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Friday, December 1, 2017

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie



Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
(aka The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue aka Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti)
1974
Jorge Grau

Enda (Cristina Galb√≥), while on the way to see her troubled sister, manages to damage the motorcycle of a man named George (Ray Lovelock). George demands a ride home in her car. Eventually, the two end up at Edna’s sister’s house, but not before they see a group of men operating some strange machinery in a field, and Edna is attacked by a dirty figure who vanishes soon afterward. Before long, the dead are stumbling about, and the police are blaming George for the number of eviscerated corpses that are showing up around town.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie sports some unusual zombies.  The film proposes a scientific reason for the dead to rise, but then turns around and gives them some seemingly supernatural powers. Sure, they shamble around and moan, they are also immensely strong, use tools, and don’t show up in photographs. They can even transfer unlife to other corpses via blood. Night of the Living Dead (1968)  gave cinema a set of zombie rules that would later be cemented in popular culture by Dawn of the Dead (1978). So, with this film falling in between those two, its zombie rules have a little more wiggle room, and its monsters are more unpredictable and strange. Throw in a (living) homicidal baby and you got yourself a pretty weird zombie movie.

You are the most irritating leather daddy I have ever met.
These eerie creatures are matched only by the misty dourness of their setting. Most of the film is set at damp hilly locations in the throes of fall. Places feel isolated to the point of being haunted. The film’s steady yet never hurried pace combines with these settings to create an atmosphere that feels almost gothic yet still modern (well, modern for 1974). The attention paid to the mood of the film does a lot of the work to elevate from being just another walking corpse movie.

The two leads are atypical as well. George is a whirlwind of machismo and pushiness that must have passed for charming several decades ago, but now just feels needlessly aggressive.  Edna is more or less a passive character through much of the film, but she is at least given some direction by having to deal with her drug-addled sister, Katie (Jeannine Mestre). Once the zombies start attacking more often, our leads have very little time to do anything but run, try, and piece together what is happening.

These hips are going to go right to my hips.
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie draws heavily from Night of the Living Dead for its opening and closing moments, but it retains an identity all its own. The score is a mix of very traditional sounding spooky organ music while occasionally segueing into something funkier. The score never matches the excesses of the film, but it does manage to tie everything together well enough.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is an extremely effective and enjoyable zombie movie that manages to munch guts in a style all its own. This is one well worth digging up.

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