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The Serpent and the Rainbow
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Serpent and the Rainbow More at IMDbPro »

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41 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

An entertaining, detailed thriller

7/10
Author: The_Core from Seattle, WA. USA
27 July 2000

One of Wes Craven's best, "Serpent and the Rainbow" is as much a psychological thriller as a horror movie. Some horror fans may find it too slow (it takes its sweet time to come to a climax) but it's worth it... the journey is entertaining and interesting. This is a polished, professionally filmed movie with higher production values than the average for its genre.

I've never seen a film before that went quite so in-depth into the subject of voodoo. Filmed on location in Haiti, this movie goes into a lot of detail about various voodoo practices and introduces the voodoo versions of the good and evil magician, the houngon and the bocor. If you have any interest at all in this subject matter (or the supernatural in general), I recommend the movie on that basis alone.

Acting is uniformly solid throughout, if nothing really outstanding. We do not come to care very deeply about these characters, so their trials, tribulations and deaths do not bother us much... but Craven's attention to detail really shows, and there isn't a moment of this movie that lacks entertainment value. 7/10.

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43 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

For horror fans

Author: sparklecat
5 January 2005

Wes Craven's "The Serpent and the Rainbow" is one of the more original and ambitious horror movies to come out of the '80s. Not only does it seek to reconnect cinematic zombies with their voodoo roots, ala classics like "White Zombie", but it also uses the creation of zombies as a political allegory. The film is set in Haiti during the last days of the dictatorship of "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

Based - very loosely one surmises - on a true story, the plot follows Dr. Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) as he investigates a powder that is said to turn people into zombies. He is aided in his quest by Dr. Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson), who he quickly falls for, and Louie Mozart (Brent Jennings) an expert in voodoo. Dargent Peytraud (the chilling Zakes Mokae) is the snarling villain of the piece, a man with sinister powers both government-sanctioned and supernatural.

The film abounds with creatively gruesome imagery - a man is buried alive, screaming, in a coffin as it fills with blood, a fiendish hand reaches out from a bowl of soup - this is one of those rare films that genuinely makes your skin crawl. Horror fans should not miss it. It's a shame that the film runs just a little longer than it should and becomes disappointingly routine in its final moments.

There is a sense that this movie was aiming a bit higher than it ending up reaching. I can't quite hold that against it.

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31 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

Do you believe in voodoo?

8/10
Author: Tez (tezshouse@iprimus.com.au) from Melbourne, Australia
19 April 2001

The story of a chemist who is investigating a rumoured drug that brings people back from the dead. This is a great movie which keeps you in suspense right through. Not a horror movie but more of a suspense type movie that enters the world of black magic and voodoo. Very underrated movie and well worth watching, great plot and the story works.

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27 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

A Touch of Style

10/10
Author: Edgar Soberón Torchia (estorchia@gmail.com) from Panama
27 October 2000

