MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973)
aka DEAD PEOPLE
Article 2143 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-27-2007
Posting Date: 6-25-2007
Directed by William Huyck and Gloria Katz
Featuring Michael Greer, Marianna Hill, Joy Bang
A woman arrives at a small seaside town to visit her artist father, who is missing from his home. She searches the town for him, and hooks up with some tourists researching an old town legend about a blood moon. They begin to learn the awful secret of the town, a secret that has turned the town’s dead into flesh-eating zombies.
The plot of this low-budget zombie flick is a bit muddled; I’m not sure what the woman’s loss of the ability to feel sensations has to do with the plot (or the significance of her spitting up insects), or what role her father really plays in the proceedings. Nevertheless, this is an effective little horror movie despite those problems, with three memorable and well-staged attack sequences (in a filling station, a grocery store and a movie theater) and the occasional display of a wicked sense of humor (my favorites – a line about stamps, a line about Wagner, and the title on the marquee of the movie theater). Somehow, it all has to do with a stranger (who survived the Donner Party) who appeared in town one hundred years ago. All in all, a fairly decent horror movie which would be rereleased under several titles over the years; its distributors got into trouble at one point for copping the ad line from Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD. The movie also features Royal Dano (who would appear a few years later in another movie about the Donner party, DONNER PASS: THE ROAD TO SURVIVAL) and Elisha Cook Jr., who shows up just long enough to die a horrible death (wait a minute – there’s an echo in here). Writers and directors William Huyck and Gloria Katz were associates of George Lucas (they co-wrote AMERICAN GRAFFITI with him) and also worked on the sequel to that movie as well as INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and the disastrous HOWARD THE DUCK.