Reviews: new release for classic Euro horror Zombie Lake
Directed by Jean Rollin and Julian de Laserna,
Starring Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou, Anouchka, Antonio Mayans, Lynn Monteil
Released by Black House/Screenbound
There is a long tradition of shlocky and shock horror in European cinema. In 1981, Zombie Lake was added to this pantheon. I have vague memories of watching this in my early teens (along with probably too many other horrors – the joys of the early video rental store). The only part I could remember clearly was a particular zombie attack late in the movie. What’s amazing is how I could have forgotten the great swathes of nudity, some male and some female, happily distributed through the film (what else would you expect from Rollin??).
Not really, of course. The nudity is confined exclusively to young nubile females (surprise). And as I said, there’s a lot of it. The first five minutes, for example, is a prolonged scene of a young naked girl swimming, before she’s eventually pulled under by a Nazi Zombie.
Yeah, you heard me – Nazi Zombies. Many decades before great Norwegian horror Dead Snow. And as we all know, Nazi zombies are the worst kind of zombies, right?
So that’s kind of the storyline here. Young girls are going missing – one is found with her throat torn out, but the mayor steadfastly refuses to do anything, not unlike the mayor in Jaws. Until, that is, a reporter starts snooping around. The mayor opens up and tells her the story of why the local lake is thought to be haunted.
It’s all to do with something that happened ten years before, during the Second World War, when the local Resistance dumped dead Nazi soldiers into the water after a battle. And now those self-same Nazis have returned to have their revenge, despite being dead for years, which would normally be a handicap for most.
There is a great idea for a story here – old Resistance fighters having to arm up to fight the evil Nazis one last time. There’s also a nice wrinkle on the sentimental thread that usually runs through one of these movies. You see, there’s a little girl whose father is one of the Nazi zombie horde, and they have a story arc within the greater storyline, which subverts the normal expectations.
That’s not to say that this is a coruscating social satire in the style of George Romero. It is far from it. The pace is leaden, the acting serviceable at best and the make-up and SFX are not exactly up there with the work of Tom Savini or his ilk. Of course you could argue those kind of production values are part of the fun with old schlock horrors; fans expect it, heck, we often even revel in it!
But, that aside… I was never bored while watching it. It’s not what you would maybe call a ‘good’ movie, but it is certainly an interesting and a fun viewing experience – a curiosity, nicely brought back from horror’s history and back to our screens with this DVD release. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead and such shows, this is probably not for you. But if you’re interested in the murky end of European cinema and love some of those 1970s and 80s horrors, this might be just right for you.
(warning, before you hit play, the trailer below contains nudity as well as horror and is NSFW)
Zombie Lake is released by Black House on DVD on March 20th