Tall, Dark, and Dead – 56 – Zombie Lake / Le lac des morts vivants

Title: Zombie Lake / Le lac des morts vivants
Year: 1981
Director: Jean Rollin
Leads: Pierre-Marie Escourrou, Anouchka

Favorite quote: There was dialogue?

Thoughts: Zombie Lake is a French film, and actually incredibly similar to Oasis of the Living Dead. It’s one of those movies where there’s very little dialogue, and you’ll be lucky to cobble together the plot even if you find yourself propped up in front of the screen Clockwork Orange-style, unblinking and unmoving.

The basic theme of the film is that decisions will affect you throughout your entire life – that your actions become the corpses you can’t shake off, in other words. There were several interesting scenes where the “good guy zombie Nazi daddy” (yes) attempts to reconnect with the living daughter he sired with a French woman during the war, and I was disappointed that the movie didn’t fully develop these. They almost made up for the gratuitous full-frontal female nudity. (I kept waiting for the zombies to rip the poor girls to shreds, but alas, they never did. They just sort of gummed them a bit.)

I also realized, about midway through the movie, that the story has its ghost and zombie wires crossed. The undead in ZL really operate more like ghosts, and ultimately, I think ghosts would have been a better narrative choice. Ghosts are useful when talking about primacy of place and/or mission – zombies need to roam.

I ended up watching the movie mostly for the Nazi element. After viewing a few Nazi zombie films, now, and thinking about the recurring zombie-Nazi mashups found in video games, comics, etc., I feel that can posit a rough draft of Lia’s Unified Theory of Nazi Zombies.

To wit, the various reasons Nazis are so often mixed up with zombies, and so rarely with vampires or werewolves, include:

1.     To amplify the “wrongness” of zombies; to ratchet them up another level on the repugnance scale; to increase the sense that these are beings that should not, cannot, or do not deserve to exist. This can be accomplished via straight horror, historical reference, or black comedy.

2.     To augment the perceived evil and basic inhumanity of zombies, and to portray them even more strongly as a horrific element that can be killed without mercy or regret. Alternately, to magnify the evil, violence, and hardship of the WWII-era world for narrative purposes, or to portray that violence and hardship to a modern, disconnected audience through the presence of a metaphorical “evil” that they can understand.

3.     To attach a sense of history to the zombie genre as a whole; to stretch the idea of a Romero-age zombie back in time in order to create an extended canon. Vampires and werewolves have ages of history and legend to borrow from; while some may argue that zombies also have this (there are zombies in the Bible, after all), referencing a fraught, relatively recent historical event makes for easier “legend-building.”

4.     To write about WWII-era paranormal history via a monster that does, ultimately, have a shelf life. If a vampire or werewolf character was at one time a Nazi, that would basically signal the death of any sympathy that might be shown for that character, and, in fact, that character would only serve as an immortal reminder of an evil we wish were dead and buried; on the other hand, a Nazi zombie can be killed again, just like grandpa would have wanted. Related to this, it is possible that killing Nazi zombies provides a double cathartic release.

5. To hit at the idea that only the most outrageous, horrific punishments are suitable for Nazis, including being turned into a cannibalistic corpse that cannot die – and that at least some Nazis got what they deserved.

I can’t believe I get paid to think about things like this.

Links: Zombie Lake at IMDB

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