ZOMBIE LAKE (1981)
Directed by Jean Rollin
On DVD from Black House
A small village in France is terrorised by a group of undead Nazi soldiers that were once killed and thrown into the nearby Damned Lake. Hungry for flesh, the zombie soldiers won’t stop their quest for blood and its up to the mayor to concoct a plan to save the residents.
The first of Screenbound’s releases for new label Black House is Jean Rollin’s super low budget horror ZOMBIE LAKE. Combining pretty young ladies skinnydipping with the villainous Nazi zombies living under the water seems to be a winning formula for the genre as we see plenty of young women meet their watery graves after being unable to resist the refreshing, cool splash on a summer’s day. When a basketball team succumb to the Lake of the Damned, the Mayor finally decides to pull his finger out and do something about it but the situation has already got out of hand. Seemingly displeased with merely killing people in the lake itself, the Nazi zombies decide to have a shuffle around the village to find fresh blood to satisfy their hunger. However, for one of the zombies, it appears his connection to the living is more than simply to feed as he discovers the daughter he last saw as a baby before he died.
ZOMBIE LAKE has everything you’d expect of exploitation cinema: naked women, a bit of gore, bad dubbing and a fairly ridiculous storyline. Whilst it’s not the greatest thing to watch, it’s certainly fun to sit through thanks to the humorous use of green paint to transform the soldiers into zombies with a bit of helping of the red stuff to, you know, at least attempt to make it into a horror movie. From a gore hound point of view, this film is as tame as you can get and there’s nothing remotely horrific about it unless zombies sneaking up on their prey is something to get worked up about. Although I suppose you could say being drowned to death by an undead Nazi soldier whilst having a swim is a fair unpleasant way to spend your afternoon.
The main heart of the film is the aforementioned father/daughter relationship between David Hyde Pierce lookalike Pierre-Marie Escourrou’s German soldier and little Anouchka as Helena. After saving her mother’s life during an attack from the opposition, the young soldier develops a bond and a brief but tender relationship with the French woman, from which Helena is conceived. Visiting mother and baby before his fatal last ride with his fellow soldiers, the bond between them is unbreakable and holds more importance than that of his allegiance to his fellow soldiers. However, what will come of his newfound relationship with his daughter now that he and the rest of the army are the walking undead, hellbent on killing the living?
Whilst watching ZOMBIE LAKE, I felt the movie had certain familiarity to it. A sprinkle of Jess Franco, if you will. So when I discovered that Franco was one of the writers of ZOMBIE LAKE, it hardly came as a surprise. I also noticed that the repeated theme music throughout ZOMBIE LAKE had been used somewhere else and having just reviewed Bare Breasted Countess, I do believe that it’s been borrowed from that particular film. Though it suits Bare Breasted Coutness better, the music fits quite well with the scenes where the undead soldier shares moments with his living daughter. That’s not the only similarity though, as I’m also sure that the resistence leader in ZOMBIE LAKE is the same actor who played Vogel, the resistence leader in Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg. It seems films made around this time and of this genre had a habit of borrowing or “sharing” with others.
Overall a bit of a hoot, ZOMBIE LAKE ticks all the basic boxes required for a ‘horror’ in this genre, though more gore would have been much appreciated. Though it might not warrant a re-watch at any point, there’s enough here to please fans of the exploitation genre even if it’s by no means a classic. Simple, Nazi water zombie fun!