Gruesome Galleries: Jean Rollin’s THE LIVING DEAD GIRL

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SHOCK spills forth some sanguinary shots from Jean Rollin’s 1982 masterpiece THE LIVING DEAD GIRL.

Late French filmmaker Jean Rollin was the poet of European exploitation, bringing a gentle, aching melancholy and sensitivity to his erotic, bloody fever dreams.

And certainly none of his pictures are as erotic or bloody as his 1982 female vampire story THE LIVING DEAD GIRL.

Released in its native France as LA MORTE VIVANTE, Rollin’s first notable film of the 1980’s is also one of his best. By design. producer Sam Selsky asked for a straight “gore” film, which Rollin delivered, though the meaty FX themselves, while vulgar, aren’t very convincing.

But it doesn’t matter.

The sequences of straight sanguinary shock are surreal in their artifice and brush up against that typical Rollin lyricism and striking images of beautiful, wispy women drifting through crumbling European locations, while the sun rises and sets around them and waves crash on reefs in the peripheral. It’s all rather stunning, as would be expected from a Rollin joint.

THE LIVING DEAD GIRL is explicit, yes. But it’s also a work of dream-logic art.

It’s also perhaps the most accessible of Rollin’s films, with a brisker pace, a relatively high body count and a strong emotional core.

The film follows the plight of a long dead woman named Catherine Valmont (haunting played by actress Francoise Blanchard) who is resurrected by a toxic chemical spill in her moldering crypt. In fact, THE LIVING DEAD GIRL predates Dan O’Bannon’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD by three years and indeed, the idea of waste bringing the dead back to life was here first. One wonders if O’Bannon saw this film. It’s most likely a coincidence, but who knows…

As the still fleshy and blonde she-zombie climbs from her coffin, she quickly murders a pair of lowlifes who were intent on raiding the tomb, by shoving her fingers in their throats and draining their blood. She then wanders the countryside, searching for her still-living friend Helene (Marina Pierro). When the two women are reunited (after Catherine murders and drains more victims first), Helene realizes her friend is now a kind of parasite and tries to protect her, while covering up her unfortunately necessary murders. She even lets Catherine drink from her body, just enough to sate her and curb her more lethal impulses…

But the more Catherine feeds (and her feeding is wildly messy), the more alert to her condition she becomes and she begins to pursue suicide. Helene however, refuses to let her friend, who is in essence her lover, die again and soon drastic measures are taken to prevent this…

Like much of Rollin’s work, THE LIVING DEAD GIRL is most assuredly a study in mood and tone and bloodletting illustrated as a ballet, though it’s a much more sickening dance this time around. Key motifs and imagery found in early Rollin female vampire masterworks like LIPS OF BLOOD (this writer’s favorite) and REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE weave their way into the film, with the filmmaker’s earthiness fascinatingly at odds with the post-FRIDAY THE 13th slasher shocks; and yet somehow that resistance and eventual surrender adds a new dimension to Rollin’s language.

Watching THE LIVING DEAD GIRL is an unforgettable, erotic, unsettling and ultimately moving experience.

Have a look at some of the sloppier shots from the film in the gallery below…