The Playlist tackling the film, and just that subject, for today's "Classic of the Week" -- there are some thought verbalized at that link that I'd had trouble doing myself.
"Though "I Walked With a Zombie" certainly trades in some uncomfortable exoticism, the majority of the "horror" doesn't come from the natives themselves (in fact, the Voodoo ritual scenes are clearly researched and shot with respectful long takes), but rather the land that both they and the white plantation owners walk upon. It's a cursed island because its existence is built upon racial entrapment and ownership, and its that "curse" that infects everyone ."
The best thing I discovered over there though was a link to the New York Times original 1943 review of the film, which is AMAZING. It's short so I'm just gonna share the entire thing here. Wowza!
""Horror" pictures are enjoying a peculiar popularity the country over at the moment, according to box-office statistics, so it seems reasonable to assume that RKO has a safe bet in "I Walked With a Zombie," which opened yesterday to a packed house at the Rialto and, at one point, drew a horrified scream from a woman patron. It's just like the days of old when "The Bat" and "The Gorilla" were scaring audiences out of their wits, and "Frankenstein's Monster" was making the night hideous for children and the more impressionable oldsters.
With its voodoo rites and perambulating zombie, "I Walked With a Zombie" probably will please a lot of people. But to this spectator, at least, it proved to be a dull, disgusting exaggeration of an unhealthy, abnormal concept of life. If the Hays office feels it has a duty to protect the morals of movie-goers by protesting the use of such expressions as "hell" and "damn" in purposeful dramas like "In Which We Serve" and "We Are the Marines," then how much more important is its duty to safeguard the youth of the land from the sort of stuff and nonsense that their minds will absorb from viewing "I Walked With a Zombie"? ? ?"