Wednesday, 18 January 2012

S3: Zombie Lake

Section 3: Zombie Lake

Welcome to Section 3, rest home for the near nasties and non prosecutable film fodder to keep those industrious boys in blue busy of an evening.
This episode we step back into nazisploitation territory with another nazi zombie epic from the boys and girls at EuroCine. So let's dive head first into the cinematic excellence that is bound to be presented to us as we take an ill advised skinny dip into the zombie lake....

In a small French town people are turning up dead, bitten on the jugular. The locals begin to suspect the deaths are caused by a relic of their war time past when a German division was killed by them and dumped into the nearby lake. The lake, it appears, was used at some point as part of some old magical ceremonies, and its not quite finished with working its mojo. As the dead resurrect, taking victims along the way, one of the zombies takes an interest in his remaining family member... can he be the key to destroying the seemingly unstoppable undead ghouls?

He we go with yet another high quality EuroCine cinematic experience. Zombie Lake is pure exploitation horror in all its low budget glory and is very recognisably a EuroCine product. The story concerns the a small French Town that's suffering the loss of several nubile young girls who inadvisedly go skinny dipping in the lake, though not before some playboy model posing before they take that dip in the murky waters. The Mayor suspects that a combination of ancient magical rites associated with the lakes and the dumping of several German soldiers bodies in the lake near the end of the war have resulted in the soldiers coming back and committing murder on those unwary nude models. The story is tenuous to say the least and has obviously been bolstered with a secondary plot where one of the soldiers returns to find his daughter.
Between this and the zombies on a food raid it just feels like the two plots don't feel quite like the gel together particularly well, the extended flashback sequence that tells us the back story is probably the most interesting part, not least because it rather unusually portrays the German soldiers mostly in a neutral and in the case of one of the soldiers in quite a positive light. Zombie Lake is a confusing film in this regard, why make the zombies Nazi's when you aren't prepared to make use of the fact that they are histories boogeyman. As a consequence it's confusing as hell as to what we are expected to think of these characters. On the positive side though it does rather make for an interesting approach if nothing else.

These issues aside what do we find with this low budget undead nazi flick.....well in typical eurocine fashion it's a decidedly insipid affair for the most part. Right from the opening we're treated to some hamfistedly inserted gratuitous nudity, the likes of which we can obviously see has been put there for no other reason than to have a skin on show....and fair enough, at least it's not pretending to be anything else. Incidentally it's worth mentioning the nudity free version of the film.....all the girls none of the boobs and bums, that makes this film suitable for granny to watch.
Eurocine films all seem to have the slightly over saturated colour, the terrible dubbing and the tenuous story and Zombie lake is no exception. It's a bizarrely off kilter atmosphere as people talk almost entirely out of time with their lips and sometimes without moving their lips at all, undead zombies attack the nubile living giving the hicky from hell. As zombie bites go these nazi zombies seem to only be interested in a relatively minor nibble to the neck and sometimes a gentle dribble of blood will sate their evil appetites. The effects are of course rather risible throughout the movie, not only are the zombie for the most part simply daubed unevenly with green grease paint there is also the rather odd underwater scenes. Now although this is rather a cool idea, stolen from Fulci of course but still not a bad idea...if only they hadn't managed to entirely mismatch the shots to a degree that makes them laughable. The shots are taken in a swimming can even see the walls of the pool on occasions but worse than this is the fact that the outdoor shots are taken on a gloriously sunny day but look like a night time shot in the underwater shot. This is not to mention the murky water of the real pond compared to the crystal clear waters of the underwater shots.
Zombie Lake is an almost entirely insipid film, it bimbles along in its own time going through the motions and barely maintaining any momentum. Apart from anything the whole premise reeks of who gives a crap. There are strictly speaking no bad guys here for some reason, the zombie Nazi’s have a hero, if you can call him that, and the rest of zombies really aren't that evil, they just give out rather aggressive hickeys to folks we neither know nor care about, they are zombies after all and they were never portrayed as evil when they were alive, quite the opposite in fact, and the mayor and his town folks just did what had to be done, though dumping the bodies of nazi's in lake ancient revival curse was probably a rather crappy judgement call. As the story goes it just feels like 3 separate elements have been thrown in together haphazardly, including what seems to be a naturist film from the 50's. [clip]

The biggest flaw is that nothing seems to matter and no one seems to care. The mayor is discussing the impending zombie invasion as if it's a concern with a troublesome football match rather than the revival of dead people with a hunger for human meat, the towns people treat it little more seriously than a burst water main, the reporter seems to think flesh eating ghouls are worth dying for in ridiculous fashion to get a picture of and then there's the little girl, the little girl is remarkably nonplussed by the presence of dead people, I blame horror films for desensitising her. It all feel so low key, IT'S A ZOMBIE INVASION FOR GOD SAKE, and worse than that it's a Nazi zombie invasion, it's double the bastard quota!!! SHOW SOME EXCITEMENT!
It's all round very muted in performances, even the nude scene of frolicking nymphets is as stilted and staged as the worst am dram at the local theatre, The soundtrack is all over the place ranging from a droning dirge to an inappropriately jaunty number at will the photography though, as is not uncommon with EuroCine, is clear, crisp and colourful, almost to a fault. It almost feels like all the budget was blown on cameras and the rest kinda was scrabbled together. Unfortunately this is one of those cases where maybe the film could have gotten away with a lot more, certainly in regards to the make up, special effects and underwater scenes, had it had a lower quality film stock and equipment but lets not rag on the one thing that displays any sign of quality in this film shall we.

Once again it seems Eurocine have basically taken several ideas and bundled them together with an added, though rather camp, bonus of exploitative nudity. Where there are some bare bones of good ideas, they're all too underdeveloped and randomly cobbled together with lame dialogue and curiously unerrotic nude scenes that are so obviously stitched into sex up the proceedings but which simply manage to come over as the kind of films that Britain gave up on the late 50's. I mean come on...volleyball and splashing in the pond. Team this up with the curious fact that there is a nice Nazi that actually makes silent Bob seem like carrot top on speed knocking about as a central character in this film and it's all rather a mess at the end of the day. It doesn't work on any level really, it's a wobbly story with tacked in unnecessary elements that engages neither a story nor the exploitation expectations of someone who is likely to watch a film called Zombie Lake. To call this a complete failure though would be going too far, it does have a strange watchability about it. With the nude scenes ignored the film has a curious atmosphere to it and it really doesn't descend into utter boredom, it just never rises to any level of excitement and it's one of those films where you expect more to happen then actually does. Zombie Lake is overall a disappointing movie with very little pay off even in terms of the so bad it's good category of film viewing. It's simply a cheap, not very well thought out or made film with very little direction or talent to make it remarkable. It's one attempt at a decent idea, that of underwater zombies (done by Fulci of course but not to this extent) may have made this more remarkable had it not been so laughably realised... but one things for sure, I'll just never be able to look at a public swimming bath again in the same light.

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