FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 14, 2009

Day 14: "They're dead...aren't they?"

Today I'm talking about Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) because you, The People, demanded it via cyber-poll! If you're all "Whaaat? I've never heard of this 'Let Sleep Corpses Lie'!", then perhaps you know it by one of these other names:
  • Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti
  • Le massacre des morts-vivants
  • A Revanche dos Mortos-Vivos II
  • Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue
  • Das Leichenhaus der lebenden Toten
  • Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead
  • Don't Open the Window
  • Fin de semana para los muertos
  • Invasion der Zombies
  • No profanar el sueño de los muertos
  • No se debe profanar el sueño de los muertos
  • The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue
  • Zombi 3 (Da dove vieni?)
  • Zombi: Epidromi apo to nekrotafeio
Phew. While Breakfast at Manchester Morgue is appealing, I think Invasion der Zombies takes the prize for sheer simplicity. In related news, what's up with all the Zombis out there? I always called Fulci's Zombie...well, Zombie, obviously. Then I grow up and discover it's actually Zombi 2. There are at least three different movies called Zombi 4. What's what? Which movies are actually sequels for other movies? Which ones are worth watching at all? What's a simple-minded horror fan like moi to do? Life is so hard sometimes I could just puke.

But! Onto today's movie...y'all done chose good, friends! The setup is rather simple. Scientists have been demonstrating a new machine that uses ultrasonic waves to kill off crop-eating bugs; farmers are pleased as the contraption actually works. However, the radiation emitted causes beings with low-level brain function to go mad with rage and cannibalize each other...and dead people fall under the umbrella of "low-level brain function". Damn that experimental agriculture! If it's not creating giant ants and a kingdom of spiders, then it's creating zombies.

A couple meets by happenstance, and they're soon embroiled in an undead nightmare as they try to convince the police (led by an awesomely cranky and mean Arthur Kennedy) that they're not responsible for the mounting body count- it's the zombies!

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie owes a great deal to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead...but then what zombie movie doesn't? Still, this could have been a sub-par ripoff (as so many later flicks are), but director Jorge Grau has crafted a movie that's more about atmosphere than gut-munching. The biggest nod to Romero comes when we're introduced to the first walking corpse, who's just a-shamblin' along in broad daylight until he spots The Walking Lunch:

Incidentally, zombie movies are still cannibalizing each other. I wonder if Danny Boyle ever watched this "rage infected" zombie movie that came 30 years before his own 28 Days Later.

While Let Sleeping Corpses Lie falls completely within the zombie movie paradigm, it's also a fresh enough take that it subverts the formula. The first hour or so is all build-up, developing the characters just enough that we become invested in them (even when they're not completely pleasant) and pumping up the atmosphere to high levels of tension. Grau really knows how to frame a shot and move the camera; he makes you wonder what's lurking in the corners, and the pans are so slow that your anxiety to see what's happening just off-screen becomes unbearable at times. It's all so damn competent and accomplished- what a treat.

Sound is used to maximum effect here; the score gets under your skin before you realize it, and the raspy, wheezy moaning of the walking dead is positively haunting. There's just something about these zombies that makes them so much creepier than any other zombies I've seen. They're empty-eyed, but determined- seemingly aimless, but actually deliberate. They're vicious without resorting to snarling and grunting...there's a slowness to them that suddenly gives way to an attack- and they can climb ladders and use tools. These are some seriously uncanny living corpses- you think they're thinking, but you know they're not. When they feast (of course there are some feast scenes), they don't dig in quickly and wolf their food- they chew 21 times before swallowing, and while the film is less explicitly graphic than others of its ilk, it's just as nauseating.

This isn't some fast-paced actioner like you kids of today are becoming used to- it's a good old-fashioned zombie flick...the kind of film that's deceptively difficult to create. I thought I'd seen enough of this genre to be essentially desensitized to it, but wow- this is one helluva creepy movie. Thanks, voters! You're the best!


