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A thoroughly enjoyable film. The problem is that the gulf between director's intention and viewer enjoyment is massive. The notion that someone is presenting this film as an earnest and professional endeavour borders on the hysterical. A glance at the 'Goofs' section on this website only tells half the story. I've never witnessed so many actors clearly acknowledge the camera and grin sheepishly as in this. Most of the on screen appearances of crew and equipment mercifully passed me by but the use of a swimming pool for underwater lake footage was obvious enough, though forgivable. The dubbing is also a real treat, in particular the attempts to synchronise words with the actor's lip movements by stretching syllables in such a peculiar way that the characters often sound overly-contemplative and high on drugs. There is often lip movement that is not dubbed over, which only adds to the riotously amateurish feel. Female nudity seems to have been used as an attempted distraction from the painfully slow moving and incoherent narrative. The film opens with an attractive, bronzed mademoiselle skinny-dipping in the titular lake. There are utterly gratuitous underwater shots of between her legs which set the tone for the rest of the film, although we are not treated to quite such 'gynaecological' shots thereafter. Benny Hill and other such shameless slap-and-tickle content comes to mind, especially with the van-load of young girls (supposedly a female basketball team, although its doubtful basketball was popular enough amongst French women in the '50s to warrant a tour) who gaily strip to the bone and plunge into the lake's stagnant waters. There is something about the entire cast of characters and their behaviour that really jars. From the absurd way a group of men openly carry a dead woman through the village to leave her at the mayor's door to the bizarre behaviour of the two policemen who turn up to investigate the recent deaths in the area, one is left feeling that this is a wildly surreal collection of people in an equally surreal situation. The way the zombies repeatedly get in and out of the lake throughout is entirely inexplicable and seems only to have been scripted so that the flimsy narrative progression can be slotted artificially in between zombie-on-human encounters. Zombie behaviour is ludicrously erratic: they jerk down the road like alcoholics, lunging at people for the sake of the kill, then not bothering to eat their victims. The scene in which the zombies burst into the pub sees them more full of irritation and anger than any mindless lust for human blood see the moment when a would be escapee's attempt to dash past the first zombie provokes a disciplinarian slap to the fellow's back. The very nature of the community that the zombies victimise is highly questionable. The population seem to look to the mayor as if he were some kind of endlessly wise deity, following every order he gives unquestioningly. Every newcomer to the village is directed straight to the mayor's odd castle-like home, as if he's the only one equipped to deal with the outside world. His exchanges with the stupid reporter are intended to be the intellectual element of the film, superstition versus science and all that baloney. When we hear him alluding to a type of fire that man cannot create we assume he means the fires of hell or something but when the reporter suggest napalm he reacts like it's the most logical and certain solution to the zombie problem he has ever heard! So they proceed to dust off the old flamethrower that every small French village has lying around somewhere and lure the zombies into a barn where they can incinerate them. We then see some shoddy replicas of the zombies being flamed, while the time of the day alternates wildly outside. The inclusion of a sub-plot revolving around the illegitimate offspring of a villager and one of the Nazi soldiers who subsequently became a zombie is a freakishly misguided attempt at an emotionally involving thread to the main 'story'. When/if you finish watching this film, pause for a moment and try to recall any of the characters' names. Chances are you won't be able to. This is mainly to do with the fact very few characters are endowed with a name, something symptomatic of the film's downright amateurism. I will probably watch this film at least five more times in my lifetime because it is a thoroughly entertaining, incoherent mishmash. This does not however excuse the people who made it, as there can be no doubt they were attempting to pass this off as legitimate cinema entertainment. It is similar to the way you might enjoy someone falling down a flight of stairs as they descend them in order to show you their awful new clothes.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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