Top positive review
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Gross and reprehensible
on April 21, 2004
Jean Rollin is a name instantly recognizable to hardcore horror fans, but meaningless to nearly everyone else. This ignorance is quite unfortunate because this French director concocted some of the sleaziest, most unusual films ever made during the 1970s and 1980s, films usually imbued with a disturbing mix of hypereroticism and bloody violence. I have often tossed Rollin's name around in impolite company with seeming aplomb even though I had never seen even one of the man's films. You read enough plot synopses about someone and you start to feel as though you know every intimate detail about their work. What I did hear from others about this director oftentimes did not bode well. He is apparently well versed in schlock filmmaking--which in and of itself is not a problem with me, a true lover of bad cinema--but several of his films continue to draw raves from a selected minority of genre fans. Well, I finally sat down with a Jean Rollin film, his 1979 effort "Fascination," and was pleasantly surprised with the results. As I viewed the film with a growing sense of intrigue, I began mentally composing a list of other films from this director that I should watch in the near future. First up is Rollin's 1982 gore opus "Living Dead Girl."
"La Morte Vivante," or "The Living Dead Girl," is a shocking tale of a girl raised from the dead against her will, her ravenous hunger for human blood, and the childhood friend who acts as her enabler. Catherine Valmont (Françoise Blanchard) unfortunately passed away at a young age and was buried in a crypt with her deceased mother. And there she lies still in the sleep that knows no time or space until two dolts looking for a convenient place to stash some leaky barrels of toxic waste discover the crypt and start robbing graves. Some element of the glowing green fluid has an unwholesome effect on Catherine's corpse, causing her to suddenly awake and attack the two ghouls. Valmont, barely capable of speech and deeply confused in the world of the living, begins rambling around the French countryside in an effort to relocate her old house. Initially, she only has two memories-of her house and of her childhood friend Helene (Marina Pierro). As she wanders through wide-open fields, a nosy American photographer notices her and takes a picture of the dead girl. The photographer and her goofy husband will soon play a big role in the horrific events to follow.
Catherine eventually stumbles over her house, which is obviously no longer the Valmont residence. The living dead girl starts killing off people who come to the house-a real estate agent, a couple of young kids fooling around on a couch, Jimmy Hoffa-you get the idea. It turns out Catherine must drink the blood of the living in order to remain animate. If she goes too long without quaffing the red stuff, she suffers excruciating aches and pains. Moreover, the more blood Valmont drinks, the more she remembers about her former life. She soon recalls more details about Helene and a strange blood pact the two made as children. By the time Helene appears, and after living dead girl's bestest friend expresses astonishment that her late pal is alive, the two team up to help Catherine cope with her newfound existence. Helene lures a series of people out to the house so Valmont can carve them up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Each encounter between Catherine and a hapless individual is truly gross, a bone crunching, sauce spraying adventure in graphic Technicolor. Then, tragedy strikes. Remember the photographer and her husband? They both arrive on the scene when they learn about Catherine Valmont's death and mysterious resurrection. At the same time, living dead girl begins to express a sense of remorse about the people she kills for food. The movie ends on an especially gory note.
"Living Dead Girl" is a great horror film. I liked nearly everything about Rollin's nasty little gorefest: the French scenery, the actors, and especially the squishy special effects. The director lets the camera linger over the carnage in super close-up, just so you don't miss out on any of the unpleasantness. And it is unpleasant, extremely so. The sound effects alone turned my stomach. Just in case you weary of living dead girl munching on yet another victim, Rollin throws in a hatchet in a head and a person on fire to liven things up. Even the plot going on between the gory horrors is interesting for a low budget Eurotrash horror flick. The acting isn't all that bad, although I can't completely confirm that for sure since most of the dialogue is in French. Sure, the whole thing's a bit contrived, but what horror film isn't? If you like bloody shriek cinema, you should pick this one up right away.
The DVD version of the film is an entry in Redemption's Jean Rollin Collection, which means you get to see a rather racy intro involving two female vampires before the gorefest starts in earnest. Extras on the DVD include a widescreen picture transfer, stills, and a French language trailer with the dialogue replaced by screams. I've only seen two Rollin films up to this point, but "The Living Dead Girl" is the better of the two. Apparently, this one is the best Rollin film, period. I hope not; I like to think more treasures from this director await me in the future. If not, I'll simply watch this one and "Fascination" again. "La Morte Vivante" is a must see for gorehounds specifically and horror fans in general.