White Zombie is the first zombie film on record, and I must say that it doesn't disappoint. With Bela Lugosi turning in a solid performance as the voodoo master and creepy images throughout, the film was eery and suspenseful and kept me engrossed to the end.
The concept of the zombie had been brought into the mainstream consciousness in the US a couple of years before by the book The Magic Island. The zombies in this film are the classic voodoo kind, meaning pale, blank-eyed (but essentially intact) people, as opposed to walking corpses, but I've discovered that these zombies can be just as disturbing, if not more so, than ones that you would see in a Romero film. Perhaps it that they're that much closer to real life, but still so far.
The story is about a young couple (Madeleine and Neil) that comes to Haiti to get married in the house of Charles Beaumont, who the bride-to-be befriended on a cruise. Unbeknownst to them, Beaumont is really hoping to persuade Madeleine to marry him instead, and when she refuses, he turns to "Murder" Legendre (Lugosi), the local voodoo master, for help. Legendre, who has a multitude of zombies at his command, agrees to help but has plans of his own.
Lovers of gore will be severely disappointed, of course, but if atmosphere and suspense are what you're looking for, this film will satisfy.