2012 Film Challenge #7 - Plague of The Zombies
It was almost a rite of passage watching this one, as a still from it in one of our visual horror encyclopedias caused I don't know how many nightmares between the ages of six and twelve.
The zombies in this film are terrifying. Inconsistent, but terrifying. Big, wide, dead eyes – leering grins, banshee shrieks, lumbering strangling intent and peeling chalky flesh. The scene where they emerge from the ground and advance inexorably is literally the stuff of nightmares.
And yet, they're unfortunately underused. And, when they are used, it's in a ridiculous Scooby Doo “I would have got away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids” sort of way.
See, our slimy squire owns a tin-mine in which conditions are so bad that nobody will work there. So, rather than addressing the issue head on with a couple of surveyors and a snag list, he decides that his best course of action is to begin a clandestine operation which sees him murdering locals and reanimating them as zombie slaves.
He does this using a frankly insulting misunderstanding of Voodoo in his cavernous cellar. He uses his Caribbean servants as tribal drummers (forcing them to dress in offensive “native” outfits which probably aren't native to anywhere in the world) and allows for his insufferable toady fox-hunting friends to whip their undead workforce indiscriminately.
Luckily, we have an aged curmudgeonly professor on hand to sort everything out. But what we're really witnessing is the worst possible weekend getaway to Cornwall. What was supposed to be a visit to an old friend with a bit of fishing on the side swiftly becomes a plodding rigmarole of death, funerals, grave-robbing, attempted gang-rape and amateur investigations.
Worse is that most of the action is supposed to take place at night, yet they don't even seem to try and make things look dark. A creepy midnight graveyard scene is completely ruined by a background of cloudy blue sky.
But did I mention how marvellously creepy these zombies are? This was Hammer's only attempt at a zombie film. Presumably it didn't receive too good a reception. Which is a dreadful shame. They must have made a dozen vampire films, but we have but this on which to judge their undead potential. Imagine what unholy power could have been wrought had these guys been cast in less ridiculous surroundings?