zombi child | bertrand bonello | louise labeque | wislanda louimat | katiana milfort | zombie | zombies | history | fantasy | france | mackenson bijou | ritual | voodoo | cult | adile david | ninon francois | mathilde riu | ginite popote | nehemy pierre-dahomey
Film: Zombi Child
Director: Bertrand Bonello
Writer: Bertrand Bonello
Starring: Louise Labeque, Wislanda Louimat and Katiana Milfort
This was a film that I debated whether to see in the theater or not. I don’t normally watch trailers as I like to come in blind to movies, but I did catch part of this one. I’m assuming it was when I was at the Gateway Film Center with my girlfriend and I can’t be on my phone. This one as I said intrigued me and with the title, I thought it could possible be horror. The synopsis is a man is brought back from the dead in the hell of sugar cane plantations. 55 years later, a Haitian teenager tells her friends her family secret – not suspecting that it will push one of them to commit the irreparable.
We start this movie where we’re seeing someone prepare the ingredients for something. It turns out to be a voodoo ritual and we see that it kills Clairvius Narcisse (Mackenson Bijou). This is all happening in Haiti and we see what their funerals are like. On top of that though, his wife is taking it hard. Things go a bit dark when Clairvius is removed from his casket and he’s become a zombi.
This isn’t in the sense like we’re used to with Night of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead. This is a throwback to movies like I Walked with a Zombie where they’re mindless creatures that are undead. He’s taken to work on a sugar cane plantation with others that are like him.
The movie then shifts to the present in Paris. Our main character here is Fanny (Louise Labeque). She goes to a special school for children that are bright, but it also for students who have parents that are recognized for important awards. She is longing for break so she can see the ‘love of her life’, Pablo (Sayyid El Alami). She is in a sorority of sorts with three other girls and has befriended Mélissa (Wislanda Louimat). She is originally from Haiti, but due to the earthquake in 2010, she relocated to France. Her parents didn’t make it so she lives with her aunt.
The rest of the group accepts her, but they think there’s something not quite right about her. This is coupled with seeing what happened to Clairvius back in the 60’s after the horrific event that happened to him. These two time periods have quite a bit in common and everything comes to a head when one of these girls as the synopsis says, does something that will change her life forever.
Alright, now the first thing I need to lead off here saying is that for about 80% of this movie, I wasn’t going to do this review. It is listed on the Internet Movie Database that this is a fantasy film, which it is. I would even say that drama probably would fit as well. The event that is alluded to in the synopsis though was extremely creepy to the point where I had to write this. Due to that section and there being zombis in this throughout as well as Netflix listing this as horror, I decided it warranted this review.
I should cover that part first. We keep learning things about voodoo throughout this movie, so that shouldn’t come as a shock. A ritual is performed and it is coupled with a character explaining the dangers of doing something like this. I like that they’re giving the history of the religion and even more so when they introduce the character of Baron Samedi (Néhémy Pierre-Dahomey). I first learned of this entity from James Bond, as there’s a villain that takes on this name. It is also a villain in season 3 of American Horror Story: Coven. What they do with him in this movie is scary if I’m honest and I like the flamboyant nature that is given as well.
What I found interesting with the zombi aspect is that it really isn’t handled in horror for the most part. There is one of the girls who is freaked out by noises that Mélissa makes in her sleep and has a nightmare she’s attacked. Other than that though, I saw the zombis as more of an allegory of slavery. They’re brought back to work the plantations and do not get paid. The rich reap the benefits of this. This didn’t click for me until the last few minutes, but then I started thinking back and it made sense. I even like that Mélissa’s mother was fighting against the corrupt government, which in turn earns her daughter’s way into the school she is at as well. The movie does state information about zombis in Haiti before the credits. I’m not sure how accurate what they’re providing, but it does intrigue me to see if there’s legit studies or data out there.
The only other thing story and deeper meaning wise I wanted to cover would have to be the correlating this school and its girls to what we’re seeing in the past. They’re all quite privileged. Listening to Fanny as an adult made me cringe, but I can’t be too hard as it is thoughts I had when I was younger. She believes that she loves Pablo and he breaks it off with her. This sends her into depression. She doesn’t think she can live, but in the grand scheme, she’ll be fine. Seeing what they’re worrying about while watching Clairvius trying to survive with what happened to him was an intriguing duality for sure.
I do have to admit that I thought the movie was a bit boring. It wasn’t to the point where I hated it. It just took too long for the two stories to correlate back. I found the story around Clairvius to be much more interesting until how it collides with the present. That scene that went horror had me glued to the screen and really brought me back into the fold. I thought the ending worked to what they were building toward as well.
The acting in the movie I thought was fine. Labeque I thought really embodied the character she was playing. It is kind of annoying, but that really fits to who she is supposed to be. Louimat I thought was much stronger. She’s an outsider. She doesn’t necessarily care to make friends, but given the opportunity, she takes it. This is also the downfall by revealing aspects of her past. I found it interesting through a conversation with I’m assuming her aunt. Bijoy I thought was really good in his performance, especially as a voodoo zombie. Pierre-Dahomey though stole the show for me though. His performance was Baron was creepy and just great. The rest of the cast was fine for what was needed in building the story.
There weren’t really a lot in the way of effects, but it wasn’t really that important. During the scene that made this horror for me, I thought it was great. Seeing the character and how she was acting was amazing. I also like what they did with her eyes as it made it even creepier to be honest. The cinematography was also really good. It gave us the duality of how beautiful Haiti’s countryside is to the horrors of what is happening there. On the flipside, how drab the school in Paris is with how important the teachers are making out to what they’re doing is.
I also have to give props to the music selections. We do get some pop and rap music from France, which helped the feel of the realism for the young women. What I really have to give credit for is the voodoo music we’re getting. It has that African vibe to it, which makes a lot of sense. Even more so though it helps to ramp up the tension for the climax as well.
Now with that said, I ended up really enjoying this movie. I like the duality of what happened in the past in Haiti and the social implications there and pairing that with these girls in a proper Parisian school. Where the movie ends up going had me hooked, but I’ll be honest, it did lose me for a good stretch as I was bored and it took too long to correlate. The little effects we got were good and the cinematography helped as well as the soundtrack. The acting was also really good as well. With that said, this is an above average in my opinion, but really worth a viewing. I will warn you this is from France, so I watched it with subtitles on. If that’s an issue I would avoid this.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10