Directed By: Jean Rollin
Starring: Marina Pierro, Françoise Blanchard, Mike Marshall
Alternate Title: In Japan this film was released as Zombie Queen
Trivia: Actress Françoise Blanchard found the shooting of this film to be physically exhausting, and one day she even collapsed on the set
Director Jean Rollin was no stranger to violence; movies like Fascination and The Demoniacs certainly had their share of bloodshed. But with 1982’s The Living Dead Girl, he achieved a whole new level of brutality, and in the process made what I consider to be one of the most effective horror flicks in his filmography.
Looking for an out-of-the-way locale to dump a few barrels of toxic waste, three men (played by Alain Petit, Jean Cherlian, and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou) eventually agree that the best place to store it is the burial chamber situated under the Valmont family estate. Once there, the trio decides to do a little grave robbing as well, and break open a casket housing the remains of Catherine Valmont (Françoise Blanchard), a gorgeous young woman who passed away several years earlier. Just as they do so, an earthquake strikes, spilling some of the toxic sludge onto the ground. And as the men will soon learn, this was no ordinary waste; seconds after it’s exposed to the air, Catherine Valmont suddenly springs to life and dispatches the three intruders in grisly fashion.
Alive yet still unaware of her surroundings, Catherine makes her way back to the Valmont family estate, where, a short time later, she meets up with her life-long friend Hélène (Marina Pierro). Thrilled to have Catherine back, Hélène does what she can to make her comfortable, but soon realizes the only thing the recently-reanimated Catherine needs to survive is human blood. With Hélène’s help, Catherine feeds on a steady stream of unsuspecting victims. The question is: how long will the two be able to get away with murder?
Like many of his previous films, Rollin shot The Living Dead Girl on-location (for the duration of the shoot, the entire cast and crew lived in the mansion that served as the Valmont estate), and even managed to put his own unique spin on the zombie subgenre (over time, Christine learns to talk again, and becomes more self-aware with each passing scene). But it’s the film’s high level of gore that sets it apart. Created by Benoît Lestang, who at age 17 was working on his first movie, some of the film’s gore effects look surprisingly good (unlike most walking dead, who use their teeth to tear open a victim’s throat, Catherine relies on her sharp fingernails to get the job done), culminating in a climactic scene that’s sure to disturb you (arguably the most violent finale Rollin ever turned out).
As beautiful as it is bloody (the picturesque country setting is utilized to great effect), The Living Dead Girl is a truly intense motion picture experience.