I Walked with a Zombie (1941) Reviewed

 

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)
A pretty young Canadian nurse travels to the West Indies to take a job as personal caretaker to the catatonic bride of a well-to-do plantation owner. There she becomes ensnared in a tragic love triangle with the husband of her patient and his jealous drunken brother while inadvertently opening a Pandora’s box of ugly family secrets. Don’t be fooled by the title into mistaking IWwaZ for a traditional zombie movie. It’s far more esoteric and moody with an emphasis on broody drama over undead scares. There is a legit zombie on-hand however: the memorable Darby Jones in a silent performance as the icy-eyed guardian of the locals’ voodoo-haunted stomping grounds makes an impression that won the legitimately startling-looking actor similar roles in lesser zombie flicks. Like most of the other genre-bending chillers produced by the great Val Lewton, IWwaZ is more poetry and painting than it is horror movie and with a scant 77-minute running time, it never bogs down under the weight of its dazzling atmospherics or soulful melodrama. The combination of dark romance, voodoo and tragedy make for a supremely unique movie-watching experience that should be savored with repeat viewings. Director, Jacques Tourneur, more famously directed (the equally great) Cat People (1942) for Lewton, but it’s IWwaZ that sticks in your head like the echo of a vivid, well-remembered nightmare. ***1/2

~ by Number5ive on January 1, 2010.

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