Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mad Murdering Zombies!

The slogan says it all. Zombie Lake, not director Jean Rollin’s first zombie film, is a ludicrous travesty. There is almost nothing I could say about it that hasn’t been said already (see 1000 Misspent Hours for the ins and outs of this feast for the fast forward button), but take my word for it, it's almost impossible to stop watching to see what happens next. Director Jean Rollin with long time partner Jesus Franco also took part in the making of A Virgin Among the Living Dead, The Grapes of Death and Curse of the Living Dead before finally arriving at this. It's funny because at times, it stopped seeming like a movie at all. There are periods of time where it's completely silent, times when folks just amble around talking while Zombies kill everyone in town, and everyone seems to be in complete agreement that they will be killed, yet refuse to either leave or seek help. It's like Jean Rollin learned about film directing from a textbook, and he didn't even skim it; Which is impossibly stupid because he made other zombie films before he made this. The end result is that you've laughed, you've cursed out loud to no one in particular and you've become inexplicably tired. Sometimes the Italians just take it out of you.

Zombie Lake
by Jean Rollin

Plot, such as it is: Angry, Nazi clowns with varying degrees of dementia smear tomato sauce on the necks of women in varying states of nudity. It’s tough to tell who was more drunk, Rollin or the zombies. Of course, in order for this to appeal to anyone, one would have to be twice as drunk as all of them. Never before had so many poor ideas been ruined and turned into the most aimless Zombie film you’re likely to find rotting on the shelves of any rental place. Even the worst horror directors have ideas in their heads about how they want their movies to turn out, or one would hope anyhow, but this was just laughable. They stole the plot idea and botched it, they stole the make-up effects, botched those too, and used every other horror convention known to man: a reporter shows up looking for a story, angry villagers unite irrationally, love prevails, sorta, women are naked (boy howdy), fire kills the zombies, the list goes on. The one thing I can’t understand; in dubbing a picture about Nazis, why would you make your mayor German and everyone else an American blowhard. Go figure. On the plus side, there doesn’t appear to be overt racism, except of course the fact that there are Nazi Zombies and we’re supposed to sympathize with one of them. Oy.

Anyway, on to cultural significance, cause there's no way I'm going to admit that this was a total waste of my time. So, we have zombies, nazis, and nudity. Must be Italy. This film can be called a direct response, or rip-off, I think is the clinical term of the earlier Shockwaves, a half-decent take on nazi-zombies, perhaps the first (The scholar in me wants to make certain of this, the rest of me says to hell with it). Jesus Franco was originally asked to direct this film for Eurocine, a producer of the finest European filth, but, apparently even shitworms have principles. They didn't give Franco enough money, at least, by his standards, to direct this monstrosity, so he departed after handing in his finished screenplay. Don't worry, Rollin, the man they hired to take over, didn't really read whatever Franco wrote. For instance, there's a scene where a basketball team is supposed to show up by the lake and play for a minute. Rollin disregarded Franco's set-up and instructed the girls to play volleyball. The only things that Rollin kept intact was all the stripping and obscene vagina close-ups. Franco does love a good zoom-in. Also interesting to note is that while Franco turned his nose up at this monstrosity, right around this time, exact dates are unfortunately vague, Franco was screwing around some place in Spain filming a framing story to fit his stock footage so that he could turn it into Oasis of the Zombies, a film that but for one redeeming entrance scene, is nearly as unwatchable as this (god help him, Rollin's film has better pacing than Franco's). Both films came out in 1981, Franco's in March, the date of Zombie Lake's release is MIA. Of course, picking one illogical, slimy nazi zombie film over another, even for the men who make them, is a little like picking your favorite kick in the shin. And the 80s were far from over.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Voodoo Island 1980

Ok, I know this is out of sequence, but I heard the name and had to. This film is simply marvelous: it manages to rip off two of the most important Italian films in their grotesque history and be worse than both without being more disgusting than either, but not for lack of trying. Confused? Here's the straight story: A stupid film, from a stupid idea, directed by a hack with the intention of cashing in, and believe you me, it fucking shows. The film quality is horrendous, even for 1980; the acting is stupendously silly; the gore is plentiful, but not exactly convincing; and the racism is real pretty, quite unlike the people in this movie. The movie ran under seven other names in three different countries: Dr. Butcher M.D., Medical Deviate, Island of the Last Zombies, Queen of the Cannibals, and Zombie 3. Quite a list. Here’s a fun game, as you read this review, or watch the movie for that matter, try and see what the hell the producers were thinking when they chose any of them. If you decide to try it, you might have more fun than I did, sitting with my arms crossed, angrily shaking my head as the eyes are gouged out of Peter O'Neil's head.

