ZOMBI CHILD is a horror-drama out on Shudder now. People seem to love or hate this one. Mostly because while this is a good movie, it isn’t really a horror movie. When advertised as such, people expecting horror will be disappointed. Read our full Zombi Child movie review here!
Zombi Child is a new horror-drama on Shudder. My May review of Z began with “Z is not about zombies”.
In contrast, Zombi Child is about zombies. But not the 28-Days-Later–Train-of-Busan–World-War-Z kind of zombies.
Zombi Child features the kind of zombies that represent a tragic yet real part of Haitian history. One that has been repeatedly adulterated by the USA’s obsession with both zombie movies and Americanizing every other culture’s triumphs and tragedies (e.g., St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo).
Continue reading our Zombi Child review below and find the movie on Shudder now.
The past and present collide in Zombi Child
Premiering on Shudder on December 7, 2020, Zombi Child begins in 1962 Haiti with the supposed death of Clairvius (Mackenson Bijou), presumably by pufferfish-induced tetrodotoxin (TTX) poisoning. However, as some TTX doses can paralyze but not kill, Clairvius is buried alive, only to be exhumed by men who enslave Clairvius for sugarcane harvesting.
Zombi Child then fast-forwards to an all-girls boarding school in present-day Paris, where Fanny (Louise Labeque) and Mélissa (Wislanda Louimat) are listening to their teacher lecture on the French Revolution. Fanny wants to bring Mélissa into her small group of girlfriends, contingent on Mélissa revealing something deeply personal. Mélissa’s response: Her family practices Voodoo.
Mélissa’s new friends are immediately intrigued, especially Fanny, recently heartbroken by an ex-summer-fling-turned-assumed boyfriend. Fanny, revealed to be quite wealthy, uses the excuse of a phony funeral to find and pay Mélissa’s nearby aunt to, as Fanny would naively believe, use “Voodoo magic” to fix her broken heart. However, Fanny’s ignorance and selfishness become regrettable.
A good movie, a bad horror movie
I had been forewarned by Shudder’s users’ public comments that I would have to pay extra attention to really “get” Zombi Child. And I did. But the problem with going into a movie thinking it’s a horror film is typically disappointing. I didn’t appreciate Cabin in the Woods until I learned it was satirical, not scary.
Zombi Child cleverly juxtaposes the real-life horrors of slavery in Haiti against the overdramatized faux teenage horrors of childhood romantic crushes.
Fanny is a privileged white girl who knows nothing of the enslaved tragedies that Mélissa’s Black Haitian family experienced. Reminiscent of The Babysitter: Killer Queen’s “That’s some post-Jordan Peele era movie horror progress” topical line of dialogue, these parallels, further emphasized by the dramatic use of white-colored wallpaper in the boarding schools’ classrooms, brilliantly conveys the extant racial disparities that exist beyond the silver screen.
However, Heaven of Horror is a horror movie review site, and, while I love movies of all genres, it would be a disservice to HoH readers to review a movie otherwise.
Zombi Child is a good, but not great, film. Unfortunately, rife with underwhelming performances.
Watch Zombi Child on Shudder
Expecting a horror movie, I was bored with the film’s first half, after which the film approximated a horror-drama-type film. Segmented with several scenes that unnecessarily dragged, this is a slow burn of a film without a satisfying, crackling final flame.
Currently maintaining an 86% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Zombi Child (103 minutes) necessitates keen attention for the sake of appreciation. From a horror perspective, Zombi Child earns 2 of 5 stars. Shudder viewers are expectedly polarized on their ratings, as the absence of underlying creepiness and traditional jump scares will likely disappoint the viewer expecting an apocalyptic zombie feature.
But maybe it is the zombie movie that society needs to see right now.
Zombi Child is out on Shudder on December 7, 2020.
Director: Bertrand Bonello
Writer: Bertrand Bonello
Stars: Louise Labeque, Wislanda Louimat, Katiana Milfort, Mackenson Bijou, Sayyid El Alami
Haiti, 1962: A man is brought back from the dead only to be sent to the living hell of the sugarcane fields. In Paris, 55 years later, at the prestigious Légion d’honneur boarding school, a Haitian girl confesses an old family secret to a group of new friends – never imagining that this strange tale will convince a heartbroken classmate to do the unthinkable.