ZOMBI CHILD is a horror drama with a tasteful style and a driven story. It’s a fresh vision of zombification brought to life by writer/director Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama, Saint Laurent, House of Tolerance.) The movie makes its American premiere on October 1, 2019, at New York Film Festival.
The story follows three characters. There’s Melissa, a young woman left orphaned following a disaster in Haiti. She begins attending a boarding school, where (after slight difficulties) she befriends a group of sorority sisters. She meets Fanny, who misses her boyfriend and fantasizes about him constantly.
The tale also stretches back to the 1960s. It follows Clairvius, Melissa’s grandfather who has become a zombi after being buried alive. Zombis are enslaved and treated inhumanely.
On a technical level, this movie is fantastic. The editing is the finest I’ve seen this year, effortlessly blending scenes and characters.
The camerawork shows a flair for creating drama and tension. With leisurely panning that lingers on faces, Bonello leaves his distinctive mark. The score, also by Bonello, adds a layer of uncertainty to scenes when needed. With single poppy drum notes, tension is built effortlessly.
The Black hair is gorgeously styled. It’s important that details like this are paid attention to because this tale is about Black roots in slavery. It handles subjects like slavery with this careful metaphor.
It’s mysticism and painful, emotional realism that drives the story. The world around our characters is carefully grounded, from the girls’ constant texting to multiple scenes of the girls taking classes, to the girls laying on the grass together talking.
Long takes give actors a chance to show off their skills. All of the acting is exceptionally good, especially during a scene of a Haitian funeral featuring guttural grieving by family members. Louise Labeque’s acting stands out as especially natural. ZOMBI CHILD features Louise Labeque (Au bout des doigts), Wislanda Louimat (Rencontres de cinéma), Katiana Milfort (Port-au-Prince, dimanche 4 janvier), Mackenson Bijou (Rencontres de cinéma), and Adilé David.
During Melissa’s initiation into the sorority, she is asked to tell the (all white) group of girls something important about herself. This will help them decide if she can be allowed into the group or not. Melissa recites a favorite poem to her friends. “White world…” she says, “Listen to my zombi roar.” Indeed – it’s one of the best movies of the year so far.