Stars: Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou, Anouchka, Antonio Mayans, Lynn Monteil, Youri Radionow, Gilda Arancio, Marcia Sharif, Yvonne Dany, Jean Rene Bleu, Jean Rollin | Written by Julián Esteban & Jess Franco | Directed by Jean Rollin
The residents of a small French village are shocked when a young girl goes missing whilst visiting the nearby lake and another girl is found brutally murdered within the village itself. Naturally, they turn to their friendly neighbourhood mayor (Howard Vernon) to find out what has happened.It turns out that during WW2 the Nazis had occupied the village and instead of bowing down, a group of rebel villagers led by the mayor himself rallied together to fight back. Taking the platoon by surprise they gun them all down and to avoid suspicion further suspicion from potential soldiers, dump the bodies in the lake. As it turns out, one of those killed was actually the father of Helena, a young girl in the village whose mother had given birth and subsequently died just before the attack. Things become infinitely worse when a group visiting nubile volleyball players also wind up dead whilst having a frolic in the lake. The mayor is concerned that the past is catching up to him and the “ghosts” of the platoon have awoken to seek revenge on the rebels and the village itself. Maybe Helena is the key to ending the madness?
Yeah, OK. It’s a friggin’ zombie flick. It’s evident right from the start, but you have draw people in with a vague plot summary sometimes right? It’s easy to see why this film has the reputation and cult following that it has. The zombie effects are naff. Literally looking like men with green makeup on and pieces of torn toilet paper stuck to their face. There’s plenty of female nudity too. You sometimes get more than an eyeful in the underwater swimming scenes. Sometimes literally seeing in to the abyss – if you catch my drift. The gore is OK considering, lots of bold red blood.
As to be expected, the acting isn’t going to blow you way for the right reasons. Howard Vernon just seems to float through this film in a daze, it’s wonderful! It sounds like I’m bashing on this film, right? Well, as trashy and as crude as it is (originally a Jess Franco film until he decided to pull out because it couldn’t even match his standards!), it’s a damn enjoyable little romp. The biggest surprise for me was just how touching the film was with regards to the whole “Nazi falls in love with villager” story. You feel genuine compassion for all those involved and it has an almost Greek tragedy feel to it. There’s a real sense of melancholic romance, something I really wasn’t expecting.
It’s a familiar story overall, but it’s solidly told and has some nice unique twists. Plus you get to see Jean Rollin himself falling victim to the zombies and I could swear there’s an uncredited appearance from Udo Kier! Usually, these films are good for a cheap laugh or worth at least one watch. For me personally, this is one I could go back to on a somewhat regular basis. Definitely worthy of being in your Eurocine collection!
A barebones release (the only extras are trailers for this film, Crimson and Oasis of The Living Dead) Zombie Lake is released on DVD on March 20th courtesy of Black House, the new Euro-Horror label from Screenbound.