The disastrous consequences of
an improperly maintained pool.
One nice aspect of reviewing b-movies is the fact that a low-budget film's title will, more often than not, describe the film's contents succinctly. Lacking the imagination (or perhaps the artistic pretension) to name their films with more oblique titles, the makers of such movies hope that a straightforward appellation will draw in seekers of specific content. So it is that Zombie Lake features a lake and the group of walking dead who emerge from it.
If one were to adhere to such a one-to-one naming scheme, other appropriate titles for this film would include Tit Parade, Bonanza of Boobs, and Mammary Marathon. The European gents who produced Zombie Lake did more than just include a few naked girls to spur interest in the film; they went out of their way to make sure that the bare-skinned ladies outnumbered the lumbering ghouls. If you've ever seen a horror movie that desperately needed an undressed teenybopper to hold your interest, that girl's absence can probably be attributed to the fact that Zombie Lake used up the N.G. (naked girl) quota of several horror movies in its ninety-minute running time.
We're guessing skin cancer isn't
on her top ten list of worries.
The above comments should not be misinterpreted as complaints. We are neither prudes nor insufficiently lecherous to appreciate such an embarrassment of b-movie riches. We might have enjoyed it, however, if the filmmakers had spent a bit more time integrating the girls into the story. Rarely have we seen anything in a movie quite so transparent (or unintentionally guffaw-inspiring) as the Volkswagen Bus that pulls up to a sunny lakeside to disgorge a passel of pretty women like so many circus clowns. Who are these women? Why are they so anxious to strip down and offer themselves to the aquatic monsters that lurk below the surface of an innocent-looking pond? These questions and more, dear reader, go unanswered by the plot, but it's about time we synopsized it anyway.
Our good friend Nudity During the Opening Credits makes an appearance in Zombie Lake, as an unnamed (like nearly every character in the film) woman disrobes and suns herself while lines of typed text try vainly to distract us. Eventually she takes a dip in the nearby lake where she is attacked by, yes, a zombie. And not just any zombie, but a zombified Nazi soldier. There is a distinct lack of swastikas, iron crosses, and other such Nazi paraphernalia on this zombie, but the champagne bucket-shaped helmets and German infantry uniforms we see later mark our undead pal as a Nazi nonetheless.
"Dear Sir: It's not often that the
Screen Actors' Guild asks for the
return of a membership card,
but in your case..."
The fact that the woman goes missing is not ignored in the village. What French village wants to lose track of its beautiful, nude-sunbathing citizens? But before our first victim is found, there is a second: this time, a completely clothed woman is killed by a zombie Nazi who gnaws ineffectually at her neck while ignoring the many ounces of red food coloring that appear beneath his lips. The men of the village slowly carry her body to the Mayor's house, thoughtfully hiking her skirt up above her waist as they do so. The Mayor (Howard Vernon) announces that now there's nothing to be done. The police will have to be informed.
As if the universe sensed a severe shortage of women in the village, a lady reporter arrives to write a story about the lake. After some insanely long establishing shots, the reporter visits the Mayor's office. Then we get a long, slow pan of the office, and finally she starts asking questions. She wants to know why the local lake is called the Lake of the Dead. After a lengthy round of back and forth, the Mayor finally spills the beans.
So that's what "Fahrvergnugen" means.
During the War, he explains, a group of Nazis arrived in the village and, during a skirmish with unseen adversaries, one of the soldiers came to the aid of a frightened village woman. We witness the action in a long flashback sequence, and so we see that the "aid" consists of shoving the woman against a wall and covering her with his own body while the special effects director detonates unconvincing explosive squibs in the foreground. Grateful to the young soldier, the woman offers to give him a tour of the village hay barn and the interior of her dress. A sex scene that could only have been inspired by a Harlequin romance novel follows.
Nine months later the soldier comes back to the town just in time for the birth of his daughter. The mother dies a short time later (complications from childbirth?), and our soldier boy leaves the girl in the care of an old woman in the village. Wouldn't ya know it, the Germans are ambushed in short order by members of the French resistance (including the mayor, who looks no younger than in the "present day" footage) and killed. The resistance members strip the bodies of their boots and throw them in the lake. Some 40 years later the Nazi rise from the dead, their boots mysteriously replaced and their faces painted Kermit green, to prey on any scantily clad French women they might find.
A little known fact:
Zombies adore synchronized swimming.
Actually, the "40 years later" is a bit of a sticking point. The one automobile we see and the fashions worn by the actors (when they wear anything at all) would seem to indicate that it takes place in 1980, when it was filmed. But the third act revolves around the Nazi's daughter, Helena, who appears to be 12 years old at most.
If you thought that the daughter's bizarrely stunted growth was the funniest thing about her, you'd be wrong. Helena also happens to recognize her father, thanks to a conveniently placed piece of jewelry. Realizing that Helena still has a link with her father, the Mayor tries to talk her into betraying the zombie hordes, who have since made meals of most of the village's naked nubile populace and a "traveling basketball team" that arrived in the aforementioned VW van. Helena is loath to do this (She's just getting to know dad! They were going to go picking maggots next week!), but the for the sake of the town the Mayor convinces her that he would be happier dead. By this point in the movie, we couldn't agree more. The infinite darkness of oblivion would be preferable to watching this movie, much less starring in it.
After a few pints of blood,
Irma knew that her search for
Mr. Right wasn't over.
In the minutes between nude scenes, Zombie Lake is likely to bore the pants off of most viewers. For the discriminating b-movie enthusiast, however, it holds some golden moments. Evidence of lazy filmmaking abounds, as when a German soldier's gory end is interrupted by the appearance of the plastic tubing through which his fake blood is being pumped. Miscast actors (the Mayor is one of the dullest twits ever to hold office) and lingering shots of full frontal nudity accentuate the nagging feeling that Zombie Lake is an example of what happens when frat boys are given film equipment and Halloween makeup.
The fine folks at Image Entertainment have adopted this little abomination as part of their "EuroShock" DVD collection, even going so far as to include duplicate footage of the nude scenes with clothed actresses (shot for markets with stricter censorship rules). Just the extra this DVD needed -- an option to suck out all of the movie's intentional entertainment value.