Your Source for Foreign Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy Films. Our Motto is Subtitles or GTFO!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Zombie Lake: How to Not Do A Zombie Movie

Share on Tumblr

By Craig R.

Movies are usually notable for one of two reasons: They're either exceptionally good, or exceptionally bad. Unfortunately, Zombie Lake falls within the latter category. It is so bad that, for years, its director denied any involvement with it. Also, it appears to have nearly killed the Nazi Zombie subgenre. After this movie was released in 1981, the next film of its kind I can locate is 2009's Dead Snow.

In the setting of a French village ten years after WW II (we know this because we are told so), undead Nazis begin shambling out of a nearby lake and randomly attacking villagers. We are told that the ghouls are the reanimated corpses of German soldiers, who had been ambushed by the Resistance, and then dumped in the lake. This was done out of fear of reprisals against the village, had the bodies been discovered. Unfortunately, the lake in question is known as "The Lake of The Damned", because of human sacrifices and dark masses once performed there. Surely, there were more effective ways to dispose of the bodies. Shallow graves were out of the question, and while bodies of water are generally good places for such a purpose, The Lake of The Damned probably isn't the wisest place to do so. While the village must have had a furnace or incinerator that would've been just as effective, but there wouldn't be much of a movie.

As is the case with most movies of this type, the village authorities, in spite of evidence to the contrary, deny that there is anything responsible for the attacks other than wild animals. Finally, after both the help that is sent for and an entire volleyball team are killed, the villagers rally to destroy the zombies.

This movie has a lot of problems. First among them is the nature and behavior of the zombies. Instead of being the relentless wave of the undead, this movie's version of a zombie apocalypse is the undead lazily emerging from the lake to dine on villagers, and then return, presumably for a nap. I guess French cuisine is filling. These zombies even have manners. At one point, they have to share a victim, but instead of a frenzied jockeying for position, they patiently wait in line for their turn.

Apparently, this is what the French consider to be a horde.

Probably the most annoying of the zombies is the one I call "Zombie Daddy", who is the most featured. In flashbacks we are shown that he had an affair with a village girl and fathered a daughter with her. During one of his excursions into town, he discovers her and immediately takes a break from his rampage to spend quality time with her. Later, he even walks away from the zombies' battle with the villagers to go for a quiet walk with the girl.

Who's your daddy?
Zombies need love too
Speaking of the battle with the villagers, it was reminiscent of Star Wars. The similarity is not that it was an exciting scene, but that the villagers reminded me of Imperial Storm Troopers. The zombies were moving towards them, slowly, bunched together, down an alley, and in spite of that formation and at least 100 shots fired, only a couple hit their targets, hardly having any visible effect.

Zombie battle formation
This brings us to another annoying aspect of the zombies' nature, in that there's no decided way in which they can be killed. While Zombie Daddy kills another with a knife, none of the bullets that manage to hit them appear to have any effect. Eventually, the villagers kill them with fire. The beauty of zombies is that they are a relatively new monster, or at least they were at the time that this movie was produced, and don't have any set folklore. Even so, whichever way a storyteller decides that zombies have to be killed, they need to stick with it. Granted, their reanimation was probably the result of a supernatural source, but if a knife to the chest can kill one, unless it has to be one that's enchanted, shouldn't a bullet?

Secondly, the production values are just horrible. This movie has some of the typical problems such as switching between day and night during a scene. Other minor problems include additional zombies who randomly appear, then are never seen again, and when one is set on fire, the burning figure is obviously a mannequin.

The biggest production fault, however, is special effects, or the lack thereof, where the laziness of the production staff is clearly visible. By the time Zombie Lake was released in 1981, Romero's first two zombie movies, Fulci's Zombi 2, and Shock Waves, another Nazi zombie movie, had all been released. All of those, unlike Zombie Lake, had at least moderately convincing effects. In contrast, The zombie makeup here consists mostly of erratically applied green grease paint and silly putty.

A tube of green greasepaint: $6.98. Silly Putty: $4.54. Half-ass zombie makeup: Priceless. 
At the time the movie takes place, our undead Germans have been submerged in the lake for over ten years, yet they are almost perfectly preserved. From their appearance, the only indication that they were formerly dead is that their skin is mostly green, and I say "mostly green" because the makeup "artists" apparently couldn't be bothered to apply even coats of makeup. Some of the ghouls don't even have makeup on the backs of their hands; most have patches of normal skin tone showing through the paint, and Zombie Daddy doesn't even anything covering the skin on his neck.

After being submerged for ten years, shouldn't there be some decomposition? Even if one suspends disbelief, shouldn't there at least be deterioration of their uniforms, or rust on their helmets? One could accept that the cause of their reanimation may be supernatural, and may have preserved their bodies, but the clothes too? Admittedly, I'm probably over-thinking this, but is it too much to ask that at least one of them have a trouser leg untucked from a boot?

False advertising
Look, I know that makeup and effects needed to transform an actor into a convincing zombie are expensive, but the necessary techniques had by then been around for quite a few years, at least since Night of The Living Dead, which was released in 1968, and was little more than a student film. Also, with a zombie attack, especially one where the victim is gnawed on for several minutes, give us at least a little bit of gore, instead of just a smear of fake blood. Tom Savini (who did the makeup effects for Dawn of The Dead) was pretty busy during the time this film was produced, but he seems like a decent guy, who would've been glad to have given a few pointers.

