‘White Zombie’: A Couple of Powerful Scenes and a Mighty Heap of Issues (review)

The movie Rob Zombie’s original band was named after. Couple Madeline (Madge Bellamy) and Neil (John Harron) are about to be married in the West Indies. Alas, Madeline’s friend Charles (Robert Frazer) wants her for himself, and enlists the help of Legendre (Bela Lugosi) to make her a zombie. (Not a flesh-eating zombie, but the Haitian kind that tend to become peoples’ slaves—Legendre’s zombies work in a sugar mill.) Charles realizes too late that zombies don’t make the best conversational partners, and decides to change her back. But Legendre has his own plans for her.

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“I just had an idea!”

It’s 1932, so there are a lot of aspects of the film that modern viewers may be annoyed by. The special effects are less grand than today (though there is a neat shot of Legendre’s eyes superimposed on Madeline and Neil’s carriage–here’s a gif). The sound is terrible on two levels: because of the wear and tear of time and also errors like birds that are heard squawking but have their beaks closed. The editing is also poor at times, with characters moving around inconsistently. According to the Netflix synopsis of the movie, it was made in eleven days. And of course it’s predictable.

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As can be expected, there is some racism (though actually all the zombie slaves and even Madeline’s maid is white), from the stereotypical superstitious carriage driver to Neil’s hysterical speculation of what happened to Madeline: “Surely you don’t think she’s alive? In the hands of natives? Oh no, surely better dead than that!” It also gets pretty melodramatic, with a dash of overacting, particularly by Lugosi.

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So this fellow is a combination of clown, superstitious native, and servant

There is a creepy moment or two; there’s one barrel-chested guy who makes a convincing zombie, with his blank expression and wide, dead eyes. There’s also the scene when Legendre is turning Charles into a zombie, which entails a slow paralysis. He uses the last of his strength to put his hand on Legendre’s arm, by way of pleading. Legendre reminds Charles he refused to shake hands with Legendre once, and continues what he’s doing. And on the plus side, since it’s so old, it was actually original in the period it was made.

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My question: is zombie labor really worth it? Sure they work long hours for free, but they’re extremely slow and increase work-related incidents exponentially—like the zombie in the movie that falls in the sugar mill. I know I don’t want to eat zombie sugar.

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Do you want zombie cookies? ‘Cause that’s how you get zombie cookies! Image courtesy of http://www.royalicingqueen.com

Published by GhoulieJoe

I wuvs the horror movies and like to write snarky reviews about them. I also included some pretentious as hell microfiction (don't worry, it's at the bottom).

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