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Zombies walk the chilling hills!!!
on 30 June 2004
It would be unfair to say that "The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue" is merely a cash-in on Romero's NOTLD - while the similarities are blatant and indefensibly stolen from Romero's film, this is a good 70's zombie film on its own merits.
The film opens with a brilliant scene of 70's London, which depicts its inhabitants as lifeless zombified beings, driving around like mindless slaves in vehicles that spew out pollution. This is juxtaposed with the later imagery of the Lake District (or at least the Peak District masquerading as the Lake District) and the undead zombies who bear similarities to the people of London in their lifeless manner.
Much of the film takes place in the "Lake" District - and the film's worth seeing for that reason alone. It centres primarliy around George and Edna, the two protagonists, who must (shock horror) fight against the living dead, apparently brought back to life by some sort of mechanism that effects the nervous system of insects (seemingly some wacky method of agricultural pest-control).
All the theories aside as to why the dead come back, the zombies are aesthetically brilliant. They are perfectly ugly and bloody, as if they have actually just risen from their graves. There are only eight zombies or so in the film but I think that makes it all the more effective because they have their own personalities (sort of). So you get some classic looking reoccurring zombies here - such as Guthrie the tramp and the absolutely marvelous post-autopsy bandaged zombie, complete with a huge line of post-op stitching from naval to chest! That's a stroke of genius that one.
In the way of gore, there isn't a great deal - only really two scenes in particular display gorefest tendancies but these are great e.g. the disembowelled cop in a chilling church/cemetery scene, and the infamous "breast-rip" scene in the hospital. Besides this, Grau whips up some truly horrible and demeaning images of living human beings which are equally (if not more) disturbing than the zombies - namely Edna's drug-addicted, gaunt sister who is essentially dead but living, due to her uncontrollable heroine addiction. This depiction of death within life, and the zombification of people in their demise, is chilling and highly effective.
A word also has to go the brilliant music which adds a genuine flavour of unease and disquiet to the picture. There are obvious plot inanities in the film, and the voice-overs are infamously bad - unfortunately people's disdain for the OTT comic accents is not unjustified. They're the worst I've heard in any film which is why I really want to see this film with subtitles instead. However, the voices get slightly (but only slightly) bearable after a while but don't let that put you off though. It's what's on the screen that counts.
Zombies in the Lake District (or Peak District) - it just needs to be seen. The sensationalist title doesn't even deliver a Manchester Morgue (you only see a van carrying dead people with the name Manchester Morgue and there ends the connection with it) but if you like zombies or 70's horror you should check it out for some great scenes, great directing, great imagery and great music (but not storyline or accents!).