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John’s Horror Corner: The Living Dead Girl (1982)

July 13, 2012

MY CALL:  God forbid…the utilization of nudity as an artistic mechanism—and by a pornographer, no less!  An odd, very French morality tale from the antique horror section, this film manages to take a serious approach at what may be prematurely deemed a lesbian zombie exploitation flick.  Although, it should have been cut down to a 30 minute short.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  Although immature, I’m reminded of Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993).  LANGUAGE:  This flick is in French.  Netflix has it with English subtitles.

Our story is about a young woman (Catherine) who rises from the dead after an earthquake causes a small toxic waste spill.  Completely undecayed and looking quite lovely, she stabs two guys in the eyes and throat with her apparently deadly fingernails in some ultra-campy gored up scenes that should please with broad smiling Oh Gods.  She then finds her way to a castle in which she once lived.  Now this may feel like the beginning of some classic, trashy, Euro-horror smut with excessive gore, but this film actually offers us a lot more than that and shouldn’t be prematurely judged.

She sheds a few tears—as zombies do, if indeed that’s how we’re to classify her—as the house stirs up some memories of her childhood and best friend (Helene).  She kills a few others, again with brusquely executed fingernail throat stabbings, then does some blood-feeding—not really sure if I’m supposed to say the word “vampire” here.

Now comfortable in her home, Catherine strips to nothing as if reborn into her new form.  I’m not gonna’ lie.  There is a lot of full frontal nudity in these scenes and, again, I’d remind you not to judge just yet.

Catherine’s beloved friend Helene arrives and knows that her best friend has been dead for a good while by now.  But her reaction is not disbelief or panic.  No, no, no.  It’s are you okay? as she stands before her mute, naked, blood-soaked, clearly murderous, long dead friend like everything is normal.  There is a serious suspension of reality now as Helene lays undead Catherine down to rest as she relocates the victems’ naked corpses to the cellar vault.  Then, as if routine, she invites Catherine to bloodfeed on her wrist very much like a scene out of True Blood.

So you may have noticed a bit of a theme with the nudity here.  However surprising, this is all done with a straight face as if the goal was to make a serious, even poetic horror film—as opposed to Tom Kincaid’s smutty horror (Mutant Hunt, Robot Holocaust, Breeders) when he’s not working on gay porn.  As it turns out, after these first few scenes there is no more nudity in this film and the nudity that passed, in fact, served a tactful purpose in setting a heavy, dark, romantic tone.

Like a boudoir version of Regarding Henry or The Vow, Helene rehabilitates Catherine, teaches her to speak and tries to remind her of their love.  And, like those movies, Catherine is overwhelmed and meets hysteria at times.  Without a flicker of consideration, conscience or reason, Helene starts luring attractive women to the castle for Helene to feed (like in Let the Right One In or The Countess).  Why young attractive women?  Duh!  They’re delicious!

As Catherine becomes more self-aware, she feels conflicted about her “evil” existence in which she must drain others of life to survive.  Once she finds her humanity she doesn’t wish to continue.  Meanwhile Helene, trying to preserve her friendship by any desperate means necessary, becomes more monstrous as she tries to force victems on Catherine, letting their blood before her as if to inspire her beast within, and killing any who may threaten the livelihood of her love—now more Helene’s obsession.

Directed and written by Jean Rollin, whose work includes The Nude Vampire (1970), Lips of Blood (1975), The Grapes of Death (1978), Zombie Lake (1982), Two Orphan Vampires (1997), La Fiancee de Dracula (2002) and a lot of porn, this film represents a pornographer’s foray into expressive film using, of all things, horror as a delivery mechanism.  During this film our sympathies shift from the living to the dead and a loving friendship becomes a perverted, macabre husk of its former self; Rollin’s attention went to the moral dilemma of Catehrine’s being in place of the breastage no doubt inserted for commercial appeal.  I’d say it was a success and should be included in any true horror fans’ resume.  The somewhat poetic ending is neither predictable nor original, but it serves the story perfectly.

BELOW:  Here is an example of a movie cover/poster that would quickly mislead folks into thinking this is a straight-up exploitation flick.  It’s so not.

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