While I Walked with a Zombie didn’t make the latest cut of the Book, the other Val-Lewton-produced RKO horror film, The Seventh Victim, did survive, so that alone tells me that this should be a little better than the other was, and that’s being said after I liked the other one. This one had enough going for it that I was pre-disposed to like it; I expected it to be very similar to Zombie, having been released in the same year, and with a running time of just over an hour, what was there to not like? Well, turns out I was both right and wrong; I did like this one, but it still has its share of problems.
Newcomer Kim Hunter stars as Mary Gibson, who finds out her sister, who pays her school tuition, has gone missing, and thus she travels to New York to try and locate her – along the way, picking up several other tagalongs (the sister’s husband, a struggling poet, and a mysterious physician) who all join her in her search, which ends up delving into an unknown Satanic cult that the sister seems to have some ties to. The narration that was present in I Walked with a Zombie is gone, which I was thankful for, but the story itself seemed to take a slight hit in construction otherwise. Perhaps there was an incentive to make the film as short as possible, and as a result the film seems to leapfrog over several plot points in order to progress the story at a much faster pace. For instance, there’s a point where the missing sister is located by all that are searching for her, and they assure her of her safety. Then, suddenly, the cult that is hunting the sister down somehow finds her out of the blue, and the protagonists must rush to save her before she is killed, conveniently jumping the story into the third act without any effort at all. It was enough to make me question the structure of the plot, and whether it went through any proofreading before the film entered production, but I still found enough about the film to like. The film is filled with very moody lighting, and a rather short lens for the camera, which makes all the actors and sets appear smaller and closer to the camera than they are, giving a sense of a lack of room; like the world is closing in. It’s quite effective, as is the oft-eerie musical score.
In my opinion, the ending of the film kinda falls apart. I’ve gone a little too far with the plot as it is, so I won’t say why, but needless to say, a lot is left to the wind in order to set up the grim finale. Still, even with this one’s problems, it was moody and atmospheric, and enough of a puzzler to where I had no trouble keeping interest. That, plus the short running time, makes me a happy viewer. In all fairness, this probably should be a 7, but I liked this as much as I did I Walked with a Zombie, and maybe a little more, so to give this less of a rating would be contradictory to me. Just know that this isn’t perfect by any means, but it is still enough of an effort to warrant a look, should you get the chance.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10