I Walked With a Zombie Shows What the ‘Undead’ Were Before Romero

I Walked with a Zombie (1943) Movie Review

While more than half a century old, I Walked With a Zombie is one of the term really meant. Digging deep into the voodoo related superstitious of the Caribbean region, the movie explores the power of superstition over the people who believe it. There’s a lot of things going in on this relatively slow paced film, and it also leaves a lot elements up for the viewers to debate on as not all information is supplied. While this is a thinking man’s film, do expect that this black and white classic has a bit of age and watching it is an acquired taste.

What is I Walked With a Zombie?

This is movie is about Betsy, a young Canadian nurse who is hired to work in the Carribean. Her job is to look after Jessica, the wife of plantation owner Paul. In her time in the island, she slowly finds herself falling in love with Paul. On the other hand, while in the process of taking care of Jessica, she learns more and more about the strange superstitions of the people living on the island as well as strange rumors about Paul’s wife regarding a man named Wesley who is Paul’s half brother.

Things take a turn for the strange as Betsy decides the best way to deal with feelings is to find a cure for Paul’s wife –which starts off as her attempting to use insulin shock then later, even be willing to make use of voodoo as suggested by one of Paul’s housemaids.

At that point, the movie becomes even more vague about the effectiveness of voodoo or even if it is real in the movie continuity. The audience is subjected to a series of back and forth reveals such as the witch doctor actually being Paul’s mother who makes use of the superstition in order to control the locals, or if the strange Carrefour (which is like some zombie goon) actually exists since it is seen in some shots by the audience but is never actually able to directly interact with any of the character onscreen.

I Walked with a Zombie (1943) Movie Review

That Final Twist

While the movie plays out at a rather slow pace, things are actually interesting near the very end. Especially when Paul’s mother talks about cursing Jessica in order to protect her son’s family –apparently, she was planning to run away with Wesley and the curse was the only way to stop her. The affair is alluded early on in the story when Betsy encounters Wesley for the first time –making it hard to sympathize with the patient and root more for Betsy’s relationship with Paul.

Keeping the Viewers Guessing

If you zombie in the movie title and were hoping for something in the horror side of things, prepare to be surprised. I Walked With a Zombie is not a horror film. While there are a few tense moments, most of the film focuses around Betsy’s struggles in the strange place and her quest of love to cure Paul’s wife (it was a different era with very different sensibilities).

The core point of the movie revolves around making the viewers wonder till the very end if there was any real voodoo going on or people were just actually either literally sick or too emotionally broken to function properly. Sadly, the film’s little nuances give no answers at all even in the very end. While it would be easy to chalk everything up to an actual

The Original Zombie

Compared to modern zombie film fare where you have survivors fighting what is often a war of attrition against the undead hordes, I Walked shows that the concept of zombies is tied deeply with voodoo mysticism. This is a pretty big element that separates the original “zombi” from modern zombies as most of the undead in today’s media are by products of scientific mishaps (usually some form of weaponized virus or a cure gone mad). There were no infectious bites, not did these zombies have the potential to spread out at an exponential rate and destroy all of civilization. The zombie of the original lores were significantly less threatening and it was more sensible to be scared of being turned into a zombie by voodoo priest as opposed to worrying about getting eaten alive.