Friday, October 31, 2014


We witness a wild voodoo ritual that turns out to be a nightclub show at the Club Haiti in New Orleans. Langston, the owner of the club, is tangling with some gangsters, led by Morgan (Robert Quarry), who want to buy him out; when he refuses, Morgan's thugs beat him to death in the parking lot. Diana 'Sugar' Hill (Marki Bey), Langston's girlfriend, inherits the business and Morgan hopes to negotiate with her. She leads him on but, wanting revenge, she goes to Mama Maitresse, an actual voodoo priestess, who conjures up the undead Baron Samedi and his army of zombies, would-be slaves from the 1840s who died while being transported here and are still wearing their shackles. One by one, the thugs die horrible deaths—one guy is eaten by pigs while Sugar stands over him and says, "I hope they’re into white trash"—and soon a cop (Richard Lawson), who happens to be an ex-lover of Sugar's, is investigating.

Though this generally seems to be celebrated by critics as a piece of genre-crossing "blaxploitation," it's quite worthy of being appreciated as a straightforward horror film, and as an old-fashioned zombie story, before zombies became practically synonymous with apocalypses. It has the usual strengths and weaknesses of American International's horror flicks of the era—good atmosphere, so-so acting—but overall feels a notch above average. Leading lady Bey doesn’t full throw herself into the role, but others do, including Quarry as the slimy villain and Don Pedro Colley as Samedi, the formidable leader of the zombies (pictured). Charles Robinson, probably best known as the likeable Mac on Night Court, has a small role as a pimp named Fabulous. Zara Cully, who played George Jefferson's mother on TV, is fine as the voodoo priestess. The revival of the zombies is fairly well done, but it was shot outside in daylight and would have been more effective in darkness. Given its lukewarm reputation, this was surprisingly fun with a satisfying ending. A good Halloween choice. [Netflix streaming]

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