I love zombie movies. For me they represent the pinnacle of the horror genre, combining the best elements of what’s around into a sometimes terrifying, sometimes hilarious package. Even most bad zombie movies still hold a level of b-movie charm, that sense of “so bad it’s good”. Zombie Lake, however, isn’t such a movie. It is, simply put, the first film that has made me want to hurt myself.
1981 French Nazi-zombie outing Zombie Lake opens with a shot of a hotpants-clad woman set to what can only be described as soft-core porn music. As confused as this made me, when she then stripped naked and took a dip in the lake (involving some of the most gratuitous legs akimbo swimming shots committed to film) I had to check that the distributor hadn’t somehow got the Emmanuelle DVD into the case by accident. Director Jean Rollin (of Living Dead Girl fame) can’t seem to decide whether he’s shooting a zombie movie or a soft-core porn, a crack that runs like a seismic fault through the entire movie. Most of the “kills” are in fact naked women, including a female basketball team who obviously were far more interested in nudely splashing about in the water than any form of sport. And while I’m on the matter, they are quite blatantly not a basketball team but a volleyball team. But considering the pages of goofs in this film, I’m just nitpicking now.
On the very surface of the plot there would seem to be some potential for a good movie: The bodies of German soldiers killed by La Resistance in WWII were dumped unceremoniously into the lake situated near a small French village. Now they have risen again, to exact their revenge on the inhabitants of the village. At least, so we assume, although this is never really explained. See, with a good writer, director, cast and so on you could make quite a fun movie out of that. Of course Zombie Lake has none of those things. In droves.
The whole 83m runs like a tutorial in how not to make a good movie. The underwater shots are so woefully bad that you can see the walls of the swimming pool they were shot in, and even glimpse an exit sign! Not to mention the magically disappearing lilies and the actress’ swimming in circles which makes her look like a half-paralysed stroke-victim. This then leads to possibly the least scary “hand reaching out of the water” shot I have ever seen in my life. The dialogue is terrible, but as bad as it is it’s upstaged by the even worse voice acting. I would comment on the characterisation, but frankly there isn’t any. Finally there is a truly awful soldier/zombie daughter subplot thrown in which adds absolutely nothing to the film other than a new kind of awful scenes.
Then we get to the zombies themselves. You would have thought that even a child could manage to do better than to just give the actors some green face-paint (most of which gets washed off in the water). At least a child would actually bite their intended victims rather than gumming them and rubbing their lips on their victim’s neck like some kind of pre-adolescent attempt at giving a hiccy.
Zombie Lake is the newest entry on my list of “Films I must die before I see.” There is, however, one saving grace of this movie – that it’s simply so bad that you have to see it to believe it. You will hate it I’m sure, but get some friends around, a very large supply of alcohol, and proceed to rip the movie apart as it dribbles over your television. At the least you’ll have a fun time making fun of it – since there is really no shortage of fodder! This is the only reason I’ve allowed it one star. If you liked this, you probably have brain damage. However for other, better, Nazi- themed zombie movies you may also want to check out Dead Snow and Outpost.