Halloween Countdown: I Walked with a Zombie

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(In anticipation of the coolest day of the year, this month-long series will offer one recommended horror flick a day up through Oct. 31.)

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I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943). This classic chiller has the distinction of being one of the best movies ever saddled with one of the worst titles. As it had done with Cat People, RKO chose a moniker around which Val Lewton had to build a movie. But the producer wasn't about to let the name hamper his commitment to excellence: Teaming again with Cat People director Jacques Tourneur and bringing Curt Siodmak (The Wolf Man) and Ardel Wray aboard as scripters, the gang meshed together an article by Inez Wallace with no less than Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre! Frances Dee plays the nurse who journeys to Haiti to look after the ailing wife (Christine Gordon) of a brooding plantation owner (Tom Conway). But as she becomes familiar with the locals and their customs, she begins to wonder if there's any merit to their belief that the wife is one of the undead. The nighttime march through the sugar cane fields is incredibly atmospheric, the high point in a film that's as poetic and dreamlike as it is suspenseful.

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