I Walked with a Zombie Screen 5 articles

I Walked with a Zombie

1943

I Walked with a Zombie Poster
  • The romance that’s meant to flourish between Dee and Conway is stilted and unconvincing, but it’s clear that Tourneur’s interests lie in the shadows. Even at 68 minutes, the movie is a slow burn, but once Dee walks into the sugar-cane fields on her way to a voodoo ceremony, the fluid play of black on black is mesmerizing to behold.

  • For Halloween, a trick-or-treat bag of deceptively complicated themes: the idea of ugly history (personal and otherwise) as a zombie that's no longer living, but not yet dead; and the idea of white colonists succumbing to the culture they try to colonize. It's not the perfectly stacked triumph of Cat People, but it's Lewton's second best, and a sign of how much he wanted to ponder, even if not in an organized way.

  • Guilt and superstition, the penitence of sinners and the murmurs of gods, a wealth of tenebrous material woven most gracefully by Tourneur, who contemplates the native congregations with respectfully fascinated tracking shots and achieves a devastating effect with a cut from a pin pushed into a voodoo doll to an act of lethal sacrifice.

  • The horror lies in these and other sensory details, gradually amassed over the film's slim run time. The plot is someone dreaming Jane Eyre, twitching in their slumber as intimations of romance give way to voodoo rituals. Unlike the bulk of Hollywood's 1940s output, I Walked with a Zombie acknowledges (if only marginally) the legacies of colonialism and slavery. But then, a Lewton/Tourneur collaboration isn't really like anything else. It's wind and drumming and moonlight and then you wake up.

  • “I’m not easily frightened,” insists Betsy Connell, the intrepid heroine of I Walked with a Zombie. Over the course of its 69-minute running time, Jacques Tourneur’s 1943 film will find plenty of ways to challenge that assertion. At once the most pungently atmospheric and narratively unusual of the films Tourneur famously directed for producer Val Lewton at RKO in the early 1940s, I Walked with a Zombie has endured as a genre touchstone and pop-cultural reference point.

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