Film Review: ZOMBIE LAKE (a.k.a. Le Lac Des Morts Vivants) (1981)

ZOMBIE LAKE (a.k.a. Le Lac Des Morts Vivants) ** France 1981 Dir: Jean Rollin 90 mins

The 1980’s was the decade that brought us truly brilliant zombie movies, many of which became cult classics and brought on countless remakes/sequels and influenced many of the zombie movies we enjoy today. Zombie Lake, unfortunately, is not one of these, it seems to me that it just jumped on the zombie bandwagon in the hope of being as popular as Return Of The Living Dead or Zombie Holocaust for example, erm, not the case in this instance I’m afraid.
Zombie Lake is the story of the disappearance of some German soldiers killed by the French Resistance and thrown into a cursed lake that have returned 10 years later as zombies to exact their revenge on the village community. As well as this, one of the soldiers (before his demise) has a love affair with a woman from the village resulting in her giving birth to a daughter. Add to this the magic ingredient of a fuck load of female nudity and you have Zombie Lake. I love that movies from this era just get on with it; no fannying around with character building or gentle introductions, just this is what’s going on right now if you don’t get it, who cares? Just look at the boobs!! The opening scene is a lone female by the lake who just casually strips off and goes for a dip. After an annoyingly long drawn out scene of her splashing about she is awkwardly grabbed by a very badly made up Nazi soldier zombie and, I believe, is devoured. Eventually after that they do get around to explaining the story (sort of) and we are left watching a collection of really over the top actors and ridiculously wooden ones that look like they turned up on set accidently. There is a part where a local women is found dead, killed by the zombies, and carried very unceremoniously through town with her knickers on show (very dignified right??) then placed outside the mayors office as a form of outrage by the villagers, the father of the victim just looks mildly inconvenienced by the whole thing really. There is also this bizarre side story going on of the soldier and his French lover having a child and then when he returns from the dead he recognises her 10 years on and visits her at regular intervals throughout the film; it is all rather odd. The make up and prosthetics are laughable but it adds to the charm yet dates the film badly. Their make up is just green face paint with badly stuck on facial wounds and eye patches, there is a fair bit of very thin fake blood but they linger too much on the shots of the zombies biting and it’s just basically them sucking on peoples necks which just looks awkward. The cinematography and continuity is also questionable I’m speaking of a particular moment where a mini bus containing a women’s volleyball team turns up at the lake and it, of course, means they all have to strip off and frolic around naked (coz this is obviously what happens all the time when us girls get together near a body of water… we just cant help ourselves!!), in one shot they are splashing around in water up to their knees then it cuts to shot of the zombies lunging towards them from the depths, back to them in shallow water, then miraculously we see them all swimming around in deep water and when they are attacked you really don’t where to look with all the boobs and minge on show you kind of feel sorry for the girls who are basically getting groped by the zombies, but at the same time you feel for the poor guys playing the zombies as there really is nothing else for them to grab on to and because it’s all shot so badly the whole thing is a bit, well, awkward again. I think that’s definitely the key word for this film. The music is actually very amusing in my opinion. It’s very typical of the decade being very synthesised and over bearing but it does make the movie in this case, plus it covers vast areas of no dialogue what so ever. I have read that Jean Rollin was so embarrassed about being involved  he refused to admit that he was responsible for this movie for years and rightly so but despite all its short comings it is just about watchable and once you start watching it you get a bit mesmerised and are compelled to see it through to the end. It has to be seen by fans of the 80’s zombie genre if nothing else then for the a bit of a nostalgia trip but for those who aren’t then I’ve watched it for you and you all owe me one for this.

Review by Sarah Budd

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