72 user 58 critic

Messiah of Evil (1973)

R | | Horror | 1973 (USA)
A young woman goes searching for her missing artist father. Her journey takes her to a strange Californian seaside town governed by a mysterious undead cult.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Greer ...
Arletty (as Mariana Hill)
Joy Bang ...
Joseph Lang
Charles Dierkop ...
Gas Attendant
Bennie Robinson ...
Albino trucker
Morgan Fisher ...
Emma Truckman ...
Dyanne Asimow ...
Unknown (as Dyanne Simon)
Herb Margolis ...
Alex Michaels ...
Laurie Charlap-Hyman ...


A young woman goes searching for her missing artist father. Her journey takes her to a strange Californian seaside town governed by a mysterious undead cult.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Terror you won't want to remember - In a film you won't be able to forget. See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

1973 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dead People  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


In recent interviews with actress Joy Bang she said that she recalled very little about being in this film except that she didn't think her co-stars delivered good performances. See more »


The sound towards the end somehow develops a three-second delay from when the characters open their mouths to when we actually hear their voices. See more »


Arletty: [narrating] They're coming here. They're waiting at the edge of the city. They're peering around buildings at night, and they're waiting. They waiting for you! And they'll take you one by one and noone will hear you scream. Noone will hear you SCREAM!
See more »


Edited from Gone with the West (1975) See more »


Hold On To Love
Music and Lyrics by Eliane Tortel
Sung by Raun MacKinnon
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Mesmerizing horror film!
23 March 2007 | by (the rock) – See all my reviews

DEAD PEOPLE (or MESSIAH OF EVIL) is one of those rare horror films that comes along only a few instances in one's lifetime. I had heard about it years ago but never sought it, mostly because of the really bad reviews it got (Michael Weldon says it's crap in his Psychotronic book) but after deciding to check it out and paying only 4 bucks for the DVD, I have to say that all those naysayers were wrong. Really wrong.

I was totally knocked-out by this forgotten film. Everything about it is mesmerizing. The thing I was impressed the most about DEAD PEOPLE is the mood. I've rarely seen a horror this darkly moody, not since SUSPIRIA. Horror fans looking for gore or fast paced action or even the standard way horror films are usually made (high body count, an unstoppable killer, etc) will be disappointed by DEAD PEOPLE. It's none of those things.

DEAD PEOPLE is directed like a nightmare and everything about it is disorienting. There's almost no familiar point of reference in the movie. Everything about it is deliberately done as to make the viewers feel like they cannot relate to what's going on, which is probably why this film looks like a failure to many. But for me, the effect is fantastic. This "disorientating" technique is very common now, with celebrated filmmakers, such as David Lynch, who have made entire careers utilizing this style of film-making.

Take the threesome for instance, played by Michael Greer, Joy Bang and the luscious Anitra Ford. When was the last time you saw a threesome in a horror film? This threesome could have easily been used to titillate fans of horror or exploitation films but it is shown matter-of-factly and yet, to most people, a threesome is still not something they're comfortable with. The "matter-of-fact" way the threesome is portrayed might indicate to many that their characters are poorly written when it's the opposite. The fact that the movie never delves into the most salacious aspects of a threesome tells me more about what the filmmakers believed was important to the story than anything else.

But these incidental, disorienting aspects of the story do not even begin to explain the non-clichéd horror aspects of DEAD PEOPLE, which can only be described as beautiful. Something horrific is going on in town. People are turning into "dead people", not because they were bitten by a vampire or a zombie, but because of some unseen force. The creeping terror that occurs in DP is not that different than what happens in something like THE BIRDS or INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, sans cold war paranoia. Thanks to the spooky voice overs, one from the daughter and one from the father, we learn that the unseen force affect people through the mind or soul (the father, who's an artist, is aware of this unseen force and it affects his art. Brilliant!) Comparing DEAD PEOPLE to other films is sorta a disservice because this is a totally original film. Unlike so many horror movies, the horror elements in DEAD PEOPLE are not used by the filmmakers to "punish" the characters but to create a nightmarish world, which oddly enough, because of the subtle way the creeping terror unfolds, makes the movie look more real than real.

The acting from everyone rangs from OK to pretty good, with Michael Greer being a revelation. He has a very commanding presence. It's a shame his film career never amounted to much. And Anitra Ford is ridiculously hot. I've rarely seen such a sensuous woman in movies. Again, it's a shame her career went nowhere. The music is low key but effective. The cinematography is excellent. The amazing use of depth of field enhances the nightmarish goings on. The only thing that's bad is the song at the end. It just doesn't fit the rest of the movie.

For a film that's supposed to be bad, there are several stand-out scenes in it. About 6 or 7. That's a lot! Most have already mentioned those stand-out scenes here (at the supermarket and cinema) but there are others: at the beginning, at the gas station. When the daughter finds her father's notes. Joy Bang looking at the paintings when getting ready to sleep. The scene when the cops start shooting at people. And the dead people crashing though skylight. The sound effects are a little weak during that scene but the whole moment is still powerful.

I hope one day this film will be completely restored and maybe be re-released on the big screen, which would rock. If your a fan of horror and love atmospheric, moody, nightmarish horror films make sure to check out DEAD PEOPLE. It's simply mesmerizing!

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