Bill Walsh said...

O Stacie, why do you keep me from reading all this seventeenth-century England stuff I'm supposed to be reading? So, here you go:

Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti (Italian)
No se debe profanar el sueño de los muertos (Spanish)
You Must Not Disturb the Sleep of the Dead

No profanar el sueño de los muertos
Don't Disturb the Sleep of the Dead (Second draft?)

Le massacre des morts-vivants
The Massacre of the Living Dead Wow, so they kill them…unundead?

A Revanche dos Mortos-Vivos II (Portuguese)
The Revenge of the Living Dead II I don't have to tell you this one raises all sorts of questions. What goes on in Lusitania?

Das Leichenhaus der lebenden Toten
The Charnel House of the Living Dead (or "Morgue" or "Mortuary." How often do you get to use "charnel house," though?)

Fin de semana para los muertos (Spanish)
Weekend for the Dead Presumably at Bernie's.

Zombi 3 (Da dove vieni?) (Italian)
Zombie 3 (Where you from?) You from Jersey? I thought you was from Jersey.

Zombi: Epidromi apo to nekrotafeio (Greek)
Zombie: Raid on the Cemetery

Verification word: stanismo. Which means Stanism in Italian. All hail Stan!

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks Bill, I was hoping you'd chime in! I love Weekend for the Dead...sounds like a party!

Mr Shrubber said...

Επιδρομή από το Νεκροταφείο ftw!

Ben said...

Here in the UK, we know no "Zombie" or "Zombi II" - Fulci's movie is "Zombie Flesh Eaters", and your "Zombi 3" is our "Zombie Flesh Eaters II" as far as I know - either way, that one (Fulci's second one) is absolutely god-awful, so if "Living Dead at Manchester Morgue" (as we call it round these parts) was in some time or place issued as "Zombi 3", that would have made for a vast improvement on the other "Zombi 3", and the people of whatever place that happened in should have been very happy.

God, this stuff drives me nuts - life is so much easier to deal with when things *have names*... makes me want to start a new DVD line and rerelease all these movies as "The One Directed by [so and so] Where [x, y, z] Happens". That'd sort a few things out.

Lee Russell said...

Man, once "Dawn of the Dead" hit it big over there as "Zombi" eveything was trying to be it. Lucio Fulci's "Zombie" was "Zombi 2", and in some ways a rip-off of "Dawn", but not really. And then several of the Italian zombie films to follow more or less ripped off "Zombi 2". "Burial Ground" was known as "Zombie 3". But I think "Zombi Holocaust" (A.K.A "Doctor Butcher M.D.") was also known as "Zombie 3" as well. One of the Blind Dead ("Tombs of the Blind Dead") films was briefly marketed as a "Planet of the Apes" sequel.

It was all about marketing and it's enough to make one scream, as often a different title meant a different cut of the film, too.

GroovyDoom said...

Actually, I'm sure you realize by now "Breakfast At Manchester Morgue" was not a sequel to anything, but you really should watch this movie's sequel, "My Dinner With Andre". Scary stuff!!

Pokemon Postmon said...

Did it have any teleporting zombies in it tho'? No? I thought not! Dang you voters!!!!
Seriously tho', I saw a brutalised version of this some 20+ years ago now and thought it was rubbish at the time. Obviously another one to add to the 'time to revisit' list (along with "Mausoleum").

Robson said...

It's an excellent film.

And it was cannibalized (heh) effectively by filmmaker Scott Arford for a film I reviewed last year - my write-up, if you're interested:

Anonymous said...

Wow...just finished watching this. Great stuff! Time for a Rob Zombie Remake I suspect. ;)

Jamie Roberts said...

My all-time favourite zombie movie. I'm hardly erudite enough to express my feelings about it properly, but all I can say is that I bought it last year and it's the only movie I've seen in recent years that's made me wish there were more like it. But... kinda EXACTLY like it. Basically, I just wanted to watch it again.