August 16, 2011

Revenge of the Living Dead Girls (Review)


Revenge of the Living Dead Girls (1987)

La revanche des mortes vivantes

Director: Pierre B. Reinhard

RATING:
3 / 5 zedheads

 

Revenge of the Living Dead Girls is the film equivalent of a frustratingly inept hand-job. It has promise, but it's clumsy, cheap, badly-paced, disgusting at many points, and -- worst of all -- the build-up never comes to a satisfying climax. The film's plot gets so wound up that the rising action stalls; the only segments that strike a chord are of cheap and sleazy porno-violence.

And I'm a bad man for kind of liking it.

A bad, bad man.

In Revenge of the Living Dead Girls, bad boys and girls become zombie fodder

For the uninitiated, Revenge of the Living Dead Girls is one of the first gore-and-sex exploitation films to come out of France. Its primary goal is to shock and titillate, but there's a half-decent revenge and blackmail plot tangled somewhere in this mess of plot holes and gratuitous nudity. It was released in North America on DVD by Retromedia with an English-only dub and an optional alternate ending that manages the paradoxical feat of clarifying as much of the movie as it subsequently complicates. In fact, it's arguable that the movie's not really a zombie movie at all (see SPOILER ZONE). So how does this film from known French porn director Pierre B. Reinhard (The Perverse World of Beatrice) fare? Despite a half-baked revenge and extortion plot sandwiched between a lazy ecological message, the film is repulsively sleazy, but has the same allure as stumbling across a peephole into a French swinger's orgy. You shouldn't be watching, but it's hard to look away at how fucked up it is.

Even the audience is treated like a peeping tom
 The film is set in a small French town that is home to the O.K.F. Chemical Factory. Trouble starts when a mysterious motorcycling saboteur pours a nasty looking liquid into the tank of a neglected milk transport truck. First, Catherine Legrand, an O.K.F employee and bride-to-be who is drinking milk during breakfast with her mother and wearing such sheer underwear we get a perfect window into her pubic hair, well, she keels over. Next, two young O.K.F. factory workers named Jacqueline and Florence are out for a night at the pub for pinball and milk cocktails, but they fall dead to the floor after chugging their drinks. Of course, the heat is turned on O.K.F. with suspicions about polluted work conditions and milk pollution. Mr. Alfin, the director of O.K.F France, attempts to dissuade the lackadaisical police from investigating further although O.K.F upper management sees fit to send in Ms. Schwartz to investigate. At the same time, Brigit, Alfin's secretary, is actually stirring up an extortion plot. She ordered the milk tainted and continues with the employment of a prostitute to stage a sex tape with the director when he passes out from too much drinking. This is getting complicated. Where do the zombies come in?

Who can be bothered about zombies with so many softcore shenanigans?
Well, O.K.F France isn't as innocent as you'd think. Mr. Alfin is dumping its toxic waste into the town's cemetery so he can pocket the money he saves. It's then that Catherine and her two dead companions rise up out of their unburied tombs as inexplicably withered zombies with faces like rotted bull dogs. They also have dangerously voracious sexual appetites. Porno and horror movie logic collide as the living dead girls rise up each night to fuck/kill their way to revenge, engaging in dick biting and graphically violent lesbian torture/murder to exact revenge on the O.K.F employees responsible for their apparent deaths and seeming reanimation. Or do they? (SEE SPOILER ZONE).

WOOF!
What does Revenge of the Living Dead Girls have to offer? Seeing as how the director hails from the world of European porno, it's no surprise that there is plenty of gratuitous and senseless nudity. Everyone is horny and screwing around, even the zombies. Alfin cheats on his wife with prostitutes, Alfin's wife cheats on Mr. Alfin with Christian (an O.K.F scientist). While Christian cheats on his own pregnant wife, it's not with Brigit even though Brigit offers Christian $1.5 million for sex. Spurned by Christian, Brigit screws Mr. Alfin. Everyone gets around. Between the sex, there's also plenty of shocking gore and disturbing deaths, often infused with the same shamelessly sexual attitude present in the rest of the film. If the deaths are not sexual in nature, they are followed or preceded by some kind of explicit sleaze. The film is notorious for the following crime against good taste:

