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Voodoo Woman (1957) and Oxygen (2021)
Horror Bulletin Bonus Reviews for Week 158
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at the not-at-all-racist “Voodoo Woman” from 1957, and the surprisingly fun “Oxygen” from 2021.
Don’t forget, the first week of each month, we publish ALL our reviews, including the bonus content, in our monthly “Horror Bulletin” print magazine (also available as an ebook). If you don’t have time to read the website or email, here’s one more option for you! The February issue is out now!
Voodoo Woman (1957)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Written by David Stern
Stars Maria English, Tom Conway, Mike Connors
Run Time: 1 Hour, 17 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a pretty dated voodoo/monster/zombie/mad scientist tale. There isn’t any black face in this one at least, but the racial stereotypes are certainly there. There’s a story to follow. But it’s pretty light on the action and horror and everything about it is fairly mediocre.
A bunch of jungle native-types dance to their drums, and we see a voodoo doll on the table. They grab Zuranda and put her down on the table then kill a chicken. The white man, Dr. Gerard, draws blood from the girl, who is now under the influence of the witch-doctor. White man’s science and black voodoo will combine…
Mrs. Gerard wants to run away, and she offers the servant Bobo her watch if he’ll help her escape. He offers to make her tea instead. She hears Zuranda’s screams and gets very upset.
Harry and Marilyn hate each other. She and Ox want to know where they’re going, but Harry won’t tell them. They know it has something to do with the natives. They search Harry’s room and end up killing Harry. Marilyn and Rick decide to head to the jungle in search of voodoo dolls made of gold and jewels.
Back in the jungle, Zuranda, the voodoo girl, changes, but Chaka the witch-doctor says it won’t last, so Gerard shouldn’t take her back to civilization. They continue working, and Gerard says, “This time, the effect will be permanent.”
Ted Bronson arrives; he was supposed to guide Harry to the tribe. Marilyn tells Rick to pretend to be Harry and let Ted lead them. Ted warns Marilyn and “Harry” about getting too nosy with the dangerous natives. They set off into the jungle. Ted is suspicious of the pair, but he needs the money.
The Gerards argue. She wants to go home, and he wants to make a big splash in the scientific community with his new superwoman. Zuranda turns into a hairy monster that is under Gerard’s mental control. He orders the creature to go to the village and kill everyone. It only does damage. Afterward, the monster reverts back into Zuranda.
Chaka says Zuranda won’t kill for Gerard. She won’t do anything she wouldn’t do on her own; she’s good. Gerard has other plans. Dr. Gerard tells Susan, his wife, to talk to Zuranda. He injects Zuranda, and she changes again. He shoots her, but it doesn’t even scratch her skin. He pours on acid, but there’s no effect. She is indestructible in this form.
Marilyn finally tells Ted why they’ve come; voodoo dolls made of gold! He’s still not convinced that they won’t be killed.
Bobo gets Susan to write a letter which he will try to get to the white man’s camp. Bobo doesn’t even make it out of the camp before he gets a spear in his back.
Gerard comes after Marilyn, Ted, and Rick, leading the monster right to them. He again orders the monster to kill, but instead, it turns back into Zuranda. Realizing he really can’t make her kill, Gerard sends her back to her village.
On the way home, she runs into Rick, who tries to rape her. She fights back, and he kills her. He does take her voodoo doll; it’s the tribe they’ve been looking for.
Chaka finds Zuranda’s body and exclaims that all white men must die. Being a white man himself, Gerard says he will get revenge on Rick to make this all go away. Marilyn gives up Rick without any discussion; she kills him herself. Well, well, look what we have here. Gerard needs a girl who’s willing to kill; Marilyn fits the bill. He invites her and Ted back to his compound.
Susan tells Ted that she’s a prisoner. Meanwhile, Gerard converts Marilyn into a monster. Chaka says he did it too quickly, but Gerard won’t listen. She thinks she’s becoming a priestess, which will get her the gold.
Ted runs off with the guard in pursuit. Susan follows behind, planning to meet him later. Gerard and the monster confront Susan and take her to Chaka for sacrifice. They also capture Ted. The two are tied up. Chaka wants to sacrifice Gerard as well, but he mentally summons the monster.
Marilyn Monster arrives and attacks the village. She kills Chaka. Gerard tells the monster that he lied; there is no gold. The monster turns on him and kills him. She then reverts to human and tries to get Chaka’s gold idol, but falls into the pit and dies.
Ted and Susan use Molotov cocktails to scare the natives and escape.
The broken English from the natives is fun, poorly-done, and completely racist, but it was the 50s. At least they were using actual black men rather than black-face by this point.
Tom Conway, as Dr. Gerard, is arrogant, creepy, and does a passably insane mad scientist. Mike Connors does a sort of proto-version of Indiana Jones.
Even ignoring the racism, bad acting, and cheap sets, the whole idea of voodoo dolls made with gold is just dumb. It drags quite a bit, with just too little action and too much filler. It’s not quite boring, but it could have stood to have fifteen minutes cut.
I doubt this was ever well-thought-of, but it certainly hasn’t held up well. It’s pretty awful.
