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Welcome to "VHS Nightmares," a new weekly column by none other than Dave Bow. Every week, Dave will be digging through old DVDs and VHS tapes to share with you the very finest in forgotten cinema. Usually, these films were forgotten for a reason. —Erik

Director Pierre B. Reinhard (Dressage, Le Diable Rose) was one of France's premiere soft-core schlock merchants in the '70s and '80s. His signature mix of cheap sex, cheap violence, and heavy-handed moral lecturing is typical of grindhouse films of the period—or so I've read, as Revenge of the Living Dead Girls is the first Reinhard movie I've had the pleasure of watching. And boy, is it a doozy!

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Released in 1987, Revenge of the Living Dead Girls (not to be confused with) looks like it was filmed at least 10 years earlier. From the grimy film stock to the fashion to the hideous wood-paneled interior design, everything about this movie screams the '70s. A porn-y disco soundtrack doesn't help any, either.

Besides dated, do you know what else Revenge is? French. Oh, so very French. The slipshod dub-job the American distributors did on it only make it all the more obvious. The fact that Mustache here sounds like John Wayne doesn't distract me from his shirtless sweater-and-chest-hair ensemble.

Honh honh honh
  • Honh honh honh

That screenshot is a good jumping off point, because it captures most of what you're paying for when you rent Revenge of the Living Dead Girls. That is, people talking about corporate chicanery and/or rubbing their hairy, French bodies on each other. We'll get into the plot after the jump. Some pictures NSFW, spoiler warning, etc.!

Revenge has one of the most confused plots of any horror movie I've seen. Not confusing—though it's overly complicated, it's easy enough to follow—but confused as to what the hell it wants to have going on. So much so that it has two different endings (an original ending and an edited version that was released to theaters), both of which change the entire story drastically and neither of which make any damn sense.

It's easiest to look at Revenge as two movies in one. The movie that gets the most time is the one you didn't expect: a big-business soap opera. It's kind of like a French Dallas with zombies. The main characters are Mustache and Bridget, pictured on the couch above (you learn about halfway through that Mustache's name is Arvin or Arfin or something, but by then it was too late for me to think of him otherwise). Mustache owns OKF, a chemical company that employs most of the provincial town it's based in. Part of his job is to oversee the safe disposal of the waste chemicals OKF creates. But Mustache is greedy. Why give all that money to someone else when he could just pocket it and pay a random truck driver a piddling fee to dump the chemicals somewhere? What could go wrong?Surely no one would trace the chemicals back to the only chemical plant in town!

Bridget is onto Mustache; as his trusted secretary, she has intimate knowledge of OKF's doings and don'tings, and she wants that money for herself. Phase one of Bridget's ridiculously complicated corporate sabotage plot is to hire a prostitute to seduce a milk truck driver (not that old scheme!) Dressed as a slutty, injured hitchhiker, the prostitute lures the driver into an empty, old tower by the side of the road (something I was unaware France had) while Bridget's other toady—a whiny motorcycle rider she's porking on the side—contaminates the milk tanker's precious cargo. Then it's only a matter of time before the tainted milk poisons some townsfolk: two girls drinking milk at a bar (?) and a lady who eats cereal in the morning (before saucily throwing the empty bowl over her shoulder) dressed like this:

Oh where could I have put my pants?
  • Oh where could I have put my pants?

Once these innocent victims are in the ground, the heat is onto OKF (presumably, the rest of the milk from tanker was dumped down a drain or something because no one else got sick). Bridget then sends her trusty prosti-pal (now done up like a Treasure Troll) to seduce Mustache after slipping him a sleeping pill. Bridget waits next door, listening, for her chance to join in and videotape the prostitute humping his prone body on camera. This is blackmail, I guess, because then everyone will think Mustache is a bad lover or something? Or Bridget is just kind of weird.

Anyway, once the police start snooping around the OKF offices, the German parent company figures they should get in on the action, too. Bridget sneakily gives them Mustache's sleepy sex tape and spirits away his briefcase full of ill-gotten money. Not only that, but we learn that Mustache's wife is having an affair with one of the scientists named Beardy McGee (or possibly Christian). Beardy is, in turn, cheating on his wife, who is pregnant and fighting off the advances of Bridget. So everyone's having sex with everyone. How French!