NECROPHILIA

While Mr. Aflin is on business in Germany, his wife waits for her secret lover, Christian. Instead, the zombies enter and kill Mrs. Alfin with a shoe heel into the eye socket. They stash her dead body in the house, but she's found by Christian, and he has sex with her corpse anyway, unaware that she's dead. He thinks she's enacting a quiet, naughty fantasy with him. How he doesn't notice the bleeding eye is beyond me.

This is what happens when you run with high-heeled shoes

CASTRATION BY ZOMBIE MOUTH

The zombie ladies aren't hungry for flesh or brains, but good old-fashioned dick. Literally hungry! After Schwartz and Christian catch the graveyard polluter in the act, he's sent packing into the awaiting arms of the living dead girls. They fall upon him, push him onto the hood of his car, yank down his zipper, and bite off his penis like it's a ballpark frank. Only then do they disembowel him.

VOYEURISM

After watching Mr. Alfin and Brigit screw from outside the window, the living dead girls hop in the pool to lure Mr. Aflin to a watery grave. As he drowns, we cut to shots of a fully nude Brigit showering and rubbing herself.

These girls were due for some serious hydration
 LESBIAN RAPE TORTURE

The living dead girls catch up with the prostitute hired to distract the milk driver so his shipment could be contaminated and hired to stage the blackmail sex video. The zombies carjack her (I'm serious) and drive her to a location where they strip her down on the bed. The zombies also disrobe, revealing startling preserved and sexy young bodies in contrast to their rotten jowls and putrid faces. They lay down with her and, essentially, rape her before stabbing her up the vagina with an ornamental sword.

DO NOT WANT
This is the kind of movie that Revenge of the Living Dead Girls is. It's so obsessed with sexual exploitation and violence that it forgets to clear up most of the plot holes.

Review Continues after the Cut

For example, Christian develops a strange, rotting sore on the back of his right hand before going to inspect the barrels of waste at the cemetery. Is it caused by the same chemical that reanimated the girls that Christian thought was safe? The wound gets progressively worse and then he has strange visions of the living dead girls. Later, while hosing down his hysterical pregnant wife in the shower, her stomach starts to erode and melt, revealing the squirming fetus inside. Um...why? Is the fetus a zombie? Is Christian's touch corrosive now? 

EXPLAIN THIS!
 The living dead girls also act inconsistently. Sometimes they lumber with rigid arms like the ghouls in Night of the Living Dead. At other times, they are basically human -- almost ninja quick! They run, they swim, they play the organ, and they lure people into traps. They're capable of carjacking and driving. They're even polite enough to close up their tombs when they leave. Also, why do they look like they're wearing latex masks and gloves? When they get nude, their bodies are grey and blotchy but nowhere near as decayed.

Two cuts of Revenge of the Living Dead Girls exists: each has a different ending that clears up some of these plot holes at the same time as they add further complications. The film ends with a text message in French asking audiences not to spoil the movie for their friends, so we're going to go into the SPOILER ZONE to explain both endings. Highlight the text to see or scroll down for my final thoughts.

SPOILER ZONE BEGINS -- highlight to read

ENDING #1: In the feature cut on the Retromedia DVD, the film ends after Brigit steals a load of money from O.K.F and the the zombie girls kill the motorcycling saboteur as he confesses his crime to one of the zombies he thinks is a priest. The girls stumble out into the daylight as a car that looks as if it could be driven by Brigit drives up to them. Presumably, as they did to the prostitute, they carjack the driver (we can't see very well who is in the driver's seat). They drive up to a police line set up to stop the evil zombie demons terrorizing the town. The driver of the car attempts to turn around and retreat, but the car flips and someone lobs a Molotov cocktail into it, setting it ablaze as a woman screams. The wind blows flaming money out of the window, confirming that it is Brigit burning alive as her ill-gotten gains turn to ash and fall on the grave of Catherine Legrande, the first woman killed in Brigit's evil blackmail scheme. In this cut, the living dead girls act as vehicles of vengeance against all who wronged them. Then why did they kill Ms. Alfin? It was her husband who hurt them. Likewise, Christian's subplot is not explained, but we can assume his rotting hand was caused by the same chemicals that reanimated the girls. Perhaps the mutilation of his wife is his own payback for cheating.

