Review: Sugar Hill

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 2 - 2010

In 1974, two of film’s greatest movements — Blaxploitation and zombies — combined to form Sugar Hill, one of the most unjustly forgotten movies in film history. It’s the story of a woman (Marki Bey as Diana “Sugar” Hill) who turns to voodoo to get revenge on the powerful mobsters who murdered her boyfriend. With an army of chrome-eyed, cobweb-festooned zombies commanded by voodoo god Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley), Bey dons a funky jumpsuit and takes out the mobsters in inventively horrible ways. The incredibly loud clothing, unique creature design and stylish camera work result in one of the most visually stunning entries in zombie film history.

In an interesting and rarely used twist, this movie really played up the voodoo angle, utilizing not just zombies but voodoo dolls and rituals, a voodoo-drum heavy soundtrack and a starring role for voodoo god/spirit Baron Samedi. The zombie design is unique — and awesome — as well. The cobwebs, blank expressions and weird, silver eyes were both cool and creepy. I’m actually somewhat surprised no one has used that look since. It’s very effective.

Okay, the plot is paper thin, the acting is generally mediocre with occasional flashes of scenery-chewing insanity and it’s non-PC to the point of being embarrassing to modern sensibilities. But you don’t go to a Blaxploitation/zombie film looking for deep plot, deft characterization or a message — you go for jive talking, corpse raising, and ass kicking, and it delivers all of that in abundance.

Sugar Hill/US/1974

Parts of this review originally appeared in my initial reaction piece when I viewed it as part of the 2009 Zombie Movie Marathon Month and in a piece I wrote for Westword.

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