But what about the living dead girls and their revenge? Well, that movie starts when we learn that the trucker Mustache paid to dump those chemicals hasn't been going very far to do it. In fact, he basically walked down the street and poured them into the cemetery... right on the graves of those poor, recently deceased girls! (On the soundtrack during the dumping: a disco version of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore") The trucker then proceeds to hide the used chemical barrels in the worst hiding spot EVER.

Whats this?
  • What's this?

As you've undoubtedly guessed, those chemicals turn the girls into zombies. As you probably haven't guessed, the zombies are the smartest and most organized people in the whole movie. Traveling in a pack they do the following: hunt down everyone who was involved in their death/rebirth, swim in a swimming pool, drive a car, pick up the prostitute and take her to her house, all before returning to their graves every night!

peeping_toms.jpg

Yes, while the soap opera plot is unfolding the zombie girls are steadily taking everyone out. First they poke Mrs. Mustache's eye out with a stiletto heel (after ringing her doorbell and being admitted, which was a serious lapse of judgment on Mrs. Mustache's part). The scene gets weirder when Beardy shows up for a little skin-on-skin, walks unaware by the zombies and the body of his lover, and delivers a lusty monologue to her empty bed:

"Our wedding night. Don't be afraid, my love. The first time is delicate but I promise you many, many, many nights of happiness. Don't say anything. Don't move. Just feel my expert caresses on your body. And the white dress of your virginity will be the witness. Kissing your lips, my hands roving over your body. The wonder of it! The beauty of it!"

The zombies look on, non-plussed, and peace out back to the graveyard. Beardy, I guess, fucks the bed or something. The next time we see him he's at work and no mention is made of it so... yeah.

After that, the list of victims grows. The trucker gets assaulted on the hood of his car, where the zombies give him a really icky blowjob. Then Mustache is drowned in his pool. Then the girls interrupt the prostitute in the middle of work to drive her home and have an undead, lesbian foursome with her culminating in the use of a sword as a sex toy. Yes, the zombies have sex with someone and fuck her with a sword. Then they make an "X" on her pudenda with blood and write another (French) message on the sheets.

Dogpile!
  • Dogpile!

So, OK, these zombies are super smart or something. What's more, the chemical that revived them starts to eat away at Beardy's hand after he touches some on the ground. It is OK because he is a stupid chemist who just touches toxic waste when he finds it and doesn't know what the chemicals he creates do. Really no big loss. It is a shame, though, that his pregnant wife, for unexplained reasons, suddenly has her baby in the shower and it's all bloody and gross and it pops out of her stomach. Maybe he touched her stomach with his zombie hand? I'm not sure. Here's a picture of him crying and possibly wearing a diaper:

nice_diaper.jpg

Or are those zombies super smart? It all comes down to the finale. In the theatrical version, the zombies get in a little white car, putter over to the graveyard (in broad daylight) where a priest and some other dudes we've never seen before hit their car with a molotov cocktail. The car erupts in an explosion of flaming money. THE END.

Wait, what? Obviously that makes no fucking sense at all, but Reinhard's original vision becomes a little clearer in the unedited alternate ending. In that version, the zombies get into the little white car which is being driven by Bridget. The zombies then take off their zombie masks—they were alive all along!—and talk about how their plan went awesome and they're all going to share the money Bridget stole. Ohhh, that makes sense!

Except it doesn't. Because why did the doctors proclaim them actually dead? And if it was all a hoax why did Bridget have to taint the milk at all? And how did the girls survive just lying in the coffins all day? And what about the toxic waste that actually did seep into the coffins and actually did turn Beardy's hand into a zombie hand and his kid into mashed potatoes? And... and... so many more questions that don't deserve answers.

In the end, the utter nonsense of the whole affair undermines Reinhard's "Give a hoot, don't pollute" message and the general sleaziness undermines the female empowerment angle of lady zombies (and Bridget) beating up the boys. What you have is some nakedness, some blood and some terrible dubbing.

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Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Overall rating if watched while high: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Stray quotes:

Beardy rejecting Bridget's advances: "You're plumb out of your head! How many people have seen your breasts... exposed!? Look at yourself. It looks like an ad for a bra!"

Cop: "Some of the chemicals from your lab are on the ground.
Beardy: "Huh. What are they doing there?"
Cop: "Hang onto your hat... it's in the cemetery."

Bridget: "Your Valerie has cheated on you... with death!"

German businessman, upon watching the sleepy sex tape:"You must find us this girl."
German businesswoman: "I'd guess she's a prostitute."
German businessman: "That narrows it down a bit."
German businesswoman:"There must be a hundred thousand prostitutes in France!!!"