating the typewriter ribbon and the missing Catholic priest, which leads to a disused hospital and rumours of the mysterious K Zones that may be able to raise the dead. Pupi Avati does a good job building up a conspiratorial mystery around Gabriele Lavia – of priests who take documents and are then revealed to be impostors, of police detectives turning up dead, locals who suddenly fall silent or are revealed to be part of the shadowy cabal also seeking the location of the K Zones.

The main problem for me with Zeder is that I came to it after reading its reputation, which had been pumped up by various genre commentators over the years. I was expecting the film to do something amazing – only it didn’t. It is all mystery and the hint of conspiracies centred around the opening up of K Zones and resurrected people – but none of this ever coalesces into anything. I was anticipating what happened when we arrived at the K Zones and saw the dead resurrected but this never seems to happen apart from an ambiguous ending where Gabriele Lavia finds Anne Canovas at the hospital seemingly returned from the dead.

Trailer here

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