Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
Ink & Paint is back! Daniel goes into a feline frenzy looking at 'The Aristocats' - click here to listen now!x
review, Zombi Child, Zombi, Child, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Louise Labeque, Wislanda Louimat, Mackenson Bijou, Adilé David, Louise Labèque, Katiana Milfort, Ninon François, Mathilde Riu, Ginite Popote, Néhémy Pierre-Dahomey, Bertrand Bonello, Biography, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Supernatural, Thriller film rating

ZOMBI CHILD

★★★

A SUBTLE RIFF ON THE ZOMBIE GENRE

FANTASTIC FILM FESTIVAL AUSTRALIA REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Jake Watt
21st February 2020

Hollywood loves a voodoo villain. In popular usage, the word "voodoo" connotes dark magic and the occult. It conjures spooky images of gaunt men in dark clothes and top hats, zombies, and dolls stuck through with pins. Since the early twentieth century, white culture has turned voodoo into a cultural shorthand for the mysterious, magical and evil.

The first representation of voodoo in film was in 'White Zombie' in 1932, the first feature-length zombie film in cinematic history. Directed by Victor Halperin, the movie stars Bela Lugosi as a white Haitian voodoo master named Murder Legendre (subtlety had not yet been invented) who uses his sinister knowledge of spells and potions to transform a young woman into a zombie.

With Lugosi, already world-famous for his performance as Dracula a few years before, the movie conflated one misunderstood, exotic Other (Lugosi) with another (the practice of voodoo), and the rest was history. Instant voodoo villain - just add water.

Sensationalised zombie imagery would continue to be associated with voodoo in film. But at least one depiction of zombiism seems to be rooted in truth. Wes Craven's 'The Serpent and the Rainbow' told the story of a scientist investigating the mysterious case of a Haitian man who was transformed into a zombie. The movie, loosely based on a non-fiction book of the same title, was inspired by the life of a man named Clairvius Narcisse. Narcisse claimed to have been poisoned, buried, and revived as a zombie, returning to his bewildered family 18 years later.

'ZOMBI CHILD' TRAILER

Bertrand Bonello's 'Zombi Child' opens in Haiti in 1962, where Narcisse (Mackenson Bijou) mysteriously falls ill and dies. Or rather, he becomes a zombi, and is forced into slave labour on a sugar plantation. This isn't the brain-eating kind of zombie, however, but something rather more existentially bleak - a shell of the person's former self, only able to communicate in a sad little moan. According to voodoo folklore, if a zombi consumes meat or salt, they can regain some of their old self. Clairvius does so, but, unable to return to his wife right away, is forced to wander, alone and lost in melancholy isolation.

The second part of 'Zombi Child' takes place in the present, at a fancy French boarding school. Originally founded by Napoleon, the academy remains a place for the children and grandchildren of those who've won various orders of civilian and military merit to earn a top-tier education. Melissa (Wislanda Louimat), the only black student there, fled her native Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, which killed her parents. Whether it's because she's black or not wealthy or both, the girl is isolated from her classmates. Melissa eventually makes one friend, Fanny (Louise Labeque), who brings the girl into her clique. "She's odd, but we like the same horror movies and books," Fanny tells her other friends.

Despite the title, 'Zombi Child' isn't really a horror movie. The first hour is glacially paced, with Melissa discussing her family history and Fanny spending most of her time pining for Pablo, a summer fling, via a series of ridiculously flowery letters. The suspense comes from trying to figure out how Clairvius' story will eventually intersect with Melissa and Fanny's. A third plot involving Melissa's Aunt Katy (Katiana Milfort), a Mambo priestess, is introduced around two-thirds of the way through the movie and these plotlines eventually merge when a heartbroken Fanny commits an ill-considered act of cultural appropriation. Then the story takes a hard left turn into horror, complete with an appearance by spirit Baron Samedi (Néhémy Pierre-Dahomey), the most iconic loa of Haitian voodoo who pestered Roger Moore's 007 in 1973's 'Live and Let Die'.

Colonial history is a heavy presence throughout all of this, with Bonello seemingly intent on displaying how economic and social issues are mirrored across chronological and national boundaries.

