Video Nasty 59: Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is a Spanish-Italian zombie film from 1974. It has more than 15 titles internationally, including Don’t Open the Window (the film has literally nothing to do with windows) and The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (which sounds more like a concert).

In the great tradition of Night of the Living Dead, the zombies are carriers of political allegory, as well as an infectious virus. The Lake District police keep accusing two young people (Cristina Galbó and Ray Lovelock) of committing the murders actually perpetrated by zombies, because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; a notion born out of the contemporary cultural climate, and familiar to young people of every subsequent generation.

Really, the virus is caused by a piece of industrial farming equipment, sending a loud and clear message: that real danger comes from industry and capitalism, and the youth are a convenient scapegoat.

This ought to make it easy to sympathise with the protagonists, but they’re so empty and wooden you could bury a corpse in them. Maybe in trying to avoid characterising them as the “drug-crazy maniacs” imagined by the cops, the filmmakers forgot to give them any personality at all (while also forgetting that Manchester isn’t in the Lake District). Galbó’s character is particularly useless and spends most of the film crying; another nod to Night of the Living Dead, perhaps.

The zombies themselves are effectively realised, the gore effects earning the picture a place on the Department of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) Video Nasties list. The sound design is especially well done, producing an unholy wheezing noise to accompany the undead. This ghoulish soundscape stands in for music, of which there’s noticeably little; an interesting creative decision that doesn’t necessarily pay off.

All this makes for a flawed but memorable rural horror movie about the demonisation of the youth. Its countercultural and ecological themes are strong, even if its characterisation and knowledge of UK geography leave a lot to be desired.

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