Review for Zombie Lake
‘Zombie Lake’ is most definitely not director Jean Rollin’s finest hour. Having built his reputation on erotically charged and surreally dreamlike female vampire films like ‘Lips of Blood’ and ‘The Shiver of the Vampires’, ‘Zombie Lake’ marks something of a departure from that. Rollins was always well-thought of in the industry for his ability to make his very low budget films look well-crafted and expensive – despite many being shot in the space of a single week or so. From the mid-1970s through to the early 80’s, lack of work meant than Rollin took on a number of film projects, some plain pornographic, where he would use a pseudonym as a credit – something he did on ‘Zombie Lake’, clearly not a film that he wanted to be considered part of his canon.
It was made with the help of fellow euro-horror sexploitation director, Jess Franco, who helped pen the script for ‘Zombie Lake’ before abandoning the project which he felt was ‘beneath him’. So Rollin was brought in to pick up the reins. With such a duo, you’d be forgiven for expecting ‘Zombie Lake’ to be somewhat better than it is. On the plus side, it’s well shot and looks pretty good – particularly the lovingly shot nude scenes, and there are plenty of those. But as a horror film, it’s just a all a bit lacklustre.
A girl goes missing in French village whilst visiting a nearby lake, and a second girl is found murdered too. The local Mayor (played by Howard Vernon) steps in to find out what has been going on. He is quite the local hero as, during WWII, he and some other French rebels had fought the occupying Nazis and, in order not to arouse suspicion more widely, they disposed of the bodies in the lake.
A group of young female volleyball players turn up in the village (who writes this stuff? Oh – Jess Franco did.) and they decide to have a collective bathe in the lake where they too wind up dead.
The Mayor knows that something sinister is afoot and starts to suspect that the ghosts of the killed Nazis have returned to wreak their revenge.
One girl, Helena, discovers that her real Father was one of the Nazis killed and that their revival, as seaweed strewn zombies, may have something to do with the fact.
The zombie make-up is passably good but the slow-moving pace makes this a very lukewarm watch with little to commend it – unless you like your zombie films full of gratuitous nudity of course. Of course, there is that ever present sense of melancholy that seems to imbue all of Rollin’s work. There is something almost touching about the ‘love’ element to the film but if its zombie thrills you’re after, you may be best placed to look elsewhere.
Image quality looks pretty good on the streamed version I got to review, if a little washed out – though that was favoured grading at the time which may account for it. It’s a good, clean print, nicely transferred though some of the darker, night-time shots are tough to make out and lacking in contrast (see above).
I don’t know what extra features might come with the DVD release as these weren’t included.
If you’re a Jean Rollin completist, a fanatical zombie film collector, or a fan of seventies soft-porn then this film may be for you. If you’re a fan of all three, then it will surely be an essential purchase, For everyone else, don’t expect too much and you won’t be too disappointed.