I remember watching "The Serpent and the Rainbow" in a cinema when it opened 12 years ago, and although it did not strike me as a masterpiece, I never forgot it. I had always had a memory of it as a good horror film, but tonight I saw it again on television and I was impressed about how good it is. One may associate Wes Craven with "Scream" or "A Nightmare on Elm Street", but this one is certainly one of his best films. I still see it as an adventure film with horror elements, but this time I found it full of style -a touch of documentary approach, clever use of colorful locations, good handling of massive scenes with many unprofessional extras, attractive ethnic art direction, a bit of grand guignol in some performances (mainly Zakes Mokae), humor and a sensitive and sympathetic approach to a different culture. Many times one sees American films dealing with others' cultural aspects -such as political affairs and religion-, without any respect or concern. It is true that "The Serpent and the Rainbow" is not a serious drama about people's revolt, or a tract on synchretic religions (such as Cuban santería, Haitian voodoo or Brazilian candomblé), but both aspects are not just décors, but elements well integrated to the story in its own terms -that is, in a low budget feature, whose main objective is to entertain and scare the audience. The so-called "South" is such an exotic locale for most First World filmgoers, that cultural "details" often pass unnoticed, because these persons seem to be too obsessed with their own "cinematic hedonism". Craven knows it, and that is why he makes foreign tourists applaud when they have seen a real possession, thinking it is just part of Paul Winfield's show. One of the reasons that this film is good is the script. Someone mentions in another comment how cleverly it introduces more than one level in a single scene: for example, when Dennis and Marielle are looking for Christophe in a cemetery, they not only meet grave robbers for scaring effect, but they also discuss about the possibility that Marielle is using Dennis to obtain funds for her hospital, and the scene fulfills its expectation: they find Christophe, who tells them about the mysterious 'powder'. What turns off some viewers -and myself, in a way- is the cinematic forms that take all the things dealing with energy and human capacity for evil. They are sometimes too gross, others just plain funny or ridiculous; but this is a Craven film, and they did not detract me from the main objective I mentioned earlier. Besides, there are other things I enjoyed watching the film again. First, to see once again the Bill Pullman whom I used to enjoy so much (remember the dumb blond in "Ruthless People"?) when he was beautiful and had not turned into the dull American president of "Independence Day." I also recognized elements I've witnessed. A lot of the things that you see and hear in this film are not just fiction (after all it is based on a "true" story): they are all part of many Caribbean cultures -from the sensuality of the islanders, to the rite in the river, or the powder itself. And believe me: the powders work! Not only for making zombies, but also for many other things. Don't ask me how, I do not know how they do it, but I have seen them work (in Cuba -no joke intended)! So beware.

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19 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Interesting, But Could Be Even Better

7/10
Author: jcanettis from Athens, Greece
5 October 2004

The best thing about "The Serpent and the Rainbow" is probably the topic it covers: Not known to the general public (including me, until I watched the film and researched the subject a little more afterwards), the so-called zombies, which legend has it that they are people who were condemned by sorcerers to become living deads, are in fact nothing more than the victims of a special powder thrown to them, whose active ingredient is a substance which is now well-known by scientists worldwide. This substance has the effect of rendering the person in a dead-like state (no ostensible breathing, moving, etc.), while his brain is still lively (which means that the horrified person is even able to understand what surrounds him, without being able to do anything about it); in such cases, an inexperienced doctor claims the person deceased, and he is then put into a grave. When the effect of this substance starts to diminish after 12-24 hours, the sorcerer is usually there to undig the completely shocked and shattered person, convincing him that he is now his zombie-slave.

The movie is based on a true story by a scientist (Pullman) who went to Haiti, a country were such practices were rife, in order to get his hands on this substance and provide it to his employer, a pharmaceutical company, in order to analyze it and use it as an anaesthetic. In his quest he was assisted by a female local psychiatrist (Tyson), who treated several "zombified" people. However, he soon realized that things were much more complicated than that, as the police chief (Mokae), who used this zombie-trick as one of his suppression tools, was quite unhappy with this intrusion.

Although based on a very interesting story, the movie goes a bit far and becomes a typical horror film, full of black magic, terrifying visions, etc. In my opinion, it would be much better if the plot sticked to the basics, as from some point onwards everything (and especially the ending) becomes too unconvincing.

The cast does a fair job, despite the fact that it includes actors not widely known. The make-up and scenery produce and impressive atmosphere, traveling the viewer to the mystifying secrets of Haiti.

Grade: 7/10.

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24 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Zombies in modern times, would you expect the movie to be good?

9/10
Author: sonofhades (sonofhades@hotmail.com) from Earth, 3rd planet of system Sol
19 July 2001

Much to my surprise, this film was actually an excellent horror flick, one that I plan to watch again some day. I am glad a friend of mine recommended the movie to me, I am just hoping others will find the time to look into it.

Even more, if the story actually is based on a "true story", I will shudder at the thought of it...

