With the second World War approaching it’s end, there were a mixture of films which were either war or death based. On one side of the scale we were presented with films which represented the other side of warfare, classics like “Casablanca” (1942) and films which were more based on what made a person “alive”. In 1943, “I Walked With A Zombie” was released. With a decent cast, the story was at times intense and based itself on the real fear of the undead. Sadly 60 years later, the story feels incredibly unfulfilled in contrast with modern horror.
Nurse Betsy Connell (Frances Dee) travels to a remote Caribbean island where she begins to treat the ill Jessica Holland (Christine Gordon). As Connell begins to fall for Holland’s husband Paul (Tom Conway) however, her desire to cure Jessica using voodoo medicine also increases.
The biggest problem with this film is just how much cinema has advanced from this time. When Betsy first meets Jessica, the film is at it’s scariest because we imagine that the screen will be much worse than it eventually is. Jessica is basically just a beautiful actress without expression. In the modern world we have tons of these, some of which actually win awards. This causes the film to falter really since the true fear it should inspire is constructed in the modern mind as a result of images from more recent films.
All in all, for the 1940s this film is a horror classic. At the time, at a time when Bogart and others were dominating the screen, there is little doubt that this film would scary the living daylights out of people like modern films like “The Ring” (2002) do nowadays. So many years after release however, it has lost it’s sting and any sort of fear is as a result of expecting some sort of jump, similar to more recent films. This film is worth watching as a history lesson on how films used to be made, but for any sort of terror, perhaps horror has been proved to be a genre which is scarier at time of release.