Friday, October 12, 2012

Horrorfest Classics—Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) ***½

Edna: Christine Galbo
George: Ray Lovelock
The Inspector: Arthur Kennedy
Kinsey: Aldo Massasso
Craig: Giorgio Trestini
Benson: Roberto Posse

Anchor Bay Entertainment presents a film directed by Jorge Grau. Written by Sandro Continenza and Marcello Coscia. Running time: 95 min. Rated R.

In 2008, Simon Pegg—co-writer and star of zombie movie/parody “Shaun of the Dead”—wrote an op-ed piece for “The Guardian” in response to the British television movie “Dead Set” discussing the virtues of the classic slow-moving zombies versus the modern “speed” zombies. The piece was titled “The Dead and the Quick” and basically argued that since zombies are technically dead, they should never move quickly.

Although I have enjoyed some of the quick-moving zombie pictures that have come out during the past decade, I tend to agree with Pegg on this matter. Pegg argues that the classic theme of the living dead is humanity’s natural fear of death. Not just physical death; but our mortality as a whole, which involves growing old and developing physical disabilities. Pegg writes, “Death is a disability, not a superpower. It is hard to run with a cold, let alone the most debilitating malady of them all.” He continues, “…the zombie trumps all (movie monsters) by personifying our deepest fear: death. Zombies are our destiny writ large. Slow and steady in their approach, weak, clumsy, often absurd, the zombie relentlessly closes in, unstoppable, intractable.”
I’m happy to say that in “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie” the living dead don’t operate above the laws of our mortal nature. Beyond being dead and walking around consuming the flesh of others that is. No, this is a zombie movie that contains the classic lumbering death we’ve all come to know and love through the years. And, it is as satisfying as a skull full of fresh brains.
Spanish horror director Jordi Grau directed the 1974 zombie cult classic, released in Italy as one of the popular “Zombi” pictures. Grau’s take on the zombies in this picture doesn’t stray far from George Romero’s zombie model in his own classic “Night of the Living Dead”. This one benefits greatly from his beautiful color cinematography, however. The blood is bloodier. The countryside setting is stunning in its pastoral beauty. That beauty juxtaposes the horror of what the people are doing to each other. Something unnatural has been loosed on the landscape and it shows up as a gnarly scar on the pretty pictures.
We meet a London-based artist on a weekend trip to the country. When a sanity-challenged woman destroys his motorcycle in a thoughtless accident, he hitches a ride with her to the small town where her sister and brother-in-law are expecting her. Once there they discover that the dead appear to be walking around and are hungry for flesh.
While this movie doesn’t really add much original to the basic function and form of the zombie, Grau does add his own original touch to the thematic elements of zombie lore with an environmental theme. The cause of the walking dead in this scenario is an experimental, non-chemical, sonic insect control device for the area’s farmers. The pitch of the sound waves drive the insects into a maddened frenzy that sends them tearing into each other’s flesh for food instead of vegetables. Well, it apparently gets under the skin of dead humans in the same way. Don’t mess with nature, man.

Another of this film’s wonderful features is the way it embraces so many classic horror traditions. There’s a police detective trying to track down whoever is going around the countryside killing people. This reminds me of the Hammer horror films where some sort of an investigator is always on the trail. The couple from the beginning is fingered for the murders and end up in the mental ward, so you get a classic horror location and the whole madhouse theme, which becomes more of a madhouse once the zombie threat gets really out of control. There’s also the classic horror theme of being falsely accused. Of course, there is a scene at a church and the occult is brought into the picture, although the zombies here actually have nothing to do with the occult.

If you look past the bad acting—and isn’t that really part of the fun of so many zombie pictures—“Let Sleeping Corpses Lie” is really like an epic zombie movie. It’s small and intimate while being sprawling at the same time. Grau’s cinematography is brilliant, if not the script. This movie has everything that any good zombie aficionado is looking for in a zombie flick, and even a little more. While it might be a little clumsier than some U.S. made horror flicks, “Corpses” has much to admire about it.

Watch the movie in it's entirety below.

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