Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Living Dead Girl (1982)

The use of gore in a movie is generally meant as a gag to horrify, excite, or produce uncomfortable laughter, but rarely is it used to help convey emotion in a way that might make viewers have to pass around the tissue box. This is the case for Jean Rollin’s The Living Dead Girl, which, in addition to being Rollin’s goriest film, happens to be the most tragic; with a wave of emotion accompanying a blood splatter finale that’s become known for generating its fair share of teary eyed viewers. The film’s powerful aftereffect does owe a great deal to the all-or-nothing performance of its lead lady, Françoise Blanchard, but everything else, like the cinematography, the story, and the realistic gore FX by Benoît Lestang, come together to create a grand theatrical payoff that is made all the better for seguing into a quiet ending credit sequence.

With the central plot, Rollin carries over a characteristic theme he’s used frequently in his other films: two inseparable female companions who are like kindred souls with a sisterly connection. Sometimes they are lovers, twins, or, in this case, childhood friends with a bond made in blood, and the main emphasis is the tenderness and strength of this connection. With The Living Dead Girl, Rollin fantasizes about what would happen if death were to come between this unbreakable bond between the lead characters, Catherine (Blanchard) and Helene (Marina Pierro). There becomes this obsession with preserving the past that ends up being unhealthy and spiritually debilitating for all involved, as it seems more and more hopeless for Catherine to continue on the way she is; her hunger for blood causes her to suffer, and she comes to the realization that she is evil and regrets being a living dead girl. The conditions needed to satiate Catherine’s hunger ultimately corrupt Helene.






Despite the impressive gore on display, The Living Dead Girl is still a fairly languid film. The languid feel nonetheless parallels Catherine’s slow and gradual return to the land of the living, as she makes her way back home to her childhood castle, after being brought back to life, where precious memories of her and Helene begin to surface. Her appearance as a lady in white is both mystifying and a good excuse to splatter her with red. Also, the comical American tourist couple, played by Mike Marshall and Carina Barone, who are used to break up monotony and add comic relief, may not be to everyone’s liking. 

Not everyone’s going to love it, but this film does stand out amongst Rollin’s work due to its genuine delivery of a violent and gory Shakespearean tragedy that should leave viewers with a new notion of an emotional impact that gore can have.

    

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7 comments:

  1. Love the "deep cuts", man. I've actually seen this one, but I've always thought I'd like to explore Rollin's filmography more fully.

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    1. This film is still very undeniably Rollin despite following the greater gore demand trends in the early ‘80s. So if you liked it, it would definitely be worth exploring more of Rollin’s work. Some other favorites of mine that I would recommend, along with TLDG, are The Iron Rose, Fascination, Lips of Blood, and The Shiver of the Vampires.

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  2. Caught this one on EPIX DriveIn. Terrific film. Gory, yes, but extremely engaging. Right on regarding the bond between the two women. What if some bonds extended to the undead? This film gives one answer. Loved it!

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    1. Thanks, Randall! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Though not as tender, The Grapes of Death is another real gory zombie one, too, from Rollin. I don’t think it outdoes TLDG, but it’s still impressive, especially being about four years older than TLDG. I want to say that it was made in the wake of Dawn of the Dead, but I’m not entirely positive about that.

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  3. Incredible write-up. This film was my introduction to Rollin, and still my favorite. He has such a knack for making films that feel like a slow funeral procession, but in the best way possible. Actually you described it much better...languid.

    I've needed to clarify some confusion with a friend or two that The Living Dead Girl and The Living Dead Girls are two entirely separate films, and this one is far better. Lol.

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    1. Oops, I meant The Revenge of the Living Dead Girls.

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    2. I had never heard of Revenge of the Living Dead Girls; it actually looks like fun. I can see how most could confuse the two; a Google image search brings up images from both films, too. Thanks for the compliments, but I like what you’ve said about Rollin’s films being “like a slow funeral procession” better.

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