Zombie Lake conforms with at least one of the informal rules of horror movies, that once a character either gets naked or becomes amorous, they're doomed. Which leads to my final problem with Zombie Lake, what I guess some would call too much of a good thing. There is a lot of gratuitous nudity in this movie. The horror movies that I grew up watching were released in the late '70s and early '80s, and at least some amount of  nudity was pretty much a given. Even then, most of that was simply a brief flash, where one would have to rewind and pause the video cassette, in order to see it, or so I've been told. Where this movie skimps on effects, it overcompensates in nudity. Approximately 1/3 of its run time is naked women. I'm sure that's probably more than could probably be found in many of the late night cable movies with plots about sex therapists solving murders.

Want to guess what happens next?
As an example, there is one scene, where a woman strips down, sunbathes, walks around, and then goes swimming, all while stark naked. I can live without nudity in a movie, and it doesn't bother me, but that scene lasted for about 5 minutes (I timed it), and I actually began to get uncomfortable. There were moments where she walked off screen, and I thought "Okay, she's going to put something on", but that didn't happen. There are at least two other scenes that linger like this, quite a bit too long. Look, I'm sure that I'm not alone in this, but if I wanted to see a lot of nudity, a zombie movie wouldn't be the place. I watch zombie movies because I want to see hordes of the undead relentlessly terrorizing people.

To the movie's credit, though it didn't manage to execute a good idea, it should be acknowledged that it does try to be different from other films in the genre. Having said that, Zombie Lake is a really terrible movie. The level of bad is not even "it's so bad that it's good." I can't recommend it, but if you do watch it, I hope that you find something to enjoy in it. Either way, you've been warned.

Supposedly, there is a version of the movie that has no nudity, where the women are at least partially covered. Unfortunately, I couldn't uncover it (See what I did there?). The poster at the top of this post and the clip below are actually from the sanitized version.

Zombie Lake is available on Netflix Instant, as well as YouTube. On Netflix, it's in French with subtitles, and on YouTube it's dubbed in English.

I give it 1 out of 5 waterlogged Nazis.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Share on Tumblr By Craig R.

Not only do I like foreign genre movies, but I also like classics. As a result, I occasionally contribute to The Speakeasy. I've never mentioned it here because there has never been any overlap of content areas. However, the overlap has finally occurred.

My latest contribution is a post about Dr. Fu Manchu, for a villain blogathon. The overlap doesn't come because the titular supervillain is Chinese, but because one of the films, The Vengeance of Dr, Fu Manchu, was produced by the legendary Shaw Brothers. 

Three Words: Christopher F'ing Lee
I am fond of saying, though this is the first time here, that I'm never finished with a written composition, I just quit. Unfortunately, after I quit, save, and submit it, like the snappy comeback one thinks of hours later, I think of something that I should've added. I use the tenuous connection to our standard content to make the missed point.

In the piece, I relate that Fu Manchu was the embodiment of what was referred to as "The Yellow Peril", which was the anxiety experienced by European countries over Asian countries becoming geopolitical forces. Later I mentioned that although Fu, for any number of reasons, had lost popularity as a cinematic figure, there may be a possibility for a comeback. 

The point I had made for a comeback was that period mysteries/adventures, such as the Sherlock Holmes films have had some success. The point that I would like to add is that China has become a major world power, and a scary one, at that. Whether the nefarious stories are true or not, of cyber attacks waged on other countries, and other such forms of espionage are things that are right up Fu's alley.

Another point: In the post, I made a joke about Nicholas Cage: "Fu Manchu is a great supervillain... played by many great actors, and Nicolas Cage...", which I feel that I need to clarify. Cage, while he has won an Oscar, and has appeared in many successful films, is a ham. 

Being a ham doesn't necessarily make him a bad actor, but he just usually tends to play different variations of the same crazy dude. Good or bad, he makes it work, and he deserves every bit of success that he has received. After all, I have enjoyed many hours of his hammy acting.

Please go read the original post here. Kristina, the proprietor of The Speakeasy, is a good friend of this blog so please drop in. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Example of Why Viking Samurai Exists (Hollywood Sucks)

Share on Tumblr By Craig R  
"I've got your good tidings right here!"

One reason that this blog was started was that we both noticed that we were both watching mostly foreign genre movies. We had independently developed this preference because Hollywood is basically out of ideas. Most of the genre garbage that comes out there is, more often than not, simply a variation of a handful of themes, or a remake or sequel. Foreign films tend to be more original or at least have a unique take on a well-worn theme. When Hollywood does try to be original, more often than not, they just try to sex up a well-known story or figure (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer), often with disastrous results.

The most recent example is the forthcoming Winter's Knight, which is supposed to explore the the origins of Santa Claus, making him into a badass action hero. Alternately, the Finnish Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale suggests that his origin was as a supernatural being who punished naughty children, instead of rewarding the good. This is essentially a take of the general practice of scary Christmas legends, like Krampus, being replaced by the more gentle Santa/Saint Nick. On the other hand, Hollywood goes the route of making up a whole new origin for Santa, where he's a Greek Bishop who fought Vikings, or something..

The Old Boss

The New Boss
Cracked has an excellent piece that explains why Winter's Knight will be terrible, and outlines our grievances with Hollywood (Warning: There is salty language).. In the meantime, we recommend a viewing of Rare Exports (available on Netflix Instant).