Monday, April 13, 2009
A Frank Review of "White Zombie" (1932)
The Short Version? Newlywed bride becomes zombie love slave.
What Is It? Horror.
Who's In It? Bela Lugosi.
Should I See It? No.
What we have here is an historic document: the first ever zombie movie, appearing a year after Lugosi's star turn as Dracula. The sets are grand, especially for an independent production. There's some potent use of superimposed images, the make-up effects are excellent, and the acting is solid. The music and lighting are well above par for the time.
All those accolades aside, watching the movie makes for a damned long hour and change. Unless Lugosi or a zombie is on screen, there is nothing particularly interesting to look at. The film is shot dark and dull, with perfunctory dialogue and a great deal of padding. Scenes start out creepy, then run so long that you become accustomed to the images, like staring at a Halloween mask until all you see is the rubber and glue. Lugosi's wry manner is droll, but also negates any tension generated from his diabolical appearance. A vulture emits a loud "scream" that begins to grate on the nerves by the third attempt at a jump scare. A slew of silly wipes reminds why the technique was relegated to home movies.
There are plenty of nice touches, though. I especially like the moment where Beaumont clutches the villain's hand like an elderly woman desperate to communicate with a dismissive grandchild. Still, you could edit the most worthy elements of the film to a 5-10 minute YouTube presentation and do the public a great service.
If you're interested, you can watch the entire feature below...
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