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Zombie Lake

Redemption Films // Unrated // February 26, 2013
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 9, 2013 | E-mail the Author
Well, I'll say this for Zombie Lake: truth in advertising.
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Zombies...? Check. Lake...? Check. Cut. Print. We got it.

So, Jess Franco walked off Zombie Lake, like, a day before shooting was scheduled to start, so they brought in Jean Rollin with pretty much zero notice. Rollin didn't really thumb through the script beforehand. He'd shoot whatever the producer told him that morning was supposed to be on the docket. That...uh, general lack of shit-giving pervades just about every last frame of Zombie Lake too.

Zombie Lake is kind of a cautionary tale: if you live next to a body of water whose official name translates to "The Damned Lake", don't dump a bunch of Nazi corpses in it. Flash-forward however many decades, and this sleepy little French village is plagued by mysterious disappearances in and around the lake. The townsfolk know it's cursed, but I don't think they were copied on the memo about the zombie part
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of the deal until the undead pull up stakes and start slaughtering everyone in that neck of the woods too.

How can a movie with waterlogged Nazi zombies and a skinnydipping girls' volleyball team be this tedious to watch? It's basically a softcore porn flick loosely strung together with a half-sentence of plot. Quite a few of the girls are drop-dead gorgeous and don't leave a whole lot to the imagination, so there's that. The endless full-frontal nudity kinda helps distract from the absolute-everything-else. There are definitely more nekkid wimmin than there are flesh-eating ghouls.

If you're feeling generous, you could describe the pace as leisurely or dreamlike. 'Smore like there's thirteen minutes of movie here, and it's padded out to feature-length by having the cast sloooooooooowly sleepwalk through every single scene. The undead aren't even a little bit threatening. There's no haunting, enduring imagery. No scares. No attempt at generating tension, suspense, or even an unnerving atmosphere. No memorable dialogue, not even of the so-bad-it's-good variety. None of the characters really stick with you, although there is a good Nazi zombie who gives a little girl a necklace, and I've gotta admit that that is a first for me.

It's just...ack, so sloppy. There's a WWII flashback that's howlingly low-rent -- just guys in uniforms wincing at cherry bombs going off or whatever -- until it drones on for nineteen and a half hours and you
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wanna run a warm bath and open a couple of veins. The makeup effects are limited to paper maché and fingerpaint. When the intrepid, forgettable reporter speaks with the mayor about the dark legend of the lake, you can clearly see the cameraman and lighting rigs and stuff reflected in the mirrors. The movie's supposed to be set about ten years after the end of WWII -- I mean, the whole point is that the little girl is the daughter of one of the undead -- and yet the volleyball team is tooling around in a '70s model VW bus. Characters appear and vanish at random, and...I could keep going, but I'm pretty sure you get the gist of it by now.

Zombie Lake is pretty much unwatchable. I've devoted myself mind, body, and soul to schlock cinema, and Zombie Lake is such an irredeemable piece of shit that it doesn't even manage to work on that level. Excruciatingly boring, incompetently crafted on every possible level, and...yeah. Skip It.

...but hey, at least it looks nice, right? This remaster of Zombie Lake is honestly pretty gorgeous. The image is impressively crisp and detailed, boasting a richly saturated palette and retaining an appreciated filmic texture. Colors are deliberately dialed down in the endless WWII flashback, and they flutter briefly when the reporter's chatting up the mayor, but otherwise...? Pitch perfect. Sometimes things can get a little jittery, and there's a lot of speckling, but I'd rather deal with that than the usual digital nasties or an outdated transfer. So, yeah, I'm happy.

Zombie Lake has been slopped out on a single-layer Blu-ray disc at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1.

Zombie Lake sports
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a pair of PCM soundtracks, both 16-bit and in two-channel mono. The deliriously over-the-top English dub is present and accounted for, although it's in really rough shape, kind of strained and harsh to suffer through, at least in the stretches I sampled. That's okay, though. The disc defaults to Zombie Lake's original French, and it's...spectacularly clean and clear, so polished that it's sort of distracting. There's not a lot going on in the lower frequencies, although that's pretty much to be expected. I did find that I had to dial down the volume a good bit for it to feel comfortable, so keep your remote within arm's reach, but I wasn't left with a lot to complain about after making that minor adjustment.

Since Zombie Lake defaults to a French language soundtrack and all, I guess it goes without saying that English subtitles are enabled by default.

  • Alternate Footage (9 min.; HD): Thrill to an English language title sequence, a more TV-friendly opening assault, and a mostly-fully-clothed version of the volleyball skinnydipping slaughter.

  • Trailers (HD): Lotsa high-def Rollin trailers on here, including Zombie Lake promos in both English and French.

The Final Word
Well, it could be worse: I could be reviewing Oasis of the Zombies right now. Though Zombie Lake isn't the absolute lowest point of Jean Rollin's sprawling filmography, it's still legitimately one of the worst movies ever made. Skip It.
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