Director – Wes Craven
Cast – Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings, Conrad Roberts
Release Year – 1988
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Based on the book by author Wade Davis, this film has to do with voodoo in Haiti and the belief that the shamans there are able to resurrect the dead through zombification. This notion was actually first introduced to us with the first “true zombie” film, White Zombie(which came out in 1932), which also involved a shaman from Haiti and zombification.
Anywho iconic horror director Wes Craven(A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Last House on the Left, Scream) directs Bill Pullman AKA “the greatest fictional president ever”(see Independence Day) a Harvard anthropologist Dr. Dennis Alan, whom is sent to Haiti by a pharmaceutical company in order to locate the source that the shamans are using for the zombification. It is believed that if the zombification was properly adapted and marketed, it would provide a fortune as well as save the many lives lost on the operating table due to malfunctions with anesthesia. Unfortunately for Dr. Alan, there is much political turmoil in Haiti, and the environment is very unstable. There are government powers that are more than willing to use secret police AKA the Tan Tan “death squads” to keep the voodoo secrets in Haiti, where they belong. With the death squads keeping a close eye on him, he begins a very dangerous journey that leads to some gruesome deaths, horrible dreams, and put’s his new Haitian girlfriend’s life on the line.
I did like this film, not as much as I wanted to, but it was still enjoyable. I loved the idea of finding out whether or not zombification is real, and whether it is done by use of chemicals and potions, or by some king of supernatural formula. I just felt that this film took a while to get to the good stuff, with random moments here and there involving corpses and zombies. Now this film is not a “typical” zombie film. What I mean by that is that these zombies are not out to eat brains and devour human flesh. These zombies are very human, and although they know they are zombies, they are able to think and speak, which is where the true horror lies given that they know their soul is stuck in eternal damnation.
For a while the film actually goes away from being a “horror” movie to somewhat of a drama, with Dr. Alan having to go through some hard times to help his Haitian girlfriend he met on his trip, as well as trying to locate and help a zombie that wanders aimlessly through graveyards. One thing that Wes Craven really did very well was get the “feel” of Haitian society. Most of the film was filmed in Haiti, and really incorporated the traditional music as well as the atmosphere and feel of the area with the use of real life sets and lots of Haitian extras.
I was actually really surprised by the use of special effects for this film. We see a lot of live-action effects for the zombies and corpses and I really loved that! Live-action horror effects are just so much more effective than CGI effects, and it shows with the amount of goosebumps you get from live-action effects. Haha. I was actually a tiny bit unsatisfied with the amount of horror in the film, until we get to the end sequence, which really made up for the somewhat slow beginning. I was originally going to give this film a 6.5 rating, but the live-action effects and cool end sequence get this film a 7 rating.
Overall, this is an interesting film that uses a different take on the nature and actions of zombies. Check this out if you can find it, and would like to see one of Wes Craven’s lesser-known films.