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Written by Christie LaBlanc
Stars Melanie Laurent, Matheiu Almaric, Malik Zidi
Run Time: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a straight-up science fiction movie, in French with English subtitles, and it’s a good one. We travel along with the main character trying to figure out where she is and what’s going on. This one is well worth the watch. And watch it without spoilers if you can. A lot of the fun was seeing it unfold.
There are flashes of experimental lab rats as a woman wakes up in the dark. She’s wrapped in some sort of cocoon and has to break out before she can breathe freely. She realizes that she’s hooked to medical equipment. She pulls out an IV tube. She’s locked in a big high-tech coffin. Buried alive?
No. The lights come on and we see that she’s in a life support tube. The computer, named M.I.L.O., says that there’s been a system failure. She tells it to let her out, but it apologizes and says it can’t do that. It replies that the cryogenics have been suspended due to an oxygen failure; it’s at 34%.
She thinks that she’s sick, probably terminal, and this was a cryogenic sleep she was in. MILO says that her problem has been reported, but that there has been no response yet. She gets a little claustrophobic, but thinks about her family and life as she remembers it. She asks, “Who am I?” “Patient Omicron 267,” MILO replies. He doesn’t know her real name or what’s wrong with her.
MILO needs an administrator password to open the door, and she doesn’t know it. She calls the police but doesn’t know enough to be able to tell them where she is. She reads them the model of the pod’s serial number. They transfer her call, which gets dropped.
MILO does a genetic match on her and finds that she is Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Hanson. The police call back and she tells them she’s down to 31% oxygen: 72 minutes; 43 at the current usage behavior. According to the manufacturer, the cryopod model she’s in was discontinued three years ago; they suspect foul play. MILO says she isn’t sick. Why is she there?
The police say they need a subpoena to get the admin codes. The call drops again, and MILO can’t get through. MILO says she has 0% chance of survival and tries to mercy-kill her, but she avoids the needle. She calms down by trying to remember her life before. There are also video records and news she can access. She finds out that she’s an expert in cryogenics, accused of some unethical practices. She finds social media that reminds her of her husband Leo. She tries to call him, but that doesn’t go well. 21%.
She keeps having flashes of white rats and even imagines there’s one in the pod with her. The police call back; she was on social media just a few days ago and no one has reported her missing. She searches for her husband, but he doesn’t seem to exist. The photos she saw just a few minutes ago have changed. 15%.
We start seeing scenes of Leo covered in lesions and sores. She figures out that the police have been lying to her. She gets another call from the cryo people. They say Leo is dead.
The person says she has the codes, but Liz can’t use them to open the pod. MILO gives her access, and she tells him to open the pod. She turns the centrifuge off, and she’s now floating in the pod. She’s in space, 40,000+ miles from Earth and nearing the range of the communications satellites. The woman on the phone says that she’s on a mission to colonize another planet, but she’s not even out of the solar system yet.
The woman explains that the human race will die out within two generations. Leo really is dead. 12%. Leo was killed by the same virus that is killing everyone else. The woman tries giving some final instructions but then someone breaks in and stops her. “Find Leo!” is the last thing she says. The call ends. 11%.
She calls her mother. 6%.
She asks MILO about how long she’ll live without oxygen versus how long she’ll last if she just opens the door and decompresses in space. She unlocks the door. She asks MILO for a view of the outside, and there are 10,000 units like hers in the huge, damaged spaceship. Most of the units are still operational, but hers is the only one who woke up when the asteroid hit them.
She finds Leo in unit 42, and he’s asleep but still alive. Wait– he doesn’t have his scar. She reads up more about her work. She was also working on memory transfer. The lecture she’s watching is being given by herself– as an old woman. That was her on the phone a little while ago.
She, along with the others, is a memory-implanted clone. MILO says that she’s 12 years old, and all of that time was in stasis. The time she’s been awake has been the whole actual life she’s lived. The clones are intended to colonize another world to save the human race. She’s never been outside the box. 4%.
At 3%, MILO starts a euthanasia process. She stops it and then gets MILO to reroute all the defective processes through the euthanasia processor. She hallucinates all the lab rats she killed in her career. She gets over that but then only has a minute or two to hook up all the IVs, needles, and equipment that she’s been slowly tearing out. Ow! Less than 1%.
With seconds left, she realizes that MILO could divert oxygen from some of the other damaged units to her own while she sleeps. MILO tells her about the mission as she goes to sleep. MILO puts Liz back in her cocoon.
We see a final shot of Liz and Leo standing on the new planet; they did both survive.
The whole thing is Liz figuring out who she is and why she’s there without ever even sitting up. What is really going on?
Melanie Laurent is the only actor we see, with a sprinkling of Leo in flashbacks and some nameless extras, and she does a great job at showing us the hopelessness and frustration of this situation. She doesn’t remember anything, and the secret to getting out of this problem is buried in her memories.
I suspected the truth about the spaceship right away, simply because it’s a sci-fi story, but it was really well done, and it could have gone a dozen different ways. The clone part was still somewhat unexpected but clearly foreshadowed by the lab rats.
It was also very interesting how advanced the computer assistant M.I.L.O. was compared to things like Alexa or Siri today, but he still couldn’t think independently. Commands had to be worded just so. And she kept having to ask the right questions the right way to get information and help.
You definitely need to see this one. It is very good.
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