An X-rated horror film from the famous Hammer House of Horror from 1966. Directed by John Gilling, who had a hand in other Hammer titles such as “The Shadow of the Cat” (1961), “The Reptile” (1966) and “The Mummy’s Shroud” (1967). This film was written by John Gilling who, like Gilling had plenty of experience in horror. Together they created, what at the time was, a truly gruesome film with stars Andre Morell, Diane Clark and Brook Williams.
In a small village in 1860’s Cornwall people are mysteriously dying. Doctor Thompson seeks help from his old Professor, James Forbes to try and crack the problem. Forbes and his daughter travel to meet Thompson where they uncover a grisly truth. The dead are being resurrected to do the bidding of their master, a local squire who is trained in Haitian witchcraft and voodoo. While the magic appears harmless, and the zombies are being put to work in tin mines that the local’s wouldn’t want to go into, there are other more horrific consequences of the undead roaming the village.
With this film being from the 1960’s I probably don’t need to say how dated this looks by today’s standards. Bear in mind though, this was meant to look dated in the 60’s because it is meant to be depicting the 1860’s – it is probably fair to say that this a period costume drama that bridges into the realm of horror like titles such as Dracula or Frankenstein have done so many times. While aesthetically out of place what this film does achieve is a decent plot, some good acting, and a wonderful mystery and adventure. Rather than relying on buckets of blood and gore, this film had some solid performances and a unique take on zombies – how many other films can you name that boast zombies mining?
I was incredibly young when I first watched this, and it was pre-George A. Romero too. While being scarred because I was so young, I was also fascinated by the concept of the dead being brought back to life as mindless workers. This might have been one of my first sights of zombies, and it is definitely one that stayed with me. I might not have been the only one inspired by this, the aforementioned Romero apparently took some inspiration from this, in particularly the dream sequence of the dead rising from their grave which was filmed with a green tint. Apparently this went on to inspire Romero for his “Night of the Living Dead”, which to this day remains a firm favourite of mine.
If like me you are a serious fan of zombies, then this is a must. It sits firmly in the history of zombie films and uses methodology to create the zombies which has almost been forgotten from cinema. Voodoo zombies started the ball rolling in films like Victor Halperin’s 1932 “White Zombie”, but radioactive and plague zombies seem to have become all the rage these days. Due to how this film has aged, there is not really anything too menacing that means that a wider audience can enjoy it too. It’s a lovely film, a flashback to a different time and it’s nice to re-watch this years after it scared me, in order to write this review.