Messiah of Evil (1973)

DEAD PEOPLE (also known as MESSIAH OF EVIL, the version I saw) is a rather artistic and unusual little horror movie. The zombies in this case are flesh eaters, but the exact cause of zombification is a century-old curse upon the coastal town of Point Dune. Unlike Romero’s undead, these creatures are almost fully functional, capable of speaking, running, firing a gun, and driving. They also show almost no signs of decay, save for the pale skin and zoned-out expression.

The movie begins with Arletty (Marianna Hill) on her way toward the town of Point Dune to check up on her father after receiving some strange correspondence from him. Her first encounter is at a gas station near the town, where a nervous attendant assists her before a large albino man drives up in a pickup truck loaded with corpses. Arletty makes her way into town, encountering Thom (Michael Greer), a young wealthy swinger living with two women, Laura (Anitra Ford) and Toni (Joy Bang), who lets her stay with them. As time goes on, we learn about the curse upon Point Dune, all revolving around a strange religion started a century ago by a mysterious man in dark. Evidently it is this curse that causes people to slowly die, turning into zombies and bleeding from the eyes.

In spite of the campy 70’s music and somewhat mediocre editing, this is a genuinely creepy movie done very effectively on an obviously low budget. Unfortunately, finding a relatively clean copy of this movie on DVD might be difficult. It is a public domain film, meaning that it can probably be found online for free, and it is included with a number of multi-movie boxed sets (notably the “Chilling Classics” Mill Creek set, with forty-nine other movies).