Zombie Lake (1981) aka Le lac des morts vivants
Director: Jean Rollin
Starring: Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou, Anouchka
Out NOW on UK DVD from Black House Films!
Back in the 1980s there’s no denying that as a film genre Horror was at one of it’s highest peaks in terms of creativity, we saw the likes of Jason Voorhees slicing through our anxiety to Freddy Krueger making insomnia suffers blessed. Debuts by characters that are both highly regarded as the figureheads of the horror culture we live in today.
Amongst many classics during this period today we delve into Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake. Jean originating from France sadly left us back in 2010 however is remembered for his unique cinematography, off-kilter plot progression and poetic dialogue which showed us the likes of The Living Dead Girl and The Night of the Hunted.
Zombie Lake is no exception to these sentiments. Set in a quiet rural village somewhere in France post World War II. Zombie Lake opens in a very Jaws-esque manner. A young local girl decides to take a mid-afternoon stroll followed by a casual skinny dip, little does she know there’s something lurking in the depths. The soothing sound of what can only be described as elevator music provided by composer Daniel White accompanies the opening. One can only assume that it was Jean’s intention to make the audience feel at ease prior to all hell breaking loose.
After a savage attack by what everyone’s expectations of a zombie should be, green, angry and ready to eat the terror off someone’s face, there is a slight difference as these aren’t your traditional Zombies these are Nazi Zombies. Word travels fast throughout the village and grabs the attention of the village Major portrayed by Swiss actor Howard Vernon, who makes a very convincing job of knowing something that the audience do not at this stage of the film.
Very much a slow burner, after a brief back story of how the terror came to fruition the film very quickly changes its pace when a group of teenagers decide to go for a refreshing dip in the now suitably named The Damned Lake. Very much like the lives of the teenagers sadly this change in pace is short lived.
Although at times Zombie Lake tends to be lacklustre, you can’t deny that when it gets to the point where it’s about to go bat shit it is executed in a brilliant way. I also feel that Zombie Lake could have benefited from having a lot more gore within certain scenes. I couldn’t help but think while watching this that George A Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead must have been a key influence on the making of this film overall.
In 2017 Nazi Zombies are predominantly a lot more present in popular culture however in the 80s this was a completely new take on the zombie concept . It’s easy to see how Zombie Lake has influenced modern takes on this concept such as the Dead Snow films and even the Call of Duty Video game franchise.
Slow burner or not Zombie Lake is definitely worth the time of any zombie based film enthusiast.
This certainly won’t leave you wanting to go Skinny dipping, or will it? 😉