In this article, I consider the representation of African-Caribbean religions in the early horror adventure film from a postcolonial perspective. I do so by zooming in on Ouanga
(1935), and Devil’s Daughter
(1939), three low-budget horror productions filmed on location in Jamaica during the 1930s (and the only films shot on the island throughout that decade). First, I discuss the emergence of depictions of African-Caribbean religious practices of voodoo and obeah in popular Euro-American literature, and show how the zombie figure entered Euro-American empire cinema in the 1930s as a colonial expression of tropical savagery and jungle terror. Then, combining historical newspaper research with content analyses of these films, I present my exploration into the three low-budget horror films in two parts. The first part contains a discussion of Ouanga
, the first sound film ever made in Jamaica and allegedly the first zombie film ever shot on location in the Caribbean. In this early horror adventure, which was made in the final year of the U.S. occupation of Haiti, zombies were portrayed as products of evil supernatural powers to be oppressed by colonial rule. In the second part, I review Obeah
and The Devil’s Daughter
, two horror adventure movies that merely portrayed African-Caribbean religion as primitive superstition. While Obeah
was disturbingly set on a tropical island in the South Seas infested by voodoo practices and native cannibals, The Devil’s Daughter
was authorized by the British Board of Censors to show black populations in Jamaica and elsewhere in the colonial world that African-Caribbean religions were both fraudulent and dangerous. Taking into account both the production and content of these movies, I show that these 1930s horror adventure films shot on location in Jamaica were rooted in a long colonial tradition of demonizing and terrorizing African-Caribbean religions—a tradition that lasts until today.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.