Director : Jean Rollin
Stars : Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou. Anouchka
In a small village, somewhere in France, German soldiers, killed and thrown into the lake by the resistance during WWII, come back.
Well, I guess there’s two ways one could describe “Zombie Lake”. One way would be to say it’s half terrifying film where a village is terrorized by it’s dark past, and half moving drama about love, death and fatherhood. The other way to describe it, and the one I particularly favour for this review, is it’s an absolutely bizarre piece of French Nazi zombie schlock that has more full frontal female nudity than the average porn film.
I mean, we’re shown breasts and muff within the first minute, which really sets up the relentless boob onslaught that we get for the next eighty, to the point where you just seem to accept it, and after a while not even notice it. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t filmed the same day as a porno using the same “actresses”, it would certainly be an opportunity missed.
So this particular girl strips off to go swimming in the lake where she ends up being attacked by Nazi zombies sporting the worst makeup I’ve seen since I let my elderly neighbour dress me up as a kind of vampire/witch hybrid one Halloween. It’s basically just green paint, and not very well applied either, as in most scenes you see it peeling off. So the zombies then attack a woman in the village and the locals become concerned. Sounds like an average zombie schlock fest so far, but when this film really becomes a tad bizarre for me, is when the back story kicks in and we get an overly long flashback involving one of the soldiers and a lady villager. This involves them making love (for quite a while), her giving him a horrid silver necklace, her getting pregnant, and culminating with him getting shot by the resistance and thrown into the lake. At this point, the child has been born and the mother dies. Now it’s not explained why she dies, it wasn’t during childbirth or anything, it just happens… Did she get a disease? I really hope I didn’t miss anything.
So by now it’s become apparent that shockingly, this film is taking it’s self pretty seriously, and the makers want us to invest ourselves emotionally in it. And it’s shortly after the flashback scene that we really get into the meat of it, and soon come my three favourite scenes.
The first of my favourite scenes is where a camper van load of girls, later described as a professional basketball team (even though they only have a volleyball with them) park up by the lake, decide to go skinny dipping, and eventually get eaten in the face by our Nazi zombie friends. Now, this isn’t one of my favourites because of all the nakedness (much), it’s basically because now, at this point, the Nazi daughter is about eight years old. So the rest of this film must be set in the mid fifties at the latest, but everything about this scene screams 1981. Very confusing.
Another favourite scene is where the zombies attack the village (yet again) and one of them bursts into a barn where a couple are frolicking. The man tries to attack the zombie, but gets easily dispatched in quite bizarre fashion and the lady gets eaten. So what’s so good about this scene? Oh, the couple are wearing blatant wigs. Blatant to the point of hilarity. The only reason I can think of for this, is that the director must have thought their real haircuts were a bit too modern looking, so more “timeless” hairdos were needed. Maybe. If this was the case then at least the guy’s slightly trying at points to remain authentic, though it was just for this scene and afterwards he forgot again.
The third scene is where yes, at last the zombie father meets his daughter and gives her the horrible necklace. At no point does the girl look scared at the green man with the large scary eyes and the SS uniform, on the contrary, she’s delighted to be reunited with her dead Nazi father. Now it’s at this point I realised something. Something bewilderingly outrageous. I’ll explain. In this film two cops show up. They seem like interesting characters. They give it the usual “there’s no such thing as the dead coming back to life” chatter, before going down to the lake to investigate, where… they’re eaten straight away. They’re in the film for about five whole minutes. There’s also the mayor (that’s actually how he’s credited) played by Howard Vernon. He seems a decent guy at first, until we later see him involved in the shooting of the Nazi soldiers and making the decision to throw their bodies in the lake. But surely this is a good thing? Well not in the context of this film, it’s very apparent that we’re supposed to feel some sympathy for the Nazis, and we’re also supposed to see the mayor as a somewhat bad guy. So that’s it. There’s no one left, and as Nazi dad puts the silver chain around his daughter’s neck I make the realisation that yes, This is the main protagonist…. Our hero is a zombie Nazi with crap makeup.
The fact rings even more true when later, Nazi dad brings his daughter to meet his dead friends, but one of them isn’t down with the situation, so they have a very slow zombie fight that seems to last for hours.Well on paper, this script must look like a ten minute short, so I suppose the “clever” padding out of scenes like this, the sex scene and all the unnecessary nudity are required. Anyway, bad zombie tries to stab good zombie (don’t know if that would do any good) but is eventually defeated by our Nazi hero. They then seem to make friends again and decide to go and terrorize more villagers. Is there any stopping them?
In summary, Zombie Lake is a film that at times is so ridiculously bad that it’s highly entertaining, but at other times is a sleep inducing bore fest that takes it’s self too seriously. What I really wanted to know was how/why the zombies came back from the dead. Maybe a short piece of dialogue along the lines of the lake being used for toxic dumping would have helped, but unfortunately, we get absolutely no explanation which really let down this otherwise glorious achievement in French cinema. Not really.
Oh god, I forgot to mention the dubbing!