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13 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Very Different and Intriguing

8/10
Author: lilac_point_burmese from Sydney, Australia
22 September 2003

Bill Pullman is an anthropologist who on a previous visit to Haiti experienced the power of black voodoo,filling his mind with evil dreams and eventuating in the murder of his pilot. His Jaguar spirit leads him to safety. Upon returning to America he is asked by a drug company to return to Haiti and investigate the process of "Zombification" as proof of a man being brought back from the dead has been discovered and the Americans of course would love to know how it is done.

In Haiti Dr Allen meets a beautiful female psychiatrist and together they become embroiled in a world of good vs evil voodoo style in search of this miracle which is in the form of a powder.

However, their is evil at work in the form of a very nasty voodoo witchdoctor, who unfortunately also happens to be Chief of Police in the very much oppressed Haiti.

This was a great film. I only just purchased and watched it for the first time on DVD for $6.95 AU, at that price I wasn't expecting much - Reviews I have read regarding this film dubbed it dissapointing, but I found it to be highly entertaining.

The film is eerie, the acting is excellent. I have found in most reviews that people have complained that the film is far-fetched and doesn't make sense. Well, in my opinion - that is the nature of voodoo -it is un-explainable and to a skeptical mind is silly, but there have been many accounts in real life of voodoo magic and it's power and this film was based on some such accounts.

The film starts of a little slow and can be described as a bit messy. However, as the plot unfolds, not only are we watching an eerie film about the supernatural, we are also watching an action packed political thriller. This is a very unusual film. There is just enough blood and gore to entertain the slasher fans, but not too much discourage the general film appreciating public.

As opposed to common belief, I found the story-line of this film to be tight, different and utterly engaging.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Horror Maven, Wes Craven, Does it Again!!

9/10
Author: CarelessMoonDruid from .: Fiendish Writings in the Dark :.
18 January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The best, most realistic movie featuring zombies and the darker aspects of the Haitian way of life ever made! While this movie was billed as a "true story," one must remember it was "BASED ON" a true story. The story surrounding the actual facts, well, that is up to the viewer to decide. That not withstanding, this was a purely entertaining endeavor with some of the best elements of voodoo mysticism I've ever seen.

This movie was extremely disturbing for me on many levels. The story was compelling, the acting was exceptional, the dialog was believable to those who are enlightened, the sets and scenery was breathtakingly realistic, and this production was even greater than the sum of its marvelous parts.

It was frightening, suspenseful, intriguing, and thrilling. We were horrified, dismayed and thoroughly entertained by this endeavor. The explanation of zombies and their origins, as Haitian lore is indeed the birthplace of these creatures, was wonderfully told and brilliantly presented.

Don't bury me! I'm not dead! Absolutely wonderful.

It rates an 8.8/10 from...

the Fiend :.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

"In Haiti, there are secrets we keep even from ourselves..."

Author: Mayahuel from Cowgirl Helltown, Florida
21 April 2001

First I have to mention that while the book (The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis) is infinitely better and deeper than the movie that shares its name, comparing the two is unfair. The audience is informed that the movie was "inspired" by the content of the book, for whatever interpretation you give inspired. What makes the book more interesting, aside from it being a true documentary, is how it balances light and shadow in much the way the Vodoun religion balances both. This film may leave you thinking that Haiti is a horrible place filled with monsters and boogeymen, and I don't think that's a fair estimation.

The film confuses many things and ideas which I feel should have been explained. Not everyone is an ethnoreligionist, after all. Totems, houngans, hounfours, mambos, bokors, le Bon Dieu, and the Amazon shaman are just mentioned in passing as if this is everyday vocabulary to the audience. The character of Marielle is presented as a dedicant of the goddess (loa) Erzulie. Well, this is a nice touch, but what of Damballah and his consort Aida-Wedo--the original serpent and the rainbow? And what about the man dressed as a skeleton in an obvious tribute to Baron Samedi--yet the Baron is never mentioned. What really made me chuckle is how Alan's totem saves the end, a totem we had only seen in glimpses without the concept of a power animal ever being explained.

Through in the confusion of the collapse of the Duvalier government and we have the perfect recipe for movie mayhem. Oh, come on...you just knew the overthrow of Duvalier had to work itself in here somewhere, right? We must have the obligatory "I am an American citizen--you cannot touch me" scene when dealing with the so-called Third World.

