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.
- Rated: PG
- Genre: Drama, Horror
- Release Date: 9/11/2019
- Directed by: Bertrand Bonello
- Starring: Adilé David, Katiana Milfort, Louise Labèque, Mackenson Bijou, Mathilde Riu, Ninon François, Wislanda Louimat
- Produced by: Bertrand Bonello, Judith Lou Lévy
- Written by: Bertrand Bonello
- Studio: My New Picture