May 13, 2013

Movie Review: The Living Dead Girl (aka La morte vivante)

Hot on the heels of my experience with The Night of the Hunted, I jumped right back into the Jean Rollin pool with The Living Dead Girl. It is another haunting exercise in style, atmosphere, and mood, with less attention paid to performance ad story development. Who knew this could be such a potent combination? (that is a rhetorical question. Clearly somebody knew and I am left to play catchup.) Also, whenever I see the title, I cannot help but think of Rob Zombie, and knowing his affinity for horror, am assuming there is a connection, but am too lazy to actually look.

The Living Dead Girl begins I'm rather goofy fashion before moving into gothic stylings that play up the lingering bonds of genuine friendship and he pain of loss, loneliness, and self loathing. All of it done I the guise of a reanimated zombie vampire genre piece. It is a piece that seems to be a compromise between Rollin's usual surreal, ethereal poetic mood pieces and a more modern (for 1982, anyway) graphic visual style.

As we open, a couple of guys are disposing of a barrel of toxic waste in the deacons of some ruins that also happens to be used as a tomb for a recently decided young heiress. Predictably, an earthquake hits and the barrel is toppled, releasing the waste. In turn, the woman, Catharine Valmont (Francoise Blanchard) returns to life and becomes the living dead girl. Her newfound life comes with a thirst for blood and he ability to create vast gushes of red by poking people in the throat (which she does numerous times).

She makes her way back to her mansion, which is now on the market. Here, she interrupts a couple, killing them and fearing on their blood. The story progresses with Catharine's childhood friend, Helene (Marina Piero), coming to the home and finding her friend alive. Their friendship is told through key flashbacks as Catharine regains a touch of her humanity, or at least the ability to speak (whereby she whines about being alive and laments what she has become).

The relationship between Catharine and Helene plays out like a precursor to that of Julia and Frank in Hellraiser. She needs blood and Helene is that method of getting it, she lures people to the ruins where Catharine does her finger throat poke and eats up.

Obviously, this is something that cannot go on indefinitely. It all comes to a climax when an American woman begins to suspect something, she sees a picture of Catharine, who is supposed to be dead, and begins to wonder who this new woman is.

I am not going to tell of the ending, but it seems appropriate, and the only way it could really go. It is an end that underlines the themes of loss and self loathing, not to ,entire friendship. It is a movie that never tries very and to explain what it is trying to do, rather using a slow, lingering visual style to allow the action and atmosphere seep in to the viewer.

The Living Dead Girl is a movie that works almost in spite of itself. The gore effects are nice, but not the best, the acting is suspect, and it feels a little cheap. Still, there is great atmosphere and Rollin is able to squeeze this profound sense of loss and self loathing out of the visuals. It is rather haunting and I love how he is able to work the sad mood around the idea of friends forever.

Intriguing film that, like the few other Rollin films I have seen do a surprising amount win very little. A pleasing mix of art and sleaze.


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