Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Living Dead Girl (1982)

It always surprises me when people refer this as a vampire-movie. Because there's no vampires here, just a living dead girl (a zombie...). So, now that's out of the way. The Living Dead Girl is together with Grapes of Death and Lips of Blood my favorite Jean Rollin-movie, and it's one of those few movies that's getting better and more powerful for every time you see it. The story borders to ridiculous simple, but sometimes that's the only thing you need.

The beginning is not only tortuous, it's absurd. A couple of guys are dumping toxic waste in the basement of a castle. An earthquake makes the toxic to pour out and resurrect a Catherine Valmont (Françoise Blanchard) from her grave. She rises and kills the men in bloody ways, and then walks up to the castle, her former home (so here you see, she's a zombie, not a vampire). The castle is now for sale, and one responsible for that is her eternal love Helene (Marina Pierro). When they find each other again, the blood starts to flow - because Catherine needs blood and fresh human meat to survive...

This is such a beautiful movie, both visually and story. You have all the typical Rolling-themes: lesbianism, a castle, the French countryside, blood and the sad truth of eternal love: you'll never survive it. It's almost like the script is improvised. The story moves organic from scene to scene, and the slow pace never get's slow. It feels like a minute of watching for every ten minutes of real movie. The dialogue is awkward sometime, but also ad-libbed, and I like that a lot. It becomes naturalistic, and yet the the words can be stilted sometime. The two leading actors, Françoise Blanchard and Marina Pierrio is perfect, and are far away from some of the other talents occupying the story. No one is bad, but it's easy to see where Rollin put his heart and soul. 

I guess this is Rollins most violent film too, a lot more graphic stuff than his other masterpiece Grapes of Death. The gore is bloody, disgusting, graphic and sometimes cheap - but it's powerful, and it feels painful and terrible. I would never like to die like this, screaming for a long time and with a pale French woman looking with those big eyes at my bleeding wounds. This is poetry crossed with splatter, and it warms my heart and soul that a movie such this one exist. This was the first movie by Rollin I ever saw many years ago, and it's stayed with me since then. One of the few movies that I fell in love with at first sight. 

I can't enough recommend this masterpiece of French cinema. This is an amazing piece of art, and the best thing is that it fits both lovers of arthouse AND exploitation, and of course for us that dig both.

God damn, Jean. Give me more. Please.


Nigel M said...

You know what, I am gonna take this recommendation and get me a copy. I only recently saw Fascination and wasnt really familiar with rollins films and I really enjoyed that one so I think I ll try and get hold of living dead girl- since I want to see more of his work anyway.

dfordoom said...

If you like The Living Dead Girl and Fascination, then check out Night of the Hunted as well. It's my personal favourite of all his films. Great performance by Brigitte Lahaie. And a rare example of erotic horror where the sex is absolutely crucial to the film - the early sex scene is actually the pivot of the entire movie. And when you watch it for the second time, the sex scene is absolutely heart-breaking. Probably his most emotionally devastating movie. And like The Living Dead Girl it's a very unconventional zombie film.

It's also a great example of how to make a terrific movie on a budget of almost nothing, and make the low budget work in the film's favour.

Ninja Dixon said...

Nigel: YES! You should watch it as soon as possible. I'm sure you will like it a lot.

dfordoom: I've seen (and I own it on dvd) Night of the hunted and it's a visually very impressive movie. It's not my favourite though, but I'm gonna watch it again soon to give it a second chance.