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The Hidden Zombie Movie Gem You Need To Watch On Amazon Prime Video

The zombie horror sub-genre wouldn't be what it is today without legendary director George A. Romero's classic franchise, which kicked off with 1968's Night of the Living Dead and truly cemented the stereotype for how zombies would be portrayed across pop culture. Of course, there are other titles that changed the playing field for the slow-shuffling corpses by turning them into sprinting, rabid monsters. Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake is a prime example, and it even starts with one of the most terrifying opening horror movie scenes of all time. And while the last decade or so has been crammed with films attempting to find new ways of adding to the typical undead mythos, it's fair to say that zombie romances haven't been particularly successful — largely because no one's been able to replicate the lovable magic of Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead

However, decades before the likes of Romero and Snyder and Wright, there came a chilling diamond in the rough — one that boasts a dread-filled atmosphere and an almost gothic tone, all while delivering a tale about a doomed romance. If you live in the United States and you've got an Amazon Prime subscription, director Jacques Tourneur's 1943 classic I Walked with a Zombie is absolutely worth your time.

I Walked with a Zombie is light on violence but creates a terrifying atmosphere

Produced by Val Lewton, I Walked with a Zombie follows Frances Dee's nurse Betsy Connell as she travels to the Caribbean island of Saint Sebastian to care for the sickly wife of a plantation owner. However, once she arrives, not only does she fall for her new employer, but Betsy also discovers that her new patient Jessica (Christine Gordon) seems to be undead. 

The woman might walk around eerily unaware of the world she's "living" in, but don't expect her to rip through the island's inhabitants or eat a three-course meal of intestines. I Walked with a Zombie is all about creating a chilling atmosphere. As Don Druker put for The Chicago Reader, "It transcends the conventions of the horror genre and remains one of Lewton-Tourneur's most compelling studies in light and darkness."

Most importantly, I Walked with a Zombie takes Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and adds a welcome, frightful flair. A memorable moment sees Betsy lead Jessica through a field to a voodoo camp to try more traditional remedies. Two women, alone, in the middle of nowhere? You can already see where this is going. We'll leave out the surprise for now, but the whole scene is a masterclass in holding the audience in suspense until a shocking reveal.

There's an almost ethereal quality to the film as well, as if it's taking place in a bizarre world of its own, and its brilliant finale blends the voodoo spark with the tragically doomed romance in a dramatic crescendo. 

Tourneur's film shouldn't be overlooked simply because it was made decades before other typical zombie flicks; it has plenty of ways of unsettling the audiences without relying on over-the-top jump-scares. In all, I Walked with a Zombie is less about gratuitous violence or impressive visual effects and more about the effect of losing your humanity.