I don’t want to go so far as to say that films in the 30s and 40s came from a much more forward and simpler time, but they did. It shows a lot in the narrative as characters can seem very one note at times but even more than that the message involved can feel very obvious.
When looking at the monster features and their deeper meaning we can see that each monster represents a different part of the human psyche that we all feel or fear. Zombies represent those of us who’re distanced from the world and become numb to outside stimulus. After hearing the story of how Paul (Tom Conway) treated his newest employee, Betsy (Frances Dee), with a sense of coldness we can only imagine that the correct response, after enough time, would be to not care. So it’s obvious that we would see Paul’s wife, Jessica (Christine Gordon), as a zombie.
However, instead of grounding this in reality we shift the story to the Caribbean, add some voodoo (because that’s all over the Caribbean in the 40s?) and you have a perfect metaphor for all the problems that are with the world.
The problems I have with this movie are inherent with films from the time. It was obviously made in the vein of those low budget features where everything was done as quickly and cheaply as possible, including the addition of Carrefour (Darby Jones), a tall lanky black man who has bug eyes just so that we have a figure to be afraid of rather than worry about the real terror which is the soulless eyes of Jessica. We continue to empathize with Paul Holland and his wife and want so much for Betsy to succeed in curing Jessica instead of looking at the real problem, which is the family dynamic that eventually placed Jessica in this state.
It’s a terribly dated film with a message and plot that continues to ruin films of today.