Thursday, October 16, 2008

HORROR EPICS: White Zombie

WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)
Not only is this where Robbie and friends got their band name, but is also more than likely the first zombie movie ever made. That in and of itself makes White Zombie worth seeing, although it obviously doesn’t live up to modern horror standards. Supposedly loosely based on a “nonfiction” account of Haitian voodoo published in 1929, we begin our tale with a young couple planning to get married on the island. But the lonely rich guy they’re staying with wants the bride for himself, so he works out quite the underhanded scheme with a nearby plantation owner to kidnap her from her fiancé. Fresh off the set of Dracula, Bela Lugosi plays the devious plantation owner who uses black magic to resurrect dead natives for slave labor. Oh, the racial implications! Oh, the awful attempts at blackface! Bela’s black magic renders the poor girl effectively dead as far as anyone can tell, which completely defeats the purpose for kidnapping her in the first place. Obviously, our conspirators were not on the same page here. Someone’s plans are going to change, and it won’t be Bela’s if he has anything to say about it. Not only does he have to deal with his partner in crime, but there’s also her fiancé trying to get to the bottom of the situation. It’s safe to say that after nearly eighty years, White Zombie doesn’t retain whatever impact it might have once had. You also might be disappointed to find out that the zombies aren’t exactly of the flesh-eating variety, although I think it’d be unrealistic to expect that from an old movie like this. But if you’re in the mood for a truly “old school” horror epic this Halloween, Bela Lugosi’s piercing eyes and sinister facial expressions are enough to carry it off. Shot in eleven days for $50,000; with sets left over from both Dracula and Frankenstein.

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