Release Date(s)1980 (February 26, 2013)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: D+
Jean Rollin is a bit of a curiosity amongst the European filmmaking community, at least to me. His films were never very good, but they garnered enough of a cult following, particularly in his native homeland, so that he could continue to make more of them. However, Zombie Lake is considered by many to be his worst film, including Rollin himself before his death in 2010.
One thing’s for sure about his work: he had a keen eye when it came to nudity. It’s no surprise that he would go on to do pornography later in his career. Zombie Lake came along during this period, and it’s no surprise that both the director and the writers (including Jess Franco) took pseudonyms because of their embarrassment over the final product. It’s absolutely terrible, no matter what your tastes or standards of European cinema may be. I was actually taken aback at how awful it wound up being, having never seen it before. The make-up, effects, acting and dialogue are all atrocious. Actually, one of the main zombies reminded me of the The Hitcher character from The Mighty Boosh at times, which gave me a chuckle. I do have to give the movie credit for at least looking decent. Not all the time, but there’s plenty of nice backgrounds and lovely young women to ogle at, if you’re into that sort of thing. As far as a horror movie goes, it’s not effective at all. It switches tones often and becomes more about a personal connections between people rather than a horror movie. The zombies themselves just seem to gum people to death while spilling fake blood from their mouths, and there are no cuts to hide it either. It’s pretty dreadful.
As for the film’s Blu-ray transfer, it’s what you’d expect from an average Redemption title. They don’t really attempt to do any extra touch-up work to improve the look of a film print when transferring it. That being the case, you’ll see plenty of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, vertical lines and unstable frames. However, this is the cleanest print I’ve seen in this kind of condition. The image is rich with film grain and looks pretty darn good in that regard. The colors are bright and lush and the contrast is just perfect. The image is also quite sharp and clear, showing off plenty of detail. I wouldn’t call it the most pleasing Blu-ray transfer I’ve seen, but it’s a pleasant one. For the film’s audio, you have two options: French and English 2.0 LPCM, with optional English subtitles. Of the two tracks, the French track sounded better by comparison. The English track features dialogue that sounds much cleaner, like it was recorded yesterday. The French track is a bit rougher around the edges, which to me, goes better with the visuals. And don’t expect any low-end participation from either track, but if you’re looking for laughs, the goofy and over the top English dub is probably the way to go. Purists will want to stick with the French track though.
As far as the extras go, there’s more than I would have expected, especially from Redemption, who are usually light on their supplemental materials. First of all you have an Alternate English Credit Sequence, alternate scenes, which are scenes involving the nude women now fully clothed, and a set of theatrical trailers: Zombie Lake (English & French), Oasis of the Zombies, The Rape of the Vampire and The Demoniacs. It’s also worth mentioning that all of the extras from the previous Euroshock DVD release have carried over. So again, this is sparse, but fitting. There’s nothing much positive that can be said about the film. However, I would argue that something like this is infinitely more interesting to see than a lot of recent horror films. I think that’s a matter of opinion though, but it’s just the way I feel. It was dull and boring in the end, but it had potential. It did remind me a bit of a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie at times, wherein the actors playing the victims couldn’t stay still when they were supposed to be playing dead. It’s just a film that the director frantically tried to put together after having it handed to him at the last minute, so I can’t fault it completely. But if you’re a horror buff, I can safely say that you won’t like this film. However, European cinema fans may dig it.
- Tim Salmons