Cast: Louise Labeque, Wislanda Louimat, Mackenson Bijou, Katiana Milfort
Director: Bertrand Bonello
Once again, we have another independent foreign-language movie that proves I don’t really know what I’m watching sometimes. Zombi Child has a point and a purpose, but after sitting through 103 minutes of this movie, I’m not 100% sure what it is. From a cultural standpoint, there are certain things that go over my head because I don’t have that background, but I’m sure that someone who does will appreciate their ancestry being represented in the media. While maybe not the best movie for someone like me, Zombi Child is captivating enough to demonstrate its proposed ideas properly and conceptually interesting enough to be enjoyed by both familiar and less familiar audiences.
The film follows a group of high school students in France who bond over their outcast status and their fascination with supernatural beings such as zombies. One of the students, Melissa (Louimat), is an immigrant from Haiti whose family has a history with voodoo and other Caribbean rituals. While this is going on, the movie shows us scenes from Haiti in the past where we see Clairvius (Bijou), a field worker who passes away and is seemingly revived in a zombie-like state. As the movie progresses, we see the interconnection between the scenes from the past and the consequences they have on the girls today. Once again, I have no real relationship with the source material, but Haitians and those with a better understanding of voodoo traditions will have a good time watching this movie. While it goes over my head, if you know what you’re watching you’ll be pleased with what appears to be the authenticity and accuracy found in this movie. Even as someone who isn’t super familiar with the traditions found in this movie, the topic is fundamentally interesting and gives you enough to feel invested and that you’re legitimately learning something of value from this movie. The only real complaint I have is that the narrative isn’t the strongest in the world. I don’t particularly care for the cuts between the past and the present, and it takes a fair amount of time before we see the relationship between the two. I wish there was more of a payoff somewhere along the way, but this movie has the foundation to succeed and just doesn’t truly come into fruition. Don’t get me wrong, the characters are interesting and there seems to be a pretty clear direction for most of the movie, but it just doesn’t wrap it up nicely at the end. This is better than a movie boring me for the majority of the runtime and then trying to end on a high note, but it’s still not ideal in the grand scheme of things. I don’t exactly watch a whole lot of movies with Haitian influence, so I can admit my own ignorance could hold me back from giving this movie a fair evaluation. Zombi Child has enough going for it where most people can have a positive experience with it, but it just isn’t strong enough to end up being a truly great movie.
Overall, for a foreign-language movie that is predominantly featured on streaming services, Zombi Child is absolutely above-average and can introduce audiences to a world they may know very little about. When you think about cultural representation, to me the most important elements when making a movie are honesty and accountability, and it feels as though Zombi Child holds itself accountable and portrays an honest depiction of voodoo culture. I don’t know if I’d ever personally watch this again since it is outside my wheelhouse, but I guarantee someone out there will be pleased to see their background represented in Zombi Child.
Overall Score: 6.5/10