Zombies are taking over the world. AMC’s The Walking Dead is one of the highest rated series on cable television. In major cities around the globe, Zombie Walks and Pub Crawls are held annually in late October to the delight of participants and onlookers alike. Resident Evil, the video games, movies, novels, and comics franchise unleashed in 1996 shows no sign of being stopped. George Romero’s classic 1968 low budget drive-in shocker, Night of the Living Dead, is considered one of the seminal works in the zombie genre.
But another classic from the sixties, 1966’s British Gothic, Plague of the Zombies, often goes overlooked and uncredited for its contributions to the genre. Plague of the Zombies is a minor yet potent entry in the Hammer Horror Films oeuvre, the film company best known for bringing us the outstanding Dracula series starring Christopher Lee and the companion Frankenstein films featuring Peter Cushing. For my money, Plague of the Zombies is one of the studio’s best productions during their mid-sixties horror boom.
Where today’s zombies are a result of science gone horribly awry, Plague’s zombies are straight up old school, the result of a tyrannical landowner using Haitian voodoo magik to bring the dead back to life as a source of cheap labor for his tin mine.
Typical of the studio’s horror output, Plague of the Zombies boasts a period setting in the late 19th Century, with exteriors shot in
Berkshire, standing in for the Cornish moors. Combined with historically accurate costumes (no low-cut Hammer bodices in this entry), a superb back lot village set, and brimming with scenes of voodoo drumming, blood rituals, rotting corpses rising from the grave in misty graveyards, and doe eyed English lassies being chased by a pack of local rakes across the moonlit moor, Plague of the Zombies is sumptuous Gothic eye candy. Filmed in dazzling color by DeLuxe by Hammer’s Arthur Grant, the cinematography is appropriately dark and moody, using light and framing to maximum effect.
There may not be much brain munching here, but Plague of the Zombies deserves to be viewed by fans of zombies and Gothic films alike. Thankfully, the DVD is still in print, readily available for purchase from Anchor Bay Home Video via Amazon, or for rental through Netflix’s home delivery service.