Of all the monsters out there, zombies seem to be among the most popular these days. I admit, zombies are gross and scary but I’ve never quite understood how they manage to be successful as monsters. I mean, most zombies seem to be very skilled at moaning and walking slowly, so the key to surviving a zombie attack is pretty basic…run. Still, zombies are here to stay. Our film today is a French film featuring German zombies. It’s 1981’s Zombie Lake.
Our story opens on a lake in a quaint little French village. As the opening credits roll, a young woman arrives at the lake, strips down to nothing, and spends a few minutes sun bathing before taking a dip…despite the signs that forbid swimming. Before long, a green-skinned zombie in a Nazi uniform rises from the water and drags her down.
The girls clothing is later found and the local mayor (Howard Vernon) is immediately concerned. Things get worse when another zombie climbs up on land and decides to bite out another woman’s throat. Right about this time, a young female reporter comes to town to research a story about the lake…which the locals call “The Lake of the Damned.” The mayor then recounts to her the story of why the lake has such a morbid name. It seems that during World War II, the locals rose up and killed a group of German soldiers, dumping their bodies into the lake. One of these soldiers (Pierre Marie-Escourrou), had fallen in love with a local girl who became pregnant. She dies in childbirth and the soldier never meets his daughter. .
Now it seems that the soldiers have returned to exact their revenge on the town. At the same time, one zombie is seeking out the daughter he never met. He and the girl even share a few tender moments. Meanwhile, the other zombies concern themselves with eating a girls’ volleyball team who decide to go skinny dipping in the lake. Soon, the villagers have no choice but to rise up once again and battle the zombies.
The credited director of Zombie Lake is J.A. Laser, which was a pseudonym for Jean Rollin. This is generally considered to be one of his worst films. The idea behind the film is not without promise, though. Zombie Nazi’s seeking revenge on the French village that killed them…that’s got B-movie goodness written all over it! Zombie Nazis have even turned up recently in the 2009 film Dead Snow. Zombie Lake, though is just so poorly executed that any potential it has quickly disappears. The possibility for any solid scares is pretty much abandoned in favor of giving new meaning to the term gratuitous nudity. The scene featuring the doomed volleyball team is especially ridiculous, helped by a goofy musical score that sounded like something out of a Benny Hill skit.
The film is also really confusing, and I’m not talking about the fact that it’s subtitled. For one thing, the film seems unclear as to when it takes place. The Nazi soldiers have supposedly been dead for about ten years, we know this because of the age of the little girl who is the daughter of one of the soldiers. So, we’re talkin’ 1955 or so. Yet, the aforementioned volleyball team drives around in a much more modern van and wears bright red 70’s style short shorts.
Zombie Lake is unintentionally funny to the extreme, and I haven’t even hit on the whole zombie father/ daughter reunion aspect of the story. From the camera angles, to the makeup, to the acting – it’s sloppy from start to finish. You won’t be scared, but you will laugh.