“No, no my friend ‘Zombie Lake’ makes even the most bizarre and inept Argento, Bava, or Lenzi film look like Citizen Kane, it is that ridiculous.”
Review by Jerimiah Anderson White-DouglasThe 1981 film Zombie Lake has somewhat of a sordid little history to it, almost half as sordid as the film itself. Zombie Lake was originally to be directed by trash film maven Jesus Franco from his own script. Before production became underway on the film he was let go and the reigns were then handed off to the the king of french erotic surrealism, Jean Rollin. Rollin has stated in many interviews that he, “regretted accepting the position as soon as I read the script.”
The film went on to become infamous among the Euro trash films of the 80’s and is considered to be one of Jean Rollin’s worst films, one he now disowns. But not so fast Mr. Rollin. The film is awful as far as the common standards of films are concerned, but it is Mr. Rollin’s ability to create a dreamlike setting amongst all the chaos that saves this film from the gutters. In fact it is Mr. Rollin’s keen eye for odd details that makes the film not only watchable but artsy in the most deviant form of the term. This is Euro sleaze. Trashy art-house cinema at its best and also at its most surreal.
Zombie Lake is the simple story of a man fighting against the french for the German army during WWII. The Soldier falls in love with and quickly beds a french farm girl (in one of the longest love scenes ever put on film) and knocks her up. Soon after this encounter with the young woman the soldier flees the french countryside with his fellow soldiers only to return a year later and find out his love died during child birth. Shortly after this realization the German Soldier’s group in ambushed by enemy forces and he and his men are all killed. Not knowing what to do with all the Nazi corpses on hand the french village people dispose of them in a nearby lake.
Ten years later: The lake has now been coined ” Lake Of The Dead ” by the locals and the event that took place has become the stuff of hush hush tea gossip. When mutilated corpses of nubile young ladies begin showing up the townsfolk believe the lake is to blame and a young reporter shows up with plenty of questions of her own. From here on out, every time a woman slips off her cloths and jumps into the lake dead Nazi’s arise from their watery abyss to gorge themselves on supple tender young flesh. The Nazis are hellbent on destruction and chaos, all except for one sensitive German Officer who still searches the countryside for his young daughter.
Zombie Lake is true blue Euro-trash to the fullest, this is not the kind of film that can be recommended to fans of Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, or even Umberto Lenzi. No, no my friend this film makes even the most bizarre and inept Argento, Bava, or Lenzi film look like Citizen Kane, it is that ridiculous. The script, by Franco, keeps all his trademarks in tact we have LOADS of female flesh on display, some bright crimson blood, and a very disjointed story that includes extreme melodramatic moments worthy of or exceeding even Douglas Sirk.
But wait, instead of extreme Jess Franco style close up shots and disco dance numbers we get beautiful Jean Rollin scenery and silent calculated madness. Rollin is known more for his visionary style then his knack for narrative focus. Here that trait becomes a godsend, Rollin is able to craft what could have been a very generic robotic bore into a hypnotic almost Gothic nightmare of flesh and forbidden desires. Don’t get me wrong, Zombie Lake is inept, very inept. Here is an example, for instance the lake itself is suppose to be a murky old swamp in the middle of nowhere but when shown underwater from the zombie perspective it is clear and clean and you can clearly see both a green tarp and the sides of a pool in the background. The acting is also so badly dubbed that it’s almost impossible to tell if these people are giving genuine performances, by the exaggerated looks they have on their faces chances are they are not. Night changes to day without a moment’s notice and zombies appear one way under water and another when out, one major no-no after another.
Honestly, they didn’t give a fuck. Mr. Rollin however is able to make even the most inept and tedious piece of film become almost hypnotic to the viewer. Instead of taking away from the viewing experience these obvious lapses in logic and continuity add to the dreamlike dazed atmosphere that pervades over the entire film. Zombie Lake is a disjointed mess of a film but it is likely to be the best disjointed mess of a film you are likely to ever see emerge from the 70’s Euro Sleaze Scene.
FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE IN ITS ENTIRETY
Jerimiah lives in Des Moines, IA with husband Corey Douglas. A freelance writer for Horrornews.net (as Demonica Vansant} and other media outlets. Jerimiah is an independent film maker with several acting/directing credits under his name. He is currently in production on his first experimental feature entitled “Little Pigs” for release sometime in late 2017.