White Zombie

October 30, 2016 at 4:02 pm (8 Heads, White Zombie) (, , , , , )

White Zombie – 1932 – United States

A young couple from America arrives in Haiti with plans to be married. The woman (named Madeleine Short Parker) befriends a plantation owner (named Charles Beaumont) who falls in love with her. To stop Madeleine’s marriage, Charles strikes a deal with an evil voodoo master (ridiculously named Murder Legendre). Murder fakes Madeleine’s death and transforms her into one of his many zombie slaves. Madeleine’s husband teams up with a wise-cracking priest to invade Murder’s castle, defeat his zombie guards, and rescue Madeleine.

Its plot sounds silly, but White Zombie manages to be spooky. Its depictions of zombies and voodoo rituals are some of the most atmospheric (and earliest) ever filmed. In one memorable scene, zombie slaves toil in a sugar mill. One falls into a massive grinder and the others absentmindedly turn the crank to pulverize him. Bela Lugosi is highly theatrical as Murder Legendre. He is alternately merciless and endearing, and his outlandish facial hair is really gross.

White Zombie is a low budget effort but the sets (recycled from various Universal productions) look great. There is a tropical graveyard, a sugar mill, and a seaside castle. Most of the film takes place at night, to dramatic effect. White Zombie uses simple special effects in an expressionistic way. For instance, one character mourns his dead fiancée and sees her shimmering spectral form wherever he goes. Also, Murder Legendre’s glowing eyes float over various shots as he works his evil magic.

Rating: 8/10 Shrunken Heads. Yes, the band White Zombie is named after this film.


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