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Far-fetched as a serious film, but works wonders as a piece of postmodern surrealism involving black magic
DeuceWild_777 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Loosely based on the non-fiction book by the ethnobotanist Wade Davis, "The Serpent and the Rainbow" started production as a realistic approