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Exclusive: What's More Terrifying than a Fast Zombie? How About a Haitian Zombie?

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | April 13, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | April 13, 2010 |

Have you ever heard of a Haitian zombie? I hadn’t before today. Apparently, Haitian zombies are real, and have been documented. It goes a little something like this: A bokor is a voodoo sorcerer in Haiti, and it is said that he has the power to turn people into zombies essentially by sucking out a victim’s soul and trapping it in a bottle. The victim is then buried, and later, the bokor visits the grave, the bottle containing the victim’s soul is passed under the nose of the zombie, and then the bokor leads the dead person away, making it his zombie slave.

The reality — as documented by by Wade Davis in The Serpent and the Rainbow (among others) — is that this bokor actually uses some wicked-ass drug that contains the substance tetrodotoxin to paralyze the body. People believe the victim is dead. After the burial, if the person doesn’t die of suffocation or from the poison, the bokor will go back and fetch the victim from the grave, and then the victim will have to ingest another psychoactive drug — a “zombie cucumber” — which will cause the victim to lose his memory and enter a dissociative state. That person is then submissive, and the bokor makes it his slave. Basically, the zombie is a living corpse. And it scares the shit out of the village people.

These events actually happen in Haitian villages. In fact, so terrified of their loved one returning from the dead, many Haitains burn or dismember their family members before burial, an especially bad idea if the victim is actually still alive.

Anyway, back in September, there was a Men’s Journal article by Mischa Berlinski, which documented a lot of this (read the post — it’s enlightening and terrifying and engrossing and awesome). And now New Regency is making a horror movie based on the Haitain zombies and the Men’s Journal article. It’s fairly fascinating stuff, though who knows how badly New Regency will botch it, bend it, and exaggerate it to create their horror movie, which is being described as a movie about the “true phenomenon” whereby people are captured, tortured, buried alive, and turned into living zombies.

The project is still early in development, though horror movies often have a quick turn-around. It seems that the zombie genre has been otherwise exhausted (with George Romero basically shitting out the same movie over and over with diminishing results), save for adding the living dead to Jane Austen novels. This could be an interesting wrinkle if it’s done right, and with the right marketing, it could be huge. I mean: Of how many zombie movies can you say: “Based on true events”?

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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