I have a fond affection for blaxploitation films and I’ve watched many of them. Few genres managed to hit such a wide spectrum of highs (Shaft, Super Fly) and lows (Avenging Disco Godfather) in such a short amount of time. The popularity of Blackula created a sub-sub-genre - "horror blaxploitation". Sugar Hill is arguably the best entry in this genre. It is amazingly bad and mysteriously enjoyable all at the same time.
In the opening scene of the movie, the boyfriend of Diana "Sugar" Hill (Marki Bey) by the local mob. It turns out, Sugar Hill's boyfriend owned something the mob desperately wanted. Something they would kill to get their hands on. Drugs? No. Guns? Not even close. He owned the hottest dance club in town. Yep. You heard me. The mob suck at opening dance clubs.
After her boyfriend's death, Sugar Hill decides to seek revenge on the mob. Revenge is the plot of nearly every blaxploitation film but Sugar Hill takes it a couple steps further. Rather than take matters into her own hands, she employs the help of a voodoo queen named Mama Maitresse. Maitresse calls upon the Baron Zamedi, the Lord of the Dead, and his band of not-so-scary zombies to do their bidding. Given his orders, Zamedi and his zombies kill off the mobsters one by one. Revenge was never so sweet.
Voodoo is scary. Right?
The zombies in Sugar Hill don’t resemble the look and behavior found on modern zombie films. Their flesh isn't green or rotting. They aren't out for brains or human flesh. The zombies in Sugar Hill resemble the classic zombie interpretation found in films like White Zombie (1932) and Revenge of the Zombies (1943). They are a bit dusty and have silver bulbous eyes (think Marty Feldmen... but shiny and silver). They are mindless, lumbering henchmen. It's any wonder that anyone manages to be killed by these zombies.
Sugar Hill also lacks the usual racial overtones and social depravity commonly found in blaxploitation films. In fact, Sugar Hill is rated "PG". Don't expect any expletive filled tirades a la Dorinda (Nichelle Nichols) in Truck Turner. Sugar Hill is too sweet for that. Sweet and child friendly.
There are just enough surprises and unintentional moments of hilarity to qualify Sugar Hill as a prime "movie party" recommendation. Its the way movie making used to be... or at least the way some movies were made in the 1970's.