TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘Zombi Child’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Film Festivals, Movies, Theatrical, TIFF 2019 by - September 18, 2019
TIFF 2019: Our Review of ‘Zombi Child’

After the arthouse-thriller mashup of Nocturama, Bertrand Bonello takes another dip into the genre pool with Zombi Child, making his own coolly detached version of a horror movie.

Crosscutting between two different time periods, Zombi Child begins in 1960s Haiti with the real life story of Clairvius Narcisse, who dies suddenly on the street but then becomes a ‘zombi’. Dug up from his grave and forced to work on a sugar-cane plantation, Narcisse mindlessly works away in his trance-like state alongside hordes of other undead labourers, until he begins to be afflicted by fragments from his old life.

Meanwhile, Clairvius’s granddaughter Melissa attends an elite boarding school in present-day France, after moving overseas with her aunt when her parents died in the 2010 Haitian earthquake. She befriends a group of privileged white girls who are fascinated with her family history, particularly Fanny, who becomes obsessed with wanting to use voodoo in order to deal with a break-up.

Zombi Child flits between exploitation cinema, coming-of-age flick and heady intellectual exercise – an early classroom scene with a teacher pondering the meaning of “Revolution” harkens back to ‘60s New Wave diatribes while also providing a nice bridge between the two time periods. And while it never really decides where it wants to come down, it’s all the more thrilling because of it, with Bonello’s lush style keeping you mesmerized.

And in the end, he delivers the scary goods with a voodoo ceremony climax from which emerges some truly unnerving imagery and lingering dread.

This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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