I Walked with a Zombie. 1943. USA. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. 69 min.
Screenplay by Curt Siodmak, Ardel Wray. With James Ellison, Frances Dee, Tom Conway, Christine Gordon. Loosely adapted from Jane Eyre and an inspiration to countless artists and filmmakers—from Scorsese to Roky Erickson to Pedro Costa—I Walked with a Zombie is an eerie tale of voodoo and somnambulism. As in their earlier Cat People, Tourneur and producer Val Lewton achieve an extraordinary formal complexity with limited means, and though its poster might suggest a sensational brand of horror, the film is in fact quite graceful. The story concerns a nurse who visits the West Indies to care for the catatonic wife of a local planter, but the movie is much more than its plot. A strange, oneiric character prevails throughout I Walked with a Zombie, emphasized by its striking compositions and underscored by a recurrent, percussive backdrop of ritual drumming. It’s a film about people adrift, from each other and from themselves. Preserved by The Library of Congress.