Before Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and The Crazies, there was Dead People a.k.a Messiah of evil. Shot in 1971 the film was not released until 1973. Like H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon and The Wicker Man (1973), weird locals are hiding a horrific secret… In Messiah, the people of Point Dune worship the rise of a red moon as they become zombies. The storyline is disjointed, but this adds to the mystic, surreal and dreamlike quality of the film. Admittedly, it feels art house, there is some irregular editing and the score is very much of its time, but there’s plenty to like about it.
Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Dead & Buried (1981) and the aforementioned Dawn of the Dead clearly have taken a cue from Willard Huyck’s jumbled but effective film. Especially the scene where slinky brunette Anitra Ford is pursued through a supermarket. There is also truly creepy scene again with Ford and an albino trucker, played by Bennie Robinson, who you’d think would have been in a lot more horror movies. If you liked Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) and Night of the Living Dead there’s some horror delight to be found here from the shocking first kill to the insane asylum ending.
Messiah of Evil oozes dread and suspense, it’s a chilling 70’s horror flick that despite its faults is a lot better than some of today’s so called horrors.