‘I need a bit of fresh blood.’
Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake offers pretty much what you would expect from a Eurosleaze horror – nubile naked nymphets, Nazis and necro-nibbling. Originally to have been made by Jess Franco, the original director had so many disagreements with the distributor for the film (which Franco had partly scripted under a pseudonym) that Rollin was bought onto the project very swiftly.
A small town by a lakeside has a harsh and bitter history, which continues to haunt its present in many horrific ways. The locals call it the damned lake, but reporter Katya Moore (Marcia Sharif) knows it by the popularist title ‘lake of the damned’ which, given its reputation, is perhaps less tabloid a moniker than you might think. Events that took place ten years previously have had the most significant consequences for the local community. During the war, the townsfolk had tried to protect themselves from Nazi invasion. Although the invading soldiers were mainly brutal and indiscriminate, one (Pierre-Marie Escourrou) protected a local woman (Lynn Monteil) and the two became lovers, conceiving a daughter, amidst the savagery and slaughter, slaughter that eventually saw all the Nazi comrades being defeated by the villagers, who killed them and hid the bodies in the lake. But now these long dead soldiers regularly emerge from the lake (notably when nubile young women seek to enjoy a refreshing swim) searching for human blood. The Mayor (Howard Vernon) tries to resolve the issue and local belief is that a mob should set out to exterminate the undead. But maybe a more profound approach is needed. Daughter Helena (Anouchka) is possibly best placed to seek a solution to the murderous proclivities of her zombie father and his long dead Nazi comrades.
There is much to enjoy in Zombie Lake as it sets up its shocking story which largely comprises zombies, nudity and death, although it also adds in a backstory to provide some sort of context. Not for long though. Before you know it, a minibus full of female basketball players arrive for no readily apparent reason and, after stripping naked and running into the lake, are munched upon by Nazi undead. In many ways the film does try to find an emotional side to the plot and this comes in the form of the Nazi father who seeks his lover and discovers their daughter. Indeed, Helena is never afraid of him and loves him unconditionally as a father. This adds a surprisingly amiable element to the plot which contrasts dramatically with the rest of the sleazy slaughter. However, death must prevail in the ‘give me blood’ – ‘show them fire’ final act which echoes the mob of James Whale’s Frankenstein. Zombie Lake’s reputation is such that it has generally received critical disdain but is actually a taut, well constructed film that makes the most of its – admittedly silly – premise and even finds time for some strange but emotional side-lines. Amidst the gore and gratuitous nudity, of course.