Director - Jean Rollin (J.A. Lazer)
Cast - Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou
Country of Origin - France/Spain
Distributor - Kino
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 1/23/13
The Film (2.5/5)
Zombie Lake can actually stand amongst the list of films where the location is pretty much both the story, and the main character. The film opens with a young woman being terrorized (and killed) by a group of Nazi zombies, that dwell in a lake that locals have "affectionately" dubbed the Lake of the Damned. Later in the film a women's volleyball team decides to go skinny dipping at said lake, and experiences the same doomed fate. Basically, people visit the lake, and they die. Later, when the Nazi zombies finally grow impatient from the sudden lack of swimmers, they invade the town adjacent to the lake. Fortunately, they have a clever Mayor ready to take down the zombie menace with the aid of a flame-thrower.
Zombie Lake is one of those What If sort of films. With Zombie Lake the what if happens to be What if Jess Franco and Jean Rollin got together and made a movie? The film was written by Franco, and based on a story by Julian Esteban. It was produced by Eurocine, who it has to be said must have been fascinated by the concept of Nazi Zombies, as they produced both this and Franco’s later film Oasis of the Zombies (Both featured Nazi Zombies). However, right before shooting was to commence Franco walked off the film. He would be replaced by another legend of Eurohorror Jean Rollin (Iron Rose, Requiem of the Vampire) who would direct the film under the pseudonym J.A. Lazer.
Because Franco left so close to the shooting date of the film, he had already cast the film with many of its leads including Franco regular Howard Vernon as the Mayor. The soundtrack to the film also appears to be the same one used in Franco’s Female Vampire, so there are quite a few connections to Franco stylistically. That being said, Rollin although he was brought in at the 11th hour certainly brings his trademark dreamy stylistic flourishes to the film. Anytime I’ve ever watched this film, I always feel if I’m watching an unspoken collaboration between 2 Eurocult giants at work. The film has the absolutely gonzo anything goes atmosphere of a Jess Franco film, but it has this moody emotive direction that at times channels the best of Rollin’s work (I should say that Franco was capable of creating similar moods, but Rollin made a career of it).
Obviously, no one is going to observe Zombie Lake as some hidden masterpiece in the careers of either filmmaker. The zombie makeup, and special FX are dire, and the film itself has enough moments that could have landed it on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, however for fans of both filmmakers there are certainly enjoyable elements in a film that make it warrant repeat viewings. It does not take itself seriously, and really no one else should, it’s a fun piece of bad Euro-zombie cinema, and sometimes that’s enough.
I was under the impression that the Image DVD of Zombie Lake looked pretty darn good. When the Blu-ray came my way, I was surprised yet again that this low budget piece of Euro-Zombie camp could look THIS GOOD. Now obviously, if you are reading this you should understand this isn’t blockbuster good, this is EuroCult good. Also, if you are familiar with Redemption/Kino’s prior Blu-ray’s you will know they do very limited restoration work to their titles preferring a natural scan of the highest quality materials they have access to, and that is what he get here. The film is presented in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer in its original OAR of 1:66:1. The film does have a few soft spots, scratches, and assorted print damage, but that’s to be expected. Outside of that fine detail is greatly increased, colors look quite nice, and flesh tones look largely accurate. Zombie Lake looks like a fantastic upgrade all around.
The audio has been presented in 2 LPCM mono tracks in both English and French, for the purpose of my viewing I stuck to the French track. The track sounded very good, dialogue was completely audible throughout, and the music was mixed well against it. I did not detect any significant issues with the audio track such as pops, cracks, or hissing.
Redemption/Kino has put together a few extras for their release of Zombie Lake. There are 3 alternate sequences on the disc, an English alternate credit sequence, and 2 alternate clothed sequences (The opening, and the volleyball team scene). The disc also includes trailers for other Redemption/Kino titles.
Far from a classic of Zombie cinema, Zombie Lake is still quite a bit of a fun time. The A/V restoration looks fantastic, and Redemption/Kino have seen fit to include some amusing extras. Zombie Lake comes Recommended.