Zombi Holocaust
by Marino Girolami

Our story begins in a hospital, where limbs are being stolen from corpses in the morgue, a mystery uncovered by the head doctor during autopsy class. They discover they’re being stolen by a vaguely Asian looking orderly from the Moloto archipelago. They try to arrest him, but he throws himself out of a window and then a dummy hits the ground and loses an arm. When they investigate the body, he has both arms. Curious. Could it be that a very poorly planned effect back fired and director Marino Girolami really needed to finish shooting in a hospital parking lot and didn’t have time for retakes?

Either way, Lori the head nurse is brought in by police for questioning. She's one of those remarkably convenient police witnesses who also has a degree in anthropology and not coincidentally had a dagger from Moloto stolen from her apartment recently. The questions go like this: “Do the people of Moloto engage in cannibalism?” “Yes, all primitive societies practice cannibalism, without exception. Oh, by the way I'm six years old and have the deductive reasoning powers of an antelope."

Turns out that a bunch of Moloto natives have moved to America and are now eating limbs left and right. So she and professional Roger Moore impersonator Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch from Zombie) go to Moloto to sort out the flow of cannibals. Upon arrival, with the help of Moloto, their black guide (why is he named after the island?) they meet the cannibals, who eat most of their party save for Moloto, Chandler and Lori, and meet up with their contact Dr. Butcher, oh sorry, that's Dr. Obrero. He tells them to leave (naturally), despite their just having arrived and their receipt of no explanation as to why Obrero's still alive despite the island's swarm of cannibals.

When they make it to the rubber dingy set aside for them by Dr. Obrero, a zombie stalks them while Chandler tries to make the engine work. The second he sees the shadow of their attacker; he turns and caves the zombie’s head in with the boat engine. What if it had been Moloto or a helpless child? Anyway, they go back to confront Obrero, whom they discover is duping the natives and making zombies out of them, as doctors do. Then with the traitorous Moloto, Obrero kidnaps Chandler and gives Lori to the Cannibals, who make her their queen. You see, they have a thing for blondes, as Dr. Obrero pointlessly points out. Then comes the ridiculous, over-drawn, preposterous, logicless explanation for why Dr. Obrero is making zombies. Doesn’t really matter why, does it? You’re still making zombies, you twisted Italian bastard. Anyway, after some scenes of the natives painting flowers on Lori’s breasts, I guess she somehow communicates to the cannibals that they should kill Obrero, which they do but not after scuffling with a zombie in a stupid kind of way. Chandler and Lori escape, and do whatever Italians do after escaping from the clutches of cannibals or zombies. This sort of thing happens quite often, so I’m sure there’s some kind of ritual after escaping.

Ok, so….they rip of Cannibal Holocaust...they rip off Zombie…the zombies look like they're wearing halloween costumes…the script is beyond racist…the island couldn't look anymore like a soundstage…the gore is heedless…the characters are designed to be hated…the nudity goes on and on and on…what the fuck? Italians kill me, any film that takes place on an island has cannibals, zombies, mad doctors, wizards and anything else wierd and it's all explained as normal mysterious island behavior. I wonder if the reason this movie had so many titles was because there was no plot element or gore effect thicker than your average sheet of loose leaf. Oy. Not much I can say for this film, except that clearly someone was watching all of these miserable films at the time, otherwise after this and Cannibal Ferox there wouldn’t have been any more cannibal movies.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Leave Comments, I'm Lonely

Hey, do what the head line tells you. How in the world am I supposed to know that you care? Tell me what you've been watching, if it sucked? Were there Italians in it? What gifts have you gotten? I'm bored and it's very late.