I Walked With a Zombie

1943

I Walked With a Zombie

Critics Consensus

Evocative direction by Jacques Tourneur collides with the low-rent production values of exploitateer Val Lewton in I Walked with a Zombie, a sultry sleeper that's simultaneously smarmy, eloquent and fascinating.

92%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 26

73%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,020
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Movie Info

RKO producer Val Lewton seemed to thrive upon taking the most lurid film titles and coming up with pocket-edition works of art. Saddled with the studio-dictated title I Walked With a Zombie, Lewton, together with scripters Curt Siodmak and Ardel Wray, concocted a West Indies variation on Jane Eyre. Trained nurse (Frances Dee) travels to the tropics to care for Christine Gordon, the wife of seemingly abusive Tom Conway. At first, Dee merely believes her patient to be comatose. But as the drums throb and the natives behave restlessly, Dee tries to bring her patient back to life by jungle magic. Conway is racked with guilt, believing himself responsible for his wife's condition; his guilt is stoked by Conway's drunken brother James Ellison, who has always loved Gordon. Utilizing very limited sets and only a handful of extras, director Jacques Tourneur manages to evoke an impression of an expansive tropical island populated at every turn by voodoo worshippers. Many of the sequences, notably Frances Dee's first languid stroll into the midst of the native ceremonies, have an eerie dream-like quality that pervades even the most worn-out, badly processed TV prints of I Walked With Zombie.

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Critic Reviews for I Walked With a Zombie

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (24) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for I Walked With a Zombie

  • Aug 29, 2018
    A nurse (Frances Dee) comes to the West Indies to help two brothers (Tom Conway and James Ellison) tend to the older of the two's wife (Christine Gordon), who is stuck in a perpetual trancelike state. Her doctor is mystified, but it's clear that voodoo from the locals must be involved. There are some nice scenes at night in the film, such as a walk through the rustling sugarcane fields, which evoke a dreamy and gothic feeling. The characters involved in the voodoo itself are fantastic, most notably, the solemn Carrefour (guardian of the crossroads), played by Darby Jones, who has an extraordinary appearance. He alone makes the film worth seeing, especially as it's so short at 69 minutes, but it's also great to briefly see the voodoo dancers. Unfortunately, the film's three main characters are all uninspiring, wandering through this script as if they were the ones who were zombies, at least emotionally. A love is supposed to develop between Dee and Conway, which isn't based on anything we can possibly see, and is therefore unbelievable. The character actions also seem hard to believe at times as well, for example, when they discover the wife doesn't bleed when cut, nothing is done with this information. As in 'Cat People' (1942), also directed by Jacques Tourneur, there are some really nice, eerie moments in this film, but the rest of it is too understated for my taste, and lacking in emotion.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 04, 2011
    Exactly what the consensus described, this is the mother of the zombie films. A must watch for the Zombie fans
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Apr 12, 2011
    Although he went on to make much better films, Jacques Tourner's I Walked With a Zombie is not anywhere near a waste of time. There are some genuinely creepy moments (although they're repeated in other Val Lewton productions) and some very lovely cinematography. There's not really much of a plot to speak of and our leading lady has very little to do in the second half of the movie, but there's some good stuff here. Worth a late night viewing.
    Tim S Super Reviewer
  • Oct 17, 2010
    I really enjoyed this. It was creepy, but not in an over-the-top way. It also had some catchy music and songs which I thought was a little weird, but again, enjoyable!
    Sarah P Super Reviewer

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