I find it strange that I am such a big lover of zombies and yet I just saw White Zombie about a week ago. I remember wanting to see it ever since it was mentioned in a horror film book but our library never got it. As time progressed I forgot about it and even after I got my Netflix account, I never got around to watching it. That was until I took a zombie/vampire class and we watched it. I have to admit… it was a very well put together piece but there was one scene that stuck with me throughout the entire film. The scene in which we see an army of zombies being exploited and used for slave labor; turning and grinding all the gears and cogs without a single expression on their faces.
Personally, the reason why this scene works so well is because of the attention to small details and the absence of a soundtrack. Considering this film was made during the early stages of ‘talkies,’ not many movies uses a score let alone a strong soundtrack of sound effects. Here, you can hear the wooden gears grind and turn as the zombies are pushing them. You can hear all the sounds of the factory floor and it’s haunting and almost disturbing to hear. I remember one of the zombies falls into whatever it is they are turning and for a brief few seconds the zombies pushing the wheel slow down as if the bones and body parts got caught in the machine. Hell, the mere thought of being resurrected from your eternal resting place only be forced into labor is something that most people would fear given the time this came out in.
It was such a brief scene but the impact that it had on me would always stick with me. It’s these sorts of scenes that you’d never be able to find in modern day horror movies unless a director does homage. These types of scenes made vintage horror movies so frightening and it goes to show you that a soundtrack doesn’t always mean a scarier film. In today’s moviegoing world, a scene such as this one would cause mass boredom and poor reviews but it does make me feel good that there was a time in which it would have been acceptable.