The movie opens with an island ritual: after much lithe dancing and bikini-titillating, a lovely native faces the sacrificial sword. About that time I had the revelation that’s escaped me over the past few decades-old zombie films:
Until George Romero, zombies in cinema seem to have stood for a racial “other”. As a modern zombie fan I’m accustomed to the inclusiveness of zombies—your neighbors, friends, and family were as equally likely to fall prey to the zombie plague as any stranger. Zombies are us. In these old movies, most of which offer voodoo as the zombie origin, zombies are the fearsome, incomprehensible them. I’m no longer surprised—but still a little sad—that this dovetails with racial fear. Zombie origins aren’t as noble as I thought when I started this mass consumption of zombie cinema.
I Eat Your Skin’s zombies are bug-eyed murderers who enjoy machete decapitations. The group of white victims includes a ludicrously nasal trophy wife, a cancer researcher, a lothario author, and a random guy with Kyle McLachlan’s chin. Thrown together on Voodoo Island, a struggle for life and gasoline ensues! Wacky. Apparently the natives require a young, blonde virgin for their rites—kinky, eh? The last black and white zombie movie I watched was King of the Zombies, and they sure have upped the sex content since 1941! In fact, now the voodoo king is singing and shaking his muscular loin-clothed body and I am digging the equality of cheesecake in this movie!
Zombie explanation: Voodoo seems to be the initial cause, but a surprise twist shows that a mad scientist created them with irradiated snake venom! That’s pretty rare—set up the blacks as villains but reveal whites as the true evil.
Contribution to the zombie canon: Zombies of this era were still evolving into what we now take for granted. These reanimated walking dead threaten the living, but there were a few distinctions. First, there was rarely any eating of flesh. Second, zombies generally formed groups that worked together to serve a master.
Favorite moment: A zombie carries a big box labeled ‘EXPLOSIVES.” Zombies be blowin’ shit up!
Moral lessons: There are ALWAYS drums on the island.