Let Sleeping Corpses Lierecommended viewing

Do you suffer from zombie fatigue?
★★★★★
☆☆
Released: 
1974
Director: 
Jorge Grau
Starring: 
Cristina Galbo, Ray Lovelock, Arthur Kennedy, Aldo Massasso
The Setup: 
Man and woman meet cute, end up getting ripped apart by zombies.
Discussion: 

Someone recommended this to me, and it turned out to be quite a good one! This is a Spanish-Italian co-production that takes place in Scotland, and ends up bringing the best of all the countries' various horror traditions into one swell-smellin' melting pot. So let's get it on!

We open with credits in that kind of Italian style, those blocky white letters, like an educational film, that are somehow so unexpectedly effective for horror. We then veer into a VISUAL ESSAY as we see our hero, George, drive his motorcycle through the smog-clogged city. He keeps his scarf over his mouth, and we see people coughing, wearing masks, or encased in big glass pens, such as you see in the photo. Then, while George is stopped at a light, a nude woman runs across the intersection, and get this--no one notices! You see, the big, industrialized city has made us all into walking zombies, if you will! And I don't know, I just love it when movies go out of their way to make A STATEMENT like this--especially 70s movies making 70s statements.

Anyway, soon George drives out of the city and up to Scotland. He's an antiques dealer and has some artifact in his bag--which you would think might end up having something to do with the story, but no. He is stopped at a gas station when the woman at the pump in front of backs over his motorcycle. This is Edna, and she is clearly the product of a culture that sees women as pretty little flowers with sponges in their heads, as she, as presented, is just flat-out DUMB. It's rare to see a character presented as just flat-out STUPID as she is, and made worse by the attitude of all around her that this is all that can be expected of a little woman. So first of all, she has no car in front of her, so all she has to do is put the car in drive [as she presumably has done before?], but instead she backs over George's bike. It is severely damaged, and will need to sit in the shop until Monday, when it can be repaired. This FUCKS George's weekend, right? And Edna doesn't seem to think it's that big a deal. He insists that she drive him where he was going, and then they start bickering about which destination they'll go to. Meanwhile you're like--so what is this? A meet-cute? When George Met Edna at the Zombie Holocaust? Pretty Woman and Mr. Undead?

Edna continues demonstrating her mental acuity when she tells George to go down this road, then, oh no, this isn't it... well they all look quite alike, don't they? They stop by some creek and he has to go ask for directions, while she stands around making pouty faces. He finds these people with a big red tractor on a hill that is beaming ultrasonic radiation into the ground to kill bugs. Gee, I wonder if they'll find that has any unforeseen side effects? I honestly do not know.

Meanwhile, Edna is chillin' down by the creek, when she starts hearing this eerie sucking sound and sees this dude lumbering through the graveyard and moving in this kind of jerky motion, and then he sees her and--holy shit, this is pretty creepy! And here I thought I had been fully zombied-out. Edna gets the guy away from her and then of course he's long gone by the time George shows up again. Now, we haven't talked much about George, and, while he's presented as less of a learning disability case than Edna, he still doesn't have much to recommend him [aside from a beard and motorcycle. Oh, and a leather jacket]. He's a belittling, impatient asshole, the kind of smug dude who knows everything and tells someone the zombie they just saw was probably a mote of dust or a naked mole-rat or something. Of course, the fact that he hasn't quite deliberately crushed Edna's skull by now is quite exemplary.

So now we cut to Edna's sister, Kate. She is doing something secretive in her home when her husband Martin comes in, and she makes like nothing's going on. They have a fight, and she screams that she is being kept a prisoner in her own home. When he leaves, she goes back to her activity--preparing and shooting heroin! Love it. Meanwhile, Martin is down taking pictures of the especially well-lit waterfall. He is menaced by the same zombie, then so is Kate, who has shown up, then the zombie kills Martin, as the camera keeps going off, perhaps catching pictures of the action--just like in Jaws 2.

Edna and Martin soon show up, as do the police. Look at the pic, that's our heroin-addicted buddy Kate in the back there. I think she's going to need more than just a rejuvinating conditioner. We now introduce Detective--oh dear, WHAT is his name? I'm afraid I forgot to write it down. Anyway, he's that detective who thinks that everyone who isn't a good upstanding citizen with tradtional modes of dress is SCUM. He tells Kate she probably killed Martin herself while on heroin, and then someone finds pics Martin took of Kate after suddenly barging in on her in the bath--? And then, Kate just goes away! She's never seen again!

