Sunday, 30 October 2016

I Walked With A Zombie (1943)

Despite the painfully lurid title, I Walked with a Zombie is not a horror film, but an unsettling melodrama with lashings of ambiguity and ambience.

Betsy Connell (Frances Dee) is a nurse, sent to Haiti to care for Jessica (Christine Gordon), the wife of sugar plantation manager Paul Holland (Tom Conway). Jessica, always seems to wandering around in a silent stupor, and the Voodoo practising natives think she is a zombie. But is there something more to it than that? Something that involves Paul's missionary mother and his jealous alcoholic half-brother Wesley?

This was the second collaboration between French director Jacques Tourneur and RKO producer Val Lewton, following their box office smash Cat People. Both films share a visual palette steeped in shadows, a plot steeped in ambiguity and uncertainty, and a shocking advertising campaign from the studio.

However, unlike Cat People there are no jumps or shocks, as Tourneur prefers a slow burning atmosphere of creeping dread. The world of this film is one of unresolved conflicts and contrasts - light and dark, Caribbean Voodoo and Western Christianity, science and superstition, slavery and freedom, none of which are ultimately resolved.

The script is the other strong point for this film, with characters that are not as straightforward as they first appear, and a refusal to provide any easy answers. It is also refreshing to see our zombies were originally presented on screen, a world away from the flesh eating, rotten corpses we are used to nowadays.

I Walked With A Zombie (1943 horror film... by Altair_IV