Summary: While visiting their father’s grave, a sister and brother, Barbara and Johnny, are attacked by a strange, disheveled man. Leaving the unconscious Johnny behind, Barbara flees to a nearby farmhouse and discovers a horribly mutilated corpse. Meanwhile, the strange man has been joined by several other ghoulish figures who are trying to help him break into the farmhouse. Suddenly, Ben, a young black salesman also seeking refuge, appears and fights his way past them into the house. While barricading the windows and doors, he explains to Barbara that a mutation resulting from radiation has caused the dead to arise and devour the living. Ben learns from a television report that fire frightens the ghouls and that they can be killed by a bullet or blow to the brain. Barbara and Ben then find that they are not alone in the farmhouse: in the basement are teenaged couple Judy and Tom as well as married couple Helen and Harry and their young daughter, Karen. Unknown to Helen and Harry, Karen has been injured by the ghouls and is slowly acquiring their disease. Ben improvises a plan to help Tom and Judy escape; but they panic and die in a fire and are devoured by the zombies. The ghouls finally burst through the barricades, and Ben accidentally shoots Harry; Barbara is dragged away by her brother Johnny, who has become a ghoul; and Helen is murdered and eaten by her infected daughter. By morning, when the living have succeeded in suppressing the dead, only Ben has survived by barricading himself in the basement of the farmhouse. But he is mistaken for a ghoul and shot through the head when he bursts out to greet a posse sent to destroy the zombies.
On their arrival in Haiti, Neil Parker and Madeleine Short, a young couple, take a coach that passes a funeral in which the body is being buried in the road. That night, they are followed by several eerie figures who, their coachman informs them, are zombies. He explains that the dead are buried in the road in hopes that the many passers-by will prevent the body from being exhumed and turned into a zombie. As their coach passes him while he is standing in the road, “Murder” Legendre, owner of the local sugar mil
l that employs the zombies, snatches Madeleine’s scarf. Neil and Madeleine arrive at the home of the wealthy Charles Beaumont, whose desire for Madeleine prompts him to ask Murder for supernatural assistance, although he has invited her and Neil to be married in his house. Because Murder looked deeply into Madeleine’s eyes while she was in the coach, he knows her love for Neil is true and unwavering, and his only solution for Charles is to transform Madeleine into a zombie. Charles is horrified by this alternative, but takes the potion given to him by Murder. During the wedding ceremony, Charles entreats Madeleine to leave Neil, but to no avail. Shortly after the wedding, Madeleine, having been given the potion, apparently drops dead and is buried, only to be disinterred by Murder and Charles and brought back to life as a zombie. Neil, who in a distraught and drunken state sees apparitions of Madeleine, seeks the assistance of a missionary, Dr. Bruner. Bruner consults with a witch doctor who is the only man known to have left Murder’s fortress alive. The doctor, however, refuses to become involved. Neil and Bruner then journey to Murder’s castle and camp on the beach below the cliffs. As Neil suffers from a tropical fever, Bruner approaches the castle alone, but later, images of Madeleine awaken Neil and he, too, enters the castle. Charles, meanwhile, regrets Madeleine’s transformation and begs Murder to return her to life, but Murder has his own ideas for Madeleine, who is completely under his control, and refuses. Charles realizes to his horror that he, too, has been tainted by the potion and is slowly being transformed into a zombie. When Neil enters the fortress, Murder senses his presence, and after Neil collapses, Murder silently orders Madeleine to kill him. Unaware of her own actions, Madeleine approaches Neil with a knife, but Bruner grabs her hand from behind a curtain, and she drops the instrument and walks away. Neil awakens and follows Madeleine to the cliff, and Murder commands his zombies to kill Neil. Bullets do not stop the zombies, but when Bruner knocks Murder out, the zombies topple off the cliff to their deaths. Murder awakens and eludes Neil and Bruner until Charles, who has recovered some of his motor capabilities, pushes Murder off a cliff. The fall kills Murder, and Charles is unable to regain his balance and falls to his death as well. Murder’s death releases Madeleine from her stupor and she is restored to Neil.