Zombie Lake (1980) – By Duane L. Martin

Back during World War II, a squad of Nazis were attacked as they passed through a village, and during the attack, one of the soldiers risked his life to save the life of a beautiful young village girl. When he recovered from his injuries, the two fell in love and had sex once before he had to leave to return to the fighting. This caused the girl to become pregnant, and she gave birth to his daughter, who he got to see right after her birth for only a few moments before he had to return to his squad.

Once they had gone, the whole of their squad were attacked and killed by resistance fighters. The fighters knew that more Nazis were coming through that way, so they had to dispose of the bodies so they wouldn’t be found. The only way to do that quickly was to throw them into the lake, which happened to be known at the time as The Lake of the Damned, because apparently back in medieval times, there were black masses held there, and children were sacrificed in the lake. In any case, the dead soldiers were tossed in there.

Now it’s present day, and the zombies have started emerging from the lake and killing people. The local mayor, who was a part of the resistance, suspects what’s going on and tries to call the larger authorities for assistance, but they think he’s crazy. Unfortunately for the villagers, he’s not, and as they fall one by one at the hands of the Nazi zombies, they must figure out a way to stop them before it’s too late.

So I finished watching this film, and all I could think was, "What the hell was that?"

Seriously, this is one of two zombie films I was sent to review from Kino’s Redemption label this month, the other being Jess Franco’s Oasis of the Zombies, and if you were to ask me now after seeing both of them, to name two people who should NEVER make a zombie movie, I’d name Jean Rollin and Jess Franco. I mean, if even one millionth of the effort had been put into making these films as cool as the cover art on these releases, they’d have still sucked, but at least they’d have looked a little better.

I honestly don’t even know where to start with how bad this film was. To start with, the zombies are green. I don’t mean like their skin is tinged green from being dead in a lake for so long, I mean like greener than Kermit the Frog green.

Then there’s the timeline. When the mayor is telling the story of the Nazis that were killed and thrown into the lake, he says it happened ten years ago, and the daughter that the Nazi guy fathered during the war is nine or ten years old, and yet the girls are all dressed like it’s 1979 or 80, and there’s even a group of them that drive to the lake in a late 60’s VW bus that looks as though it’s at least ten years old, so we’re talking about modern day here, at least modern day for when the film was made. So first of all, Julian Esteban, who wrote the film, needs to buy a calendar and open a history book once in a while, because his timeline is WAY off. Second, someone, and by someone I mean either the director, Jean Rollin, or the producer, Marius Lesoeur, should have caught that and fixed it. Obviously none of them cared enough about making a decent film to even bother with it.

Then we have the zombie kills. When the zombie comes out of the lake and claims his first victim, what happens? He pulls her down, slobbers some incredibly unrealistic looking fake blood on her neck while she struggles weakly, and then raises up, showing all the world that there’s no wound there at all under the fake blood, and yet she’s dead. Yes, this film is that bad.

Later, when this particular zombie meets up with his daughter in her home, he opens the door and is standing there all green and dead, and she’s sitting on the bed. She looks over at him, doesn’t freak out or anything, and notices that he’s wearing her mother’s necklace. They have a touching reunion and before he leaves, he gives her the necklace. Really? I’m sorry, but when I was ten years old, if a zombie had walked through my door, I’d have looked like the damn roadrunner getting the hell out of there, screaming the whole way. This kid just looks over at him like she sees him every day and he just came home from work. She even goes for a walk with him later and he has to protect her from the other zombies by getting in a really lame fight with them.

In the end, it’s not bullets that do the trick, but fire. Ok, let’s lure them to the village with bowls of blood, and then we’ll start blowing napalm everywhere with flame throwers. We may burn down the village, but hey, it’s worth a little collateral damage to get rid of the zombies, right?

I’m sorry, I really hate being snarky in my reviews. I try to be better than that, I really do, but this film just begged for it. Sadly, so does Oasis of the Zombies, so I’m sure my review of that one won’t be much better.

This new blu-ray release contains the following special features:

Newly restored HD from the archival negatives.
French with optional English subtitles.
English dubbed version.
Alternate, less explicit versions of two sequences.
Alternate English title sequence.
Original theatrical trailers.
Original trailers for other Jean Rollin films available from Redemption.

Some films are so bad that they’re fun to watch and laugh at with your friends. I guess that depending on your tastes and your friends, this could be one of them, but for me it went way past that into just plain bad. Like, bad to the point of becoming tedious. My recommendation, skip this one, unless you’re really that curious. To say there are better zombie films out there would be like saying fire is hot. Yeah, it’s like that. Seriously, the cover art on both of these releases are gorgeous and would really lead you to believe you’re about to see something awesome. Kudos to whoever did the art, as the similarity between them tells me it was the same person who did both. It looks great. Too bad the films didn’t live up to the cover art. They’d have really had something if they did. At least the quality of the HD remastering is good. That’s something anyway.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out it’s page on Kino’s website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the DVD or blu-ray from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.