While the film does suffer from an abrupt and somewhat unsatisfying ending, the jump in timelines and change in tone never becomes jarring. The scenes in the present are bright and colourful while Clairvius' storyline takes place in beautifully shot night settings illuminated by just enough natural light to expose the Haitian countryside.

In some ways, 'Zombi Child' bears a mild similarity to Peter Jackson's 'Heavenly Creatures', another film featuring lovelorn, privileged schoolgirls who trespass in the veil between worlds for trivial teenage reasons. Bonello inserts an interesting racial dynamic: Fanny and her friends fetishise Melissa's Mambo religion, while Melissa is depicted struggling with her identity and her unique family history, honouring her heritage by listening to the traditional music in secret. Colonial history is a heavy presence throughout all of this, with Bonello seemingly intent on displaying how economic and social issues are mirrored across chronological and national boundaries.

As filmmakers deepen their understanding of the cultural stereotypes that got us here and how we've internalised them, it seems they are removing the needle from voodoo dolls in exchange for portrayals with greater sensitivity. 'Zombi Child' is an absorbing, often perplexing story in which a religion with a healthy respect for death crosses paths with a lovesick French schoolgirl.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 21/02/2020
RUN TIME: 1h 43m
CAST: Louise Labeque
Wislanda Louimat
Mackenson Bijou
Adilé David
Louise Labèque
Katiana Milfort
Ninon François
Mathilde Riu
Ginite Popote
Néhémy Pierre-Dahomey
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Bertrand Bonello
PRODUCERS: Bertrand Bonello
Judith Lou Lévy
Michel Merkt
Olivier Père
Guetty Felin
Eve Robin
SCORE: Bertrand Bonello
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Pocahontas - 25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
TRENDINGPOCAHONTAS25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
Britannia III - A new and dark force
TRENDINGWIN BRITANNIA IIIA new and dark force
The Power of the Dog - Jane Campion howls back onto the big screen
TRENDINGWIN THE POWER OF THE DOGJane Campion howls back onto the big screen
Revisiting the 'Harry Potter' series - 20 years with the groundbreaking fantasy epic
TRENDINGREVISITING THE 'HARRY POTTER' SERIES20 years with the groundbreaking fantasy epic
Eternals - Packing too much into the MCU
TRENDINGETERNALSPacking too much into the MCU
The Power of the Dog - Jane Campion returns with a magnificent epic on the human heart
TRENDINGTHE POWER OF THE DOGJane Campion returns with a magnificent epic on the human heart
Love You Like That - Love is in the air - and it's crazy
TRENDINGLOVE YOU LIKE THATLove is in the air - and it's crazy
Sydney Film Festival 2021 - The reviews
TRENDINGSYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2021The reviews
Cosmic Sin - A film that delivers on the promise of its title
TRENDINGCOSMIC SINA film that delivers on the promise of its title
The Eyes of Tammy Faye - Grab a Diet Coke - this biopic is truly blessed
TRENDINGTHE EYES OF TAMMY FAYEGrab a Diet Coke - this biopic is truly blessed
The Glass Room - Stunning yet soulless
TRENDINGTHE GLASS ROOMStunning yet soulless
Sorry, Wrong Number - An inventive slice of 1940s film noir
TRENDINGSORRY, WRONG NUMBERAn inventive slice of 1940s film noir
Romantic Road - Falling in love with India, the Rolls Royce and each other
TRENDINGROMANTIC ROADFalling in love with India, the Rolls Royce and each other
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale - An extremely silly zomedy
TRENDINGTHE ODD FAMILY: ZOMBIE ON SALEAn extremely silly zomedy
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
TRENDINGTHE VIOLIN PLAYERSex and strings
Monty Python's Flying Circus: The Complete Series - Sketches at a revolution
TRENDINGMONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS: THE COMPLETE SERIESSketches at a revolution
The Swallows of Kabul - Unflinching and gorgeously animated
TRENDINGTHE SWALLOWS OF KABULUnflinching and gorgeously animated
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
The First Wives Club - Sisters are still doin' it for themselves 25 years later
TRENDINGTHE FIRST WIVES CLUBSisters are still doin' it for themselves 25 years later
PAW Patrol: The Movie - The pups' first theatrical mission is barking with joy
TRENDINGPAW PATROL: THE MOVIEThe pups' first theatrical mission is barking with joy
© 2011 - 2021 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us!