Friday, June 25, 2010

The Jean Rollin Zombie Trilogy: The Living Dead Girl (1982)

The vampire films of Jean Rollin are the definition of cult favorites. While some tend to sneer at them, others have noticed an undeniable artistry in them. Much like the lesbian vampire films Hammer did, the films have a poetic blend of Gothic trappings and unabashed eroticism, only with more bloodshed than those films. While I've reviewed his zombie films so far, none of those have that erotic content. Than can't be said for "The Living Dead Girl", a unique blend of the two that while not great like "The Grapes of Death", is still a fine conclusion for the trilogy.

After an Earthquake causes a toxic spill, Catherine (Françoise Blanchard) has come back from the dead. Wandering the French countryside, she ends up in a castle, and runs into her old friend Hélène (Marina Pierro.) Unfortunatetly for Catherine, she now needs blood to live, and Hélène is more than willing to bring fresh victims to the castle.

As I said, "The Living Dead Girl" is an interesting mix of the zombie and vampire genres. While she doesn't have fangs and can walk in daylight, she does need to drink blood to survive. That little tidbit aside, there's still a lot to like about the film. Like Rollins' vampire films, there is an impressive blend of potent eroticism, graphic bloodshed (Catherine really gets into drinking blood) and eerie atmosphere. The lesbianism on display-well, there's no denying it's hot, but it's filmed and directed in such a way that it feels almost like you are watching an art film. It also helps that the acting is impressive, with Blanchard managing to create a sympathetic monster who hates what she's become, and Pierro adding levity as the best friend who wants her friend to stay, yet doesn't know the pain she is causing her.

Flaws? Well, there are a few. The conclusion just kind of happens, as there isn't any real feeling of closure to the film. The problem that sticks out the most however is Carina Barone and Mike Marshall as two photographers. Everything involving them feels intrusive, and I was left wondering "Why are they here?" Even their eventual fate at the end feels oddly out of place.

Still, "The Living Dead Girl" makes for a fine conclusion to Rollins' zombie trilogy, and is required viewing for fans of French horror. Just don't bother telling me "She's not really a zombie" though, because that argument has gotten old. She's sort of a zombie. That matters enough.

Rating: 7.5/10

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