White Zombie

The zombie is a well-worn figure in popular culture. Everyone knows what you mean when you talk about a “zombie apocalypse,” and you might have one or two friends whose plans for survival seem a little too well thought out. Films like 28 Days Later or this month’s Warm Bodies can play with the rules of the genre – What if the zombies aren’t so slow? What if they can fall in love? – because they’re so entrenched in our minds. White Zombie, playing at Sunshine Cinema this Saturday at midnight, came before all of this. The 1932 film stars Bela Lugosi as a master of voodoo who plots to transform a woman into a zombie, a plan to which her fiancé objects. It’s an intriguing link between the origins of the zombie in folklore and its transformation into an archetype.

The River’s Edge, 5 PM this Saturday at Anthology Film Archives, takes place in the American West, where a thief brandishing a gun and a suitcase full of cash forces a rancher and his wife to guide him over the Mexican border. There’s a core of film noir, of the characters’ hidden pasts and secret motives, bubbling up beneath the brightly lit blue skies and yellow desert brush.  If you like your Westerns more small-scale and morally ambiguous than average – I know I was never satisfied with the simplicity of my classmates’ scenarios when we pretended to be cowboys on the playground in pre-kindergarten – make sure to check this movie out.

Electra Glide in Blue is another saga of the West, directed by James William Guercio, better known for producing the albums of Chicago (the band, members of which appear in the film). The frontier lawmen here, though, are motorcycle cops in 1970s Arizona: Officer John Wintergreen and his partner Zipper. The pair investigates a mysterious suicide that draws them into a conflict with a hippie commune and other, more sinister forces in the desert. You can fulfill your mirrored-sunglasses quota for the year by catching the showing at 9:45 PM this Saturday, at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.