White Zombie Screen 8 articles

White Zombie

1932

White Zombie Poster
  • Lugosi's caterpillar eyebrows intimidate, and Madge Bellamy has a creepy undead stare, but one need only compare this to Island of Lost Souls or The Mummy to see how thinly atmospheric it is. Of its 67 minutes, roughly half feel like dead air, which makes it very hard to get past the whole "oh dear lord no not a _white_ zombie!" thing.

  • White Zombie is interesting—even if it's just in rough historical register—precisely because it's not this kind of zombie movie, and so casts into relief the radicalism (however incidental) of genre-definers like Romero.

  • Certain aspects of Victor Halperin’s 1932 film—the alternately trancelike and hysterical performances, the willful lack of shot-to-shot continuity, the curled eyebrows and forked goatee of Bela Lugosi’s witch doctor—threaten to reduce the film to camp but end up contributing to its dreamlike, dread-soaked atmosphere.

  • Cinema's first zombie movie! How old is it? So old that it predates when zombie meant Romero's flesh-eaters, and instead was rooted in Haitian voodoo. The best and worst pre-Code tendencies: stiff writing and acting, but frequently an inventive shot or an eerie bit of sound design, and always a perverse undercurrent from this story about killing your crush so you can make them a reanimated slave. Fun time had by all.

  • At its best, this film embodies the eerie poetry of a slow, dreamlike death. Compared to today’s zombies, this hypnotic vision of a world trapped between life and death is more disturbing and more beautiful.

  • Though the Halperins continued to make low-budget films into the ’40s, none of their subsequent work has the disturbing intensity and inventiveness of this peculiar work. Much is made of Lugosi’s burning gaze, as the camera dollies in to isolate his eyes in anticipation of Sergio Leone’s gigantic close-ups.

  • White Zombie also has a distinct aesthetic: the dopey split screens and zigzagging scene transitions only add to its charm. These rudimentary special effects were achieved with then-nascent optical printing technology that had clearly seized Halperin's imagination and enlarged his visual vocabulary. Halperin's daft editing choices, harnessed to a proven box office formula, resulted in a surprisingly experimental feat of exploitation cinema.

  • Really a handsome film, and I’m sure the new restoration looks a thousand times better. The set design is atmospheric, the photography moody, and the music score enervating but innovative. The real frissons come from the sound effects, which deliver some striking moans and screams.

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