I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
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Slow, but very atmospheric. The compositions of light and shadow are weirdly beautiful, and the short length feels just right. The walk through the cane field where Jessica's white dress streams out behind her in the wind is a particular standout.
I Walked With a Zombie. What a great title. What dies Val Lewton do with it? Well, we're a far cry from the zombie apocalypse genre, returning instead to the legend's roots - in voodoo. We follow a Canadian nurse to the Caribbean where she's meant to take care of a catatonic woman... or is there more to it than that? The ambiguities mount as she gets interested in the rituals of the island people, and wonders if they could help her patient. All the while, everyone she meets is holding back secrets, which just adds to the feeling of unease already supplied by the moody cinematography and what looks like well-researched voodoo lore (but I have no clear idea - it just looks authentic). Another RKO triumph, doing a lot with little means, and creating a world that's an interesting blend we might call Tropical Gothic.
A great low-budget but classy horror film that runs almost purely on atmosphere instead of shocks.
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In 8 official lists
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This movie ranks #64 in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese
This movie ranks #64 in TSZDT's The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films
This movie ranks #161 in BFI's 360 Classic Feature Films Project
This movie ranks #223 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #280 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #328 in Jennifer Eiss's 500 Essential Cult Movies
This movie ranks #427 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #634 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films