Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gruesome Friday

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

This is a classic horror film, produced by the legendary Val Lewton and directed by the brilliant Jacques Tourneur, both of whom were also responsible for the original Cat People. Tourneur also directed one of my personal favorites, Night of the Demon. This film is a tale of two brothers, the woman who came between them, the nurse who's come to help out, and the mother who did something she regrets. It actually has more in common with Jane Eyre than with White Zombie.

This goes all the way back to the source, and we are dealing with Voudou folks. No brain-eating, or shambling horrors (although the one voudou zombie has the freakiest eyes I've seen in a while), or anything we've come to expect since Romero knocked it out of the park with his first try. Instead it's a reserved, character piece centered on love, jealousy, and family troubles. The setting is the West Indies on a sugar plantation and everything about this film is gorgeously shot.

There actually seems to be some attempt to treat voudou not as just some sort of freakshow, but as a folk religion, and there is never any real attempt to assert cultural authority one way or the other. By the end of the film, for all we know, magic and zombies are real. The central focus of the film is the inability to know Truth and the disruption of assumed Truths.

This is the best film we've watched so far, without a doubt. And it was only 69 minutes long.

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