White Zombie (1932) - Rotten Tomatoes

White Zombie1932

White Zombie (1932)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

The homicidal madman ruling over a tiny tropical island helps a wealthy fellow claim an unwilling girl by turning her into a living-dead zombie but ultimately decides to keep her for himself. This ghoulish, still-chilling low-budget classic is drenched in atmosphere and boasts one of Bela Lugosi's finest performances.

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Bela Lugosi
as Murder Legendre
Madge Bellamy
as Madeline Short
John Harron
as Neil Parker
Joseph Cawthorn
as Dr. Bruner
Robert W. Frazer
as Charles Beaumont
Clarence Muse
as Coach Driver
Hans Joby
as Chauvin
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Critic Reviews for White Zombie

All Critics (21)

The supporting cast is awful and the low budget dictates a few moments worthy of MST3K ribbing. But the atmosphere of dread is pungent, the use of sound is inspired, and the makeup by the great Jack Pierce and Carl Axcelle is minimal but effective.

October 26, 2021 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Unpleasant, macabre, absurd, and without the flight of a liberating imagination. [Full Review in Spanish]

February 28, 2020 | Full Review…

Lugosi's legendarily mesmeric glare is used to stunning effect here, but every other actor is a total stiff, and the tone and pace feel incredibly uneven.

September 29, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Lugosi is always fun to watch, and he's at his hammy best here.

August 6, 2019 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

It leads the viewer inside a fairy tale, not a slaughterhouse; it's expressionistic, not extreme. It affirms the power of the gesture, the shadow, the shudder. In other words: Who needs blood-red cannibalism when you've got a black-and-white Bela Lugosi?

March 29, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

The divinely satanic-looking Bela Lugosi sinks his teeth into his best role since Dracula, a languorous hypnotist and voodoo master who dominates the film with his assured bearing and cruel control.

March 24, 2013 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for White Zombie

Overlooked perhaps, but this is one of the greats of the genre and due largely to (dare I say it?) the hypnotic performance of it's star, Bela Lugosi. Mesmerizing. And yes, zombies too, but such is Lugosi's chi that his minions are actually less frightening than Lugosi himself. How good is this? It challenges his performance in Dracula.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


Shortly after his iconic turn as Dracula, Bela Lugosi made this-the first ever zombie film. It's worth noting that this is also an independent film, not made by Universal or some other major studio. That's perhaps why this one seems to be overlooked more often than not. This is a zombie picture nothing like the kind made by Romero, and others following in his footsteps. Because of this, some viewers may find the film disappointing. I kinda liked it. Despite a short running time, it is rather slow, but the pace just adds to the atmosphere-which is done really well. Given the age of the film, it's surprising that there's some ambition here-especially with the camera work, which features cool and unique dissolves/transitions, framing through objects, and a long take (lasting several minutes) during a conversation that reveals important plot info. Despite its obscureness, the film does have an interesting legacy. Rob Zombie's band (before he went solo) took their name from this movies, which I think is just fine.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

White Zombie is another early Bela Lugosi vehicle, this time he plays an evil voodoo witch doctor who's creating an army of zombies to do his bidding. A young couple recently arrives in Haiti to get married at their friend's estate. But their friend has ulterior motives for inviting them. He's determined to steal her away from the groom. With the help of the evil Legendre (Lugosi), he slips her the zombie potion on her wedding day. However, he has her as a zombie, and where's the fun in that? Lugosi as Dracula and as Legendre does the hypnotic stare and also does a lot of things with his hands. In fact, he might be doing much the same character, just different make-up. The rest of the cast is pretty undistinguished, and apart from it's notoriety as the first "zombie movie" there isn't much reason to watch this. It's rather dull and uninteresting by today's standards.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

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