Diana’s beloved has been murdered…seeking revenge, she reached out to Mama Maitresse who calls forth the mystical Voodoo Priest Baron Samedi. He raises an army of the undead, telling Diana to “put them to evil use…it is all the want!”
The sole feature directed by future Police Academy producer Paul Maslansky, Sugar Hill is a unique zombie film. There had been films in the past about zombies and voodoo, but this was set in America and the protagonist is a young black woman. Being a blaxploitation film, the villains are whitey.
The look of the zombies is intriguing. They have bulging silver eyes and are covered in cobwebs. Add to the fact they are former slaves, wearing shackles and chains. This makes for a really good creepy moment early as an early victims hears the rattle of the chains as he is stalked by the zombies.
The deaths get pretty inventive, such as in one scene where the zombies feed a man to pigs (the zombies in the film are more agents of retribution, rather than flesh eaters).
The racism in the film is not subtle…in one scene, the girlfriend of Langston (the main heavy) states at one point, “That ain’t class, that’s color.” This does result in some clunky dialog…mostly from Bey’s Diana. Whitey and Honky feel kind of dated. But the disgust and racism from the white characters is palpable.
Don Pedro Colley is very entertaining as the scenery chewing Baron Samedi. Richard Lawson is the slick homicide detective and Diana’s former lover Valentine. But the film really rests in the hands of Marki Bey. Attractive and driven, she is quite impactful.
A product of it’s time, Sugar Hill is a fun horror film with a good cast (I feel like Bey should have been a bigger star. In spite of some of the dialog, she has presence). This is more of a “B” movie, but in the way you want a B-Movie to be.