ENDING #2: In the alternate ending included on the Retromedia DVD, the film ends after Brigit steals a load of money from O.K.F and the the zombie girls kill the motorcycling saboteur as he confesses his crime to one of the zombies he thinks is a priest. The girls stumble out into the daylight as a car driven by Brigit drives up to them. They get into the car and Brigit tells them to take off their masks. It's a total Scooby-Doo moment. The girls aren't zombies at all. They're very much alive. No wonder they acted like people and had faces that looked like latex masks -- they WERE people wearing latex masks. In hurried dialogue, we learn that Brigit hired the girls to act as ghostly zombies -- hanging out in tombs all day and killing people for her all night -- in exchange for $3 million. Zoinks! And they would have got away with it too if not for those meddling police. They drive up to a police line set up to stop the evil zombie demons terrorizing the town. Brigit attempts to turn around and retreat, but the car flips and someone lobs a Molotov cocktail into it, setting it ablaze as the girls all scream. The wind blows flaming money out of the window as Brigit, Catherine, Jacqueline and Florence burn to death. Their ill-gotten gains turn to ash and fall on the grave of Catherine Legrande, their hoaxed deaths now a reality. In this cut, everyone's up to no good and everyone dies as a result.

Why did the girls kill Mrs. Alfin? Probably to get her out of the way of Brigit's scheme, since Brigit was giving orders to the girls. However, if the girls were NOT zombies, why did they go through the trouble of pretending to be zombies in the first place? Wouldn't it just be easier to make the deaths look like accidents? If Brigit is ordering the girls to kill, why is she so shocked to find Alfin's body? Also, since the girls are not zombies, this means they brutally murdered a woman with a shoe, bit off the dick of a toxic polluter, and got nude (painting their bodies to look zombie-ish) to rape a prostitute and stab her vagina with a sword. These girls are STRAIGHT UP psychopaths. Who does such heinous things of their own will? At the same time, this means that the toxic waste spilled into the tombs probably was harmless as Christian thought. So his rotting hand and wife's melting womb are even more confusing.
Although I prefer the alternate ending, which is clearly the director's choice as it actually warrants the spoiler warning given at the end of the picture, neither ending makes complete sense. 

SPOILER ZONE ENDS

FINAL THOUGHTS: Revenge of the Living Dead Girls is not a good movie, but it's kind of interesting. More than other sleazy sex-ploitation zombie films, Revenge of the Living Dead Girls has an active plot and an inter-connected cast of characters. Sure, the film doesn't juggle this plot very well, and the characters aren't motivated by anything other than sex or money, but it's far more ambitious than other sleaze like Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror. So, in this regard, I liked Revenge of the Living Dead Girls. In the same way I liked Burial Ground, I take a shining to Revenge of the Living Dead Girls for its ballsy, no-holds-barred attempts to shock the audience. The gratuitous nudity is titillating enough, and the sexual violence is still shocking today.

On set, she was the butt of all jokes
With a clear conscience, I can`t really recommend Revenge of the Living Dead Girls. There`s only a niche group of horror and zombie fans who can like something so repulsive, gross, and purposely degrading. But I guess I`m just one of those people. I know I`m going to catch shit for giving Revenge of the Living Dead Girls the same score I gave Zombieland, but I have to say that Revenge of the Living Dead Girls is worth a viewing, at least once, if only for the shock factor. I watched it twice, which is on-par with Zombieland.

Like I told you at the start of this review. I`m a bad, bad man. I`m okay with that.