Sunday, February 17, 2013

Zombie Lake: How can a film about Nazi zombies be boring?

Furthering my explorations into the Nazi zombie subgenre, I tried Zombie Lake, and almost fell asleep.

Zombie Lake, filmed in 1981 with the original title of Le Lac des Morts Vivants, immediately goes straight to business as a young woman strips off for some skinny dipping in the titular lake (more of a pond, really).  After a few minutes of nudity, the first Nazi zombie appears and clumsily grabs at the water nymph (underwater sequences courtesy of a very poorly disguised swimming pool).  Neither party seems fully invested in the scene – in fact, they both look rather bored.  This sets the tone for the rest of the film.
Script, acting, special effects, and dubbing are almost deliberately bad, but rarely in the “so bad it’s good” way.  The long periods in which nothing of interest happens give the viewer time to admire the pleasant French village scenery, or take a nap.

In a flashback to World War II, we see a forbidden romance between a Nazi soldier and a village girl cut short when the Resistance ambushes the Nazis and dumps their bodies in the lake.  “You could call it the damned lake of the dead,” as the mayor puts it, although why the lake creates zombies remains an unanswered question.  

Damned or not, the lake is certainly a popular skinny-dipping spot.  A septet of giggling girls is soon disgorged from a VW camper van (one of many anachronisms) to become the next zombie snack.
Stirred to action, for some reason, after lo these many years, the Nazi zombies rampage around the village.  Their modus operandi is to clumsily wrestle their victims to the ground, then give them hickeys on the neck while drooling unconvincing fake blood.  Sometimes the special effects “artists” could be bothered to add slight neck wounds after the fact, sometimes not.  Clumsily applied green zombie makeup makes the Nazis look a bit like plastic army men.  Also, some of them have taken lessons from Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.

The only ghost of a plot involves the love child of the forbidden romance, who is visited by her “good” zombie father.  The villagers eventually form a mob to destroy the “mad, murderous zombies” via flamethrower, leading to some alarming special effects sequences (one wonders how many Nazi zombie actors were burned in the making of this movie).  The fact that the zombie-eradication scene inexplicably alternates from night to day is a little distracting.

Perhaps a drinking game could be made of the numerous goofs and anachronisms, but the whole thing is so dull and plodding, with awful special effects and no real frights, that skipping Zombie Lake is probably the best option.  Even the director, Jean Rollin, claimed to be embarrassed by the film, and this was a man who directed such greats as Folies Anales and Discosex.  If the abbreviated version above wasn't enough, the entire film is to be had on YouTube   

Incidentally, something about the movie (plotlessness, nudity, people walking in and out of lakes?) reminded me of Jesús Franco, and sure enough he’s listed as one of the writers of Zombie Lake.  Next up is Franco’s own Oasis of the Zombies, which can’t be worse than Zombie Lake.  I hope.

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