Outside, George gets Edna to cause a diversion while he swipes the film with the pics of the killing by the heavily-illuminated waterfall. Now somehow they end up at the hospital--maybe that's where Kate went?--and we see these sealed in, extra-sturdy metallic coffins, and that's what I really liked about this movie--it has a low-key sci-fi vibe about it. Soon after the coffins, George is bitten by a newborn baby! He thinks it might be the radiation from the old radiation truck, so he goes out there to find more. The radiation causes ants to go mad and attack each other, killing themselves off like that. Could this have some larger implications?

Then they go pick up their pictures and, sure enough, they don't show anything. JUST like Jaws 2. And who shows up, but the detective! And he lets George know that city folk like him are "All the same, the lot of you, with your long hair and faggot clothes, drugs, sex and every kind of filth!" The detective lets George know that he has to stay around in case he has more questions, and he won't take any guff about it. George and Edna spend the night in a hotel.

SPOILERS > > >
The next day, they end up out by this church across the way from where the radioactive truck is. George is still being a belittling dick to Edna about how she couldn't possibly have seen a zombie, and frankly he was really getting under my skin. They end up locked inside the church, and who should be there--but the zombie! He wakes up two other zombies and they're all coming at the, wheezing and bloody and again, pretty scary, not to mention that while they may be slow, these zombies do seem to be pretty dextrous, and can essentially beat the shit out of you or whatnot. George acts the gentleman and gets Edna out through a hole, where she is helped by a policeman happening by, and for a second it looks like she's going to just run off and leave George there to die! I'd have more respect for her if she did. Anyway, long story short, they all three end up inside with the zombies now outside, and the cop has left his radio outside. Meanwhile the zombies are picking up and throwing tombstones! They're strong! Still, they are pretty slow, and the cop could have just run out, grabbed his radio and gotten back in, but no, and he ends up getting ripped apart and his organs eaten. Meanwhile, I SO wanted Edna to go apeshit and shout "So I don't think I am hearing your apology for all the fucking rude insults you made about how the dead don't just rise up and start walking around, fucking asshole!" Then it turns out that these zombies, just like the ones in Messiah of Evil, are HIGHLY flammable. They finally get out, and just leave the perfectly-working radio sitting there by the cop's body! No, you won't need that, just leave it! Why weigh yourself down, you know?

Then George turns out to be just the kind of asshole character who runs straight to the radaiation truck and, without so much as a by your leave [or, say "Pardon me, but your truck his causing zombies to rise from their graves,"] just grabs a stick a fruitlessly begins beating on it. For god's sake, both these characters are just twats! Meanwhile the detective finds the mutilated body of the cop and makes the logical conclusion that George and Edna are satanists! George is now, by the way, being a total fucking asshole to people who don't believe HIM that there are zombies! This dude needs to start with the man in the mirror. They all end up at the hospital where zombies are popping up [but still a refreshingly manageable number--none of the old hordes we're so tired of] and at times the movie still comes through with a really horrifying shock, such as the shot below, where the zombies are just contentedly munching organs with random body parts laying around.

This film steps over the sexual violence line [don't forget, it's partly Italian] when the zombies grab a nurse, rip off her breasts and mangle her pussy. I just don't think we need to see sexual mutilation, especially as the zombies had never shown any interest in sex before. Anyway [you read there were spoilers, right?], Edna ends up zombified--I mean, MORE zombified--and George wastes no time tossing her in the fire. No agonizing about killing the ones you love and having to face that it's not them anymore for him--and good, because I'm really tired of the cliche scene from zombie movies. Zombies once again prove to be intensely flammable--I guess the radiation turns their blood to gasoline? And this is the rare movie where BOTH our heroes end up killed! And I must say it couldn't have happened to more deserving people. The detective, who killed him, says "I wish he dead could come back to life, bastard, because then I'll kill you again." Hey, be careful what you wish for, pal!
< < < SPOILERS END

All in all, a delight. When is the last time you saw a zombie movie that found new and different ways of doing its thing, and remained effective all the way right to the end? It's also a little different in that we have a small number of zombies, and they are truly creepy, especially with that eerie wheezing sound--and genunely scary. Add to that the fun 60s British vibe and enticing Spanish/Italian sensibilities [minus the sexual mutiliation] and it's a potent brew. If you suffer from zombie fatigue, finding that all the good ideas for zombie movies have been well explored and most new zombie flicks are just recombinations of familiar scenes, watch this and be inspired anew. One of the better, more fun horror movies I've watched in quite a while.

Should you watch it: 

Man and woman meet cute, end up getting ripped apart by zombies.