Monday, September 27, 2010

I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

Director: Jacques Tourneur

Starring: Frances Dee, James Ellison, Tom Conway

More info: IMDb

Tagline: See this strange, strange story of a woman whose lure set brother against brother; whose love caused hate - and whose beauty bowed to the will of an evil spell in whose power we must refuse to believe - EVEN IF IT'S TRUE!

Plot: A young Canadian nurse, Betsy (Dee), comes to the West Indies to care for Jessica (Christine Gordon), the wife of a plantation manager, Paul (Tom Conway). Jessica seems to be suffering from a kind of mental paralysis as a result of fever. When she falls in love with Paul, Betsy determines to cure Jessica even if she needs to use a voodoo ceremony to give Paul what she thinks he wants.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yup.

Val Lewton produced a good handful of horror/thriller films for RKO back in the forties on a very small budget, his most famous being CAT PEOPLE (1942). I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE is one of the early greats. There's no singular, over the top monster like in the Universal horrors of the 30s. No. Here the horror is in the atmosphere and in the unknown. And that's what Lewton knew best.

What really works for me is the sounds in the distant, the wind, the chanting and the constant voodoo drumming. It gets under you skin. I would LOVE to see this in a theater. That would be an experience. They do such a good job with the sets and sounds that you feel like you're there with them in the West Indies. It's a remarkable vibe.

Alma (Theresa Harris) needs to have my voodoo babies.

The acting is quite good. It's the forties so some of it is going to be a bit melodramatic but that's forgivable. At barely over an hour you're in and out lickety split. You might not have walked with a zombie but you will have walked away from one hell of a atmospheric thriller that is sure to take your nerves to the edge...if you let it.

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