Voodoo zombies are a lot less visceral that I imagined, a lot less visceral!
Dialogue By: Garnett Weston
Directed By: Victor Halperin
I grew up on the zombies provided by the likes of George A. Romero and Brian Pulido. When I envision a zombie I don’t just see a dead person come to life, but a walking shambles of a person. You can see that they are dead, there’s a body horror aspect to their personage. The zombies in White Zombie were not the zombies I grew up with, and that didn’t sit too well with me. I appreciated the horror of a person having their soul removed, but I wanted more than a person with a glassy stare as my zombie. White Zombie isn’t the film for people who are into the more visceral zombies that are found in modern zombie tales, that much I can say for sure.
Despite my disappointment in the zombies in White Zombie, I understand why they weren’t all that menacing in presentation. They aren’t the villains of the picture, Murder Legendre is the villain of White Zombie. Bela Lugosi gives a great performance, there’s a maniacal glint to his eye that really stayed with me. For as much as I understand why the zombies had to pale next to Legendre, it does hurt the film that the zombies are so, pardon the pun, lifeless. They lack any visual impact, and they never comes across as menacing in their actions or their nature. They are puppets of Legendre, and like I said I understand the horror of that, but it does hurt the film that the zombies are so milquetoast visually.
I did appreciate the opening sequence and the finale of the film quite a lot. Those were, far and away, the stand out sequences of White Zombie. The opening sequence establishes a sense of dread that stays with the film until its finale finally removes the pall of said dread. It is that sense of dread that carries the film through most of its rough areas. The atmosphere of White Zombie makes up for some bad acting (sans Mr. Lugosi), ham fisted dialogue, toothless zombies, and a non-developed love story. Dread can do wonders for a horror movie, and White Zombie is no exception.
I’m not willing to call White Zombie a classic horror film, it’s far too flawed to be among the classics of the horror genre. White Zombie is a decent film that implements a feeling of dread nicely and features a wonderful Bela Lugosi performance. The film is also riddled with problems from the supporting cast all the way down to the make up department. I expected more from White Zombie, but I really shouldn’t be too upset over the chance to see a great performance from Mr. Lugosi. Here’s hoping that any future forays into the world of voodoo zombies produces more menace, and a lot more horror.