Saturday, January 29, 2011
Five From A Favorite - I Walked with a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
As essential a horror film as there could ever be, I Walked with a Zombie is the finest achievement from both legendary producer Val Lewton - whose crop of creepy, atmospheric horror movies produced for RKO Pictures in the 40's have made him an unlikely but enduring icon of the genre - and the great maverick director Jacques Tourneur, whose multi-genre flexibility and impeccable sense of style left behind one of the most overlooked and important bodies of work to come out of the studio system.
Zombie is a rousing triumph in many ways, but perhaps what amazes me most about it is how the elusive nature of the story - which picks up after the most pivotal events have already occurred - is so perfectly mirrored by its pervading atmosphere of heavy gusts and gloomy dimness, remote drums and skies that crackle with that special electricity of a calm before the storm. Narrative and ambience coalesce in a rare way, both elements keeping the viewer at bay from the main event, providing not much more than whipping winds and wisps of suggestion while Tourneur's sublime shadow language and mastery of mood and detail fill in the blanks with pure, poetic dread.