Zombie Lake
France - Spain / 1980
Directed by "J.A. Lazer"
Starring
Howard Vernon
Nadine Pascale
Pierre Escourrou
Color / 83 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
Image Entertainment
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Remastered DVD edition
(February 2013)
Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
1
    5   10 = Highest Rating  
Merde! This simply has to be the crappiest zombie film ever, certainly the worst I've seen to date. (And that's quite a few.) Since it's a European rip-off of Shock Waves (1976) it has the distinction of being only the second 'underwater Nazi zombie' flick ever made... not exactly a meritorious achievement. Beyond that there is absolutely nothing of interest here for the horror fan or cheese lover. Even the presence of cult fave Howard Vernon The Awful Dr. Orlof himself and a plenitude of naked female flesh won't assuage your anger at having wasted 83 minutes of your life on this soggy, saggy diaper of a movie.
The film opens promisingly enough, despite the insipid music, at least from a prurient standpoint. A gorgeous brunette, all tan and tawny, strolls up to an idyllic lake in the French countryside and, at exactly the 1-minute mark, strips off all her clothes. She stretches out on a log to sunbathe while the credits wrap up, then goes for a swim among the lilly pads. If the rest of the film had simply followed this shapely Eurobabe on her skinny-dip then it would've at least been watchable. Instead, a green-faced zombie in a World War II Wehrmacht uniform emerges from the depths to drag the frolicking female to her doom. When she fails to return to her home in the nearby village, the mayor (Vernon) is informed of her disappearance. He doesn't seem particularly worried
.
Another woman from the village soon turns up dead, bitten in the neck. Then a minibus carrying a women's volleyball team stops at the lake so that the gals can
what else? go skinny-dipping. Once they get naked and start splashing about, a squad of zombified Nazi soldiers attacks them from beneath the water. (Lots of aquatic beaver shots here.) The only one of the girls not swimming watches from shore as her friends are killed. Screaming, she runs topless to the village pub, where she can only gasp "The lake! The lake!" before passing out. The mayor finally realizes he needs to do something about the situation. Since the town apparently has no police force, he telephones district authorities to send some cops to investigate. Two skeptical officers eventually arrive (one is played by co-director Jean Rollin) but are themselves slaughtered by the zombies as soon as they start poking around at the lake. Mr. Mayor, who actually knows what is causing all the deaths and disappearances, forms a posse of armed citizens to destroy the marauding ghouls, who've begun making periodic forays into the village. "We must act!" he extols his constituents an apropos line, as no one in the film has done any acting to speak of up to this point. (Nor will they.) As the mayor explains it to a ditzy reporter (and we're shown via flashback), the zombies were members of a German infantry squad ambushed by partisans during the war. The bodies of the soldiers were dumped into the lake to hide them. In ancient times the lake was used by pagans for ritualistic purposes, when human sacrifices were made to the waters to appease the dark spirits that dwelt there. Now those spirits have revived the corpses of the Nazis, who rise from the bottom of the lake to seek fresh blood.
Everything in this (so-called) film is pathetically lame. The script is bad, the acting is bad, the camera work is bad; ditto the editing, music, special effects, foley and dubbing. Mind you, almost none of it is bad in a 'so bad it's good', unintentionally funny sort of way. It's just... bad. BAD, I tell ya! The zombie make-up is mostly just green Halloween face paint, sloppily applied the actors' necks and wrists weren't even bothered with! The fake blood looks like watery tomato soup. (Where are the crackers?) During the underwater scenes it's painfully obvious that the zombies are stomping around at the bottom of a swimming pool. Howard Vernon, seemingly quite bored, appears to be reading the majority of his lines from cue cards. The script, too, commits a particularly heinous boner... While the story is clearly set in 1980 35 years after the war a major plot-thread involves a child fathered by one of the German zombies, during a romance with a local Frenchwoman, before he was killed by the partisans. Trouble is, in the movie the kid's only 10 years old! Perhaps the filmmakers' original intent was to set the story in the 1950s, but a lack of money prohibited hiring cars and costumes to fit the period. Most likely they just didn't give a shit.
Neither will you.

A 2001 entry in Image Entertainment's EuroShock Collection, Zombie Lake is surprisingly well-presented on DVD. (A film this cheap and shoddily made could've resulted in all kinds of problems, I'd think.) While not pristine or razor sharp, the print looks quite good; it's letterboxed in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio and 16x9 enhanced. The disc provides two mono audio options, English or French. The French track sounds much crisper and is easily the superior of the two but unfortunately there are no English subtitles to accompany it. I was not at all surprised to discover that some of the dialog looping in the original French is just as inept as in the poorly dubbed English version.
The DVD comes with extras but they're all practically worthless. A 5-minute reel of alternate (and soundless) scenes shows what the skinny-dipping sequences look like when the actresses remain clothed instead of getting naked. I mean, who the hell wants to see that? The same applies to the English-language opening credits, which are just simple text on a black background. A supposed theatrical trailer is also included, but it's one of the sloppiest promos I've ever seen there's no narrator or text blurbs, and the film's title isn't even used! Extremely brief liner notes reveal that the credited director, "J.A. Lazer", is a pseudonym for Julian de Laserna and cult auteur Jean Rollin, who jointly helmed this piece of junk. 9/16/03
UPDATE In February 2013 Redemption/Kino will release a remastered edition of Zombie Lake on both DVD and Blu-ray.
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