Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quick Movie Review: White Zombie

With these zombie feet, he shambled into history!
White Zombie (1932) directed by Victor Halperin.

This movie is the first of all feature length zombie movies. The story is about a couple who are in Haiti and want to get married. They go to the estate of a recent friend to tie the knot, but he wants to have the bride for his own. Enter Bela Lugosi as the local voodoo master who helps the friend "kill" the bride and have her come back as a zombie slave for the friend. The distraught husband goes on a bender, then to visit her grave, only to find out she's gone. With help from a local expert he tries to find his bride and get her back.

The movie has a lot of things going for it. Bela Lugosi is great as a creepy and beguiling voodoo master. The mood and style is very Gothic and unnerving, though this is often undercut but the performances of the other actors who are nowhere near as good as Lugosi. I especially enjoyed the intercutting between shots that suggested character separated in space were influencing each other. Also the story was told through a lot of action and visuals rather than characters explaining everything to each other, which is a big plus in my book.

The zombies are voodoo zombies, basically people who are not quite dead but are made into mindless slaves through voodoo magic or medicine. They are put to work mostly for manual labor and to scare the pants off people, which the zombies do effectively. They look pale and vacant but aren't gory.

The plot was pretty melodramatic but didn't bother me too much. The ending was a little clunky, especially the tagged on joke at the end. It felt like the end of an episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You!, which isn't what you want for a horror film.

I watched the film on Netflix instant queue and the quality was pretty low. The print had a decent transfer but the sound was really bad. I had the volume almost doubled and still had a hard time hearing the dialogue. Maybe getting a disc is a better way to go.

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