Monday, July 16, 2012

Horror Film Review

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974):  Let me explain.  Yes, this film is 38 years old but it’s a zombie flick.  So the question is not why would I watch it but how could I not?  That said, it’s classic 70s exploitation.  Not my favorite sub-genre by any means.  And yet...70s exploitation means gore (yay!), boobs (eh), and some seriously funky music (groovy). 

Edna (Cristina Galbo) and George (Ray Lovelock) are strangers who literally run into each other as they’re traveling to their respective destinations in the north of Britain.  Edna wrecks George’s motorcycle, gives him a lift, then begs him to accompany her to her sister’s house.  They get lost, stop to ask directions at a farm, and discover the Agriculture Department is conducting an experiment involving the eradication of insects via some sort of sound wave/radiation mumbo jumbo.  The device looks like a disco light system strapped to the top of a combine harvester.  Scientists insist it affects only animals with primitive nervous systems.  Yeah.  Right.  Oops.  They find Edna’s sister’s place.  So does a local man who drowned a few days earlier.  After soggy zombie kills the sister’s husband, the cops take over and don't buy the sister's "the undead murdered my spouse" explanation.  The detective (Arthur Kennedy) is a mean bastard who thinks anyone under 30 is a hippie/druggie/queer and needs a haircut.  One of those guys. 

The rest of the film is like this:  zombies kill people, and the cops blame George and Edna, who run away a lot.  Edna's sister has a breakdown, winds up in hospital.  Edna goes a bit batty herself (she never was wired quite right) and ends up there as well.  Guess where all the zombies decide to go?  George races to save Edna, thinks he made it in time (he didn't), and then gets shot and killed by the cops for his trouble.  Don't worry, though.  There's a surprise waiting for that asshole detective when he returns to his hotel room.  Well, it's not a surprise to us.  You see it coming a mile away.

Despite the numerous problems, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie has a few things working in its favor.  It's filmed in the British countryside so it's got loads of atmosphere (for example, the cemetery they shot at is where Little John, Robin Hood's friend, is buried).  Contributing to that atmosphere is the music.  Earlier, when I said the music was funky, I didn't mean disco.  I meant it reminded me of the creepy-ass music from Suspira.  Ultimately, though, I think it's a wash, pro vs. con-wise.  See the Breakdown for details.


Acting:  Typical 70s ham.  Everyone seems to be yelling their lines.  Galbo as Edna is particularly annoying.  Kennedy as the inspector snarls and growls and generally chews on the scenery. 
Story:  The basic idea is sound but the writing is, shall we say, flawed.  Plot holes and occasions where you ask yourself, "Why the hell did they do that?"  Like that.
Direction:  Languid.  And occasionally veers off course into the land of boring.  It takes too long to get rolling.
Production Values:  This is where the movie gets the highest marks.  Ancient, Gothic locations fit right in with the subject matter.  Although it's somewhat blunted by actors dressed in 70s attire and zipping around in boxy Volvos and Mini Coopers.  The sound is surprisingly good, and the film stock isn't too dark and grainy (my biggest beef with films from that decade).
Gore/FX:  There's some blood but more gore.  Lots of intestine munching.  Yay!  Another surprise, is the zombie make-up.  It's an exercise in less is more.  Subtlety coupled with perfect execution by the actors create impressively spooky zombies. 
Scares:  There are a few decent ones.  More than I expected, actually. 
Ending:  Overwrought and silly. 
Verdict:  Should you watch Let Sleeping Corpses Lie?  If you can get past the shrill acting and lapses in logic, it may be worth a look.  For hard core zombie fans, it's required viewing.

Rating:  3 out of 5

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