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Stefano, a young journalist, buys a used typewriter and accidentally sees that some text is still readable on the ribbon. He manages to reconstruct the story of a scientist, Paolo Zeder, who in the 1950's discovered that some types of terrain have the power to revive the dead that are buried in them. Stefano's investigations bring him in contact with a group of renegade scientists that are still making experiments to prove Zeder's theories. Written by
Giancarlo Cairella <email@example.com>
Admittedly The Italians managed to maintain a successful movie industry for 30 years by keeping up with the standards and box office hits from the other side of the Atlantic. Occasionally these imitations of American hits surpassed the originals and sometimes they led to the creation of entire sub genres that flourished for years (like the spaghetti westerns or the previous sword and sandal craze of the 50's). However Zeder is solid proof that every now and then an original movie with a fresh concept would surface.
The first 3/4 of the movie rely more on mystery than horror as the story slowly but steadily unfolds its twists. Pupi Avati (of The House with Laughing Windows fame) opts for a story-driven piece here and thus forgoes all the gruesome (and much beloved) trademarks of early 80's Italian horror and instead focuses on atmosphere and suspense. As a footnote, the core of the plot isn't as original as one might think. The telluride zones of power which supposedly cover the surface of the earth and provide healing or regenerating powers of various sorts have been researched for a long time now. Supposedly all ancient places of importance (such as temples, obelisks, oracles or pyramids) are built on these zones and serve as antennas that amplify this geological kind of power. The Avati brothers cleverly combine this theory with a living dead subplot and in the process craft a very unique take on the zombie mythos.
However Zeder is far from your typical flesh eating romp. Most of the murders are off screen and the focus is strictly on atmosphere, mystery and the supernatural than graphic violence. In my opinion this slightly hampers the effect of the film. A full blown zombie apocalypse near the end would flow naturally from the story AND provide that extra oomph! that would propel Zeder to a different level. There's a beautifully crafted climax near the end, complete with top notch camera work and some genuinely chilling visuals that actually begs for a climax larger in scale, that is sadly not materialised. It would just feel right. Avati opts for a "romantic" closure instead of full blown zombie mayhem or even an iconic zombie moment like the closing of Zombi 2 with the zombies marching towards the city.
"What if"s aside, Zeder is a success. It might seem relatively tame in comparison to Zombi 2, yet in the same time infinitely classier than your average Italian z-grade zombie flick of its time (Virus I'm looking at you). It comes with an interesting concept, a story that is actually interesting and suspenseful enough to hold your attention as it unfolds and some genuinely creepy moments and imagery. The script needed a little more polishing to flesh out the story better, but Zeder is clearly ambitious and I can't fault it for that. It deserves to be watched by open-minded fans. Just don't expect a zombie movie in the vein of Fulci or Mattei.
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