I Walked with a Zombie ★★★★

Not the high concept quickie knockoff suggested by the title, though as a literary mashup of Jane Eyre/Rebecca and zombies, it predates the likes of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by more than 70 years. It also reaches more rewardingly into the core of its literary precursors in a manner similar to and, indeed, foreshadowing revisions such as Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea. The evil of slavary provides the rotten foundation for the island society of Saint Sebastian. It eats away at the psyche of all who live there, the White plantation owners and the downtrodden slave descendants alike. Voodoo is an extension of that evil, and while it's real enough, only those who are plagued by their own personal demons fall under its sway. Yet nobody here is an outright villain as such, except perhaps Jessica Holland, who has already suffered the consequences of her actions by becoming a zombie by the time we meet her. As in Jean Renoir's La Règle Du Jeu, everyone has their reasons, and there are least six unreliable narrators in this story, so that in the end we don't know what really happens. Jacques Tourneur's visual compositions are as richly textured and evocative as his just completed Cat People, yet there's more than meets the eye. The different perspectives of the characters, the lack of resolution, the allusions to off stage events and ideas which are hinted at but not explored, make this a deliciously elusive film. It's one of those modest genre works which gain substance with reviewing because so many elements are suggested rather than fully presented due to its production limitations.

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