Bill Pullman was entirely wrong as the protagonist. I just found it unbelievable that this man could find his way out of a Happy Meal box let alone 200 miles of Amazon rainforest. He is abrasive and unpolite, two things which are professional suicide for anybody dealing in international cultures. All right, one can allow for a certain degree of cynicism on his part, but I find it difficult to believe that a man of his caliber and academic background would be fool enough to shoot his mouth off as he does.

Watch this film with an acrostic eye. It isn't a bad film, in spite of the faults I personally found with it. Just watch it cautiously. If it whets your interest, definitely go check out the Davis book.

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13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

There are secrets on this island that we even keep from ourselves

8/10
Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
27 August 2005

***SPOILERS*** At the start of the film "The Serpant and the Rainbow" we see Anthropologist Dennis Alan, Paul Pullman,drink a potion made up for him by an old tribal shaman,Evencio Mosquera Slaco. it's that potion that saves Alan's life by guiding him back 200 miles to civilization from the dense and dangerous Amazon jungles but at the same time causes him to have mind-bending hallucinations for the rest of he movie.

Back in Boston Alan is contacted by his old friend Prof. Shoonbacker, Michael Gough,about going to the island nation of Haiti to find out for the pharmaceutical company, Boston Bio Corps, that he represents. Prof. Shoonbacker wants Alan to find out if there's any truth to what is known as Zombies and if so to find out and bring back what kind of drug is used to create them. Alan was to find on that strife-torn island at lot more that he could have ever expected or imagined.

Arriving in Haiti Alan gets in touch with Dr.Maricelle Duchamp, Cathy Tyson, who runs a hospital in Port-Au-Prince and has evidence that Zombie's do exist. Finding Christophe ,Corad Roberts, legally dead yet wondering aimlessly around in a local graveyard convinces Alan that there's something to this myth of the walking dead.

Tracking down the person who can make the drug, that put's people in this suspended animation that's mistaken for death, Louis Mozert, Brent Jennings, Alan is further convinced when Mozert gives the drug to a goat who suddenly dies after eating it and then the next day finds the goat alive and well. Giving Mozart $500.00 for a sample of this "Zombie" drug Alan goes back to the US to have it tested by the laboratories of Boston Bio Corps.

What Alan doesn't know is that he's been put under a spell by the brutal Baby Doc Duvalier's, the Haitian president for life, chief of the dreaded Tonton Macoute Baby Doc's secret police Dargent Peytraud, Zakes Mokae, that cause his mind to go haywire. The only way to break it is for Alan to go back to the island and confront and battle Peytruad at is own game, voodoo, or end up going insane.

"The Sepernt and the Rainbow" is a lot like the movies "I Walked with a Zombie" and "Premature Burial" in that it's more realistic in it's subject matter and tries to keep the supernatural angle in check and not let it overwhelm it's story. There is a drug, like in the movie, that cause simulated death called Tedrodotoxin and at the conclusion of the film were told that no scientific study has been able to figure out just how it works on humans, and animals, in causing their heart to stop yet keep them alive.

Even though there are a number of gruesome scenes in the movie like decapitation's and immolation's as well as cannibalism nothing can compare, or condition you, to the horror of being unknowingly buried alive and not being able to scream in order to prevent that terrifying act from happening and In the film "The Serpent and the Rainbow" it happens twice not once. With all the mind-blowing special effects in "The Serpent and the Rainbow" The most eye-popping scene in the movie has to do with modern day Voodoo Priest Lucien Celine, Paul Winfield, going bananas and literally screwing his head off.

The final sequence in the movie has Alan having it out with the crazed yet cunning Peytraud as the people of Haiti finally revolt and throw Baby Doc out of power and out of the country. Peytraud who had the souls of his victims, who he turned into Zombies over the years, stored in sealed urns break out and then bring the madman of Port-Au-Prince to ultimate and final justice in what has to be the ending to end all endings.

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