I appreciate that this movie takes a more realistic (or at least less clichéd) approach to zombies, viewing them through the lens of Haitian voodoo. I appreciate that this film gives the poor people who find themselves enslaved by black magic a bit more dignity than zombies often get in horror movies. I like that Wes Craven is so unabashed in his desire to scare people that he unleashes a whole menagerie of animals on his protagonist, who attends a cockfight in addition to being attacked by nightmare snakes and dream jaguars. But speaking of that protagonist…
Look, I love Bill Pullman. The guy’s role as the President in Independence Day is an all time high water mark for movie presidents because he brings just enough gravity to be Presidential and just enough goofiness to fit in as part of a movie where the alien mothership is destroyed by a Mac laptop. He really nailed Lost Highway, too, which is another tonally tricky part because that movie’s plot twists in on itself a few times. Most importantly, Bill Pullman will always have a soft spot in my heart because of Spaceballs, a movie that I loved a lot as a child.
But Bill Pullman is not a good fit for this movie. I’m not even sure that it’s his fault, honestly. His face is just too rubbery to make a convincing frightened face. The rest of the movie is trying to be legitimately scary, with all the Haitian characters selling the reality of the plot as thoroughly as they can, and then Bill Pullman’s wide eyes and slack mouth make it look like a far campier movie than it really is. His voice is adequate for conveying the terror he’s supposed to be feeling, but every time they cut to a close up he just looks a bit goofy.
Still, goofiness is not the end of the world in a horror movie. Because even the more serious parts of this movie are still a little schlocky – there’s a lot of jump scares, where snakes suddenly jump out of the mouths of corpses – Bill Pullman’s semi-cheesy acting isn’t so out of place that it completely ruins the whole thing. If you can look past the goofier parts of this (or hell, if you’re looking specifically for something that is a little cheesy) then this is pretty entertaining, and a nice alternative from your stereotypical walking dead movie.