While we’re on the subject of zombies, I might as well recommend one of my all time favorites: THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE. I’ve seen this film quite a few times over the years and love it more every time I see it. Filled with moody music and scenes and cast with dark and complex characters, THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE is one of those obscure gems that no zombie fan should go without seeing.
Ray Lovelock (that can’t be his real name, can it?) plays George, a hip and brash beatnik museum curator transporting a rare sculpture across the English countryside on his motorcycle. While stopping for gas, George’s bike is hit by Edna’s car in a gas station. George rather brashly encourages Edna to give him a lift while his bike is getting fixed and the two become uneasy travelling buddies, both needing to get to their destinations in a hurry. But wouldn’t you know it, the Department of Agriculture is testing a new pesticide which not only kills bugs dead, but it raises dead humans as well. Though it’s not in his destination, George is convinced to go with Edna to visit her sister before heading to his client. Both find themselves in the middle of a police investigation as Edna’s sister is suspected of murdering her husband, though he was actually killed by a zombie. Convoluted? Sure, but this movie is too much fun to care.
Director Jorge Grau paces the film perfectly as the traveling couple slowly realize what’s going on before the authorities do. Grau smartly directs a script worked on by multiple folks, all of whom probably have seen their fair share of fright flicks. There are scenes that remind me of both GATES OF HELL and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The first time we see a zombie is straight out of the opening cemetery scene in NOTLD. But this is more than just a knock-off. Grau overlaps shots of jolly old England with factory smoke stacks, heaps of garbage, and smoking manhole covers in the beginning to ring the point home that this is a film trying to give an environmental statement. It’s made clear that the giant machine used by the government is the cause of all of this zombie-ness. Grau not only peppers in a message, but is able to handle the rather complex plot without losing focus. He also pulls off some truly frightening scenes of zombie attacks (the initial attack scene by a river is really well done, as is the final zombie massacre at the morgue and a middle section where our couple is trapped in a mausoleum). Grau lingers on the guts too in order to display some gruesome moments of feasting and shredding of victims’ bodies.
THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE is one of those classic fright films that some may scoff at from the name or the somewhat hokey cover art, but once seen, you’re sure to be a fan. From the police investigator who is too busy being grumpy at the “long haired kids with faggoty clothes” to notice that there’s a zombie apocalypse going on to the wide-eyed heroin shooting sister who is tormented by her photographer husband to the lead zombie, a dripping wet vagrant who drowned just before our couple arrive and looks a bit like an unkempt and water-logged Adrian Brody, THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE is filled with fun characters you normally don’t see in your run of the mill zombie film. The effects are gory as hell. The music is funky. And there are scenes of zombie mayhem that you’ll never forget. Seek out THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE. Though other films were more influential, it’s a zombie movie that gets a whole lot right.