If zombies existed and formed their own Zombie Actors' Guild, this is the kind of film they would be fighting (in their patently clumsy way) to appear in. When I started watching Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, I didn't really know it was a zombie movie; then, by the time it was over, I had it ranked in my personal top three zombie films of all time. This film is living proof that you can't judge a zombie film by its number of zombies. It's all about atmosphere, a fact which most European filmmakers have always known, and that's why a film with less than a dozen zombies plays much better than some sweeping epic about a zombie apocalypse. And I must say this is a thoroughly European film, as it's an Italian-Spanish coproduction featuring a Spanish director (Jorge Grau) and a British cast (and filmed in Britain). It also goes by many names, including Don't Open the Window, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, No profanar el sueño de los muertos, and Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti.
When you think about it, letting sleeping corpses lie isn't really the problem here; I daresay every single character is wholly in favor of doing just that. The problem consists of keeping sleeping corpses from rising all on their own. Either way, the last thing George (Ray Lovelock) expected to be dealing with on his weekend trip to the country was zombies. Unfortunately for him, a red-headed stranger named Edna (Christine Galbo) accidentally runs over his motorcycle. He insists that she take him to his destination, but they end up checking on her sister first. Along the way, Edna is attacked by a decidedly abnormal man, although no one believes her. Neither do they believe her sister when she claims this same man murdered her husband. Having arrived at the wrong place at the wrong time, George finds himself basically trapped in town as the hippie-hating police sergeant's main suspect. His attempt to extricate himself from the situation indirectly leads to him finding ample proof that Edna was telling the truth all along, though. Not only is the murderer a zombie, he's engaged in waking up some undead friends to join the fun. Not surprisingly, the gruff sergeant isn't buying such a seemingly cock and bull story of corpses coming to life and feeding on human bodies. George and Edna are pretty much on their own when it comes to trying to survive the whole, unbelievable situation.
The source of the zombie outbreak is actually rather interesting, as it's a far cry from some wacked-out virus or alien infestation. The whole storyline is well above average, for that matter, holding together quite well as it forges its own path through the zombie genre. And the ending? Well, I can't think of any way to improve it, really. It's well-nigh perfect. Additionally, lest my fellow gorehounds despair, there are some excellent scenes of blood and gore as the film proceeds - both in terms of what the zombies do to their victims as well as what their victims do to them as they frantically try to escape the horror all around them.
This 1974 film inevitably draws comparisons to George Romero's immensely influential Night of the Living Dead. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure which film is the better of the two - although, if I had to choose which of them to watch over again, it would be Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. That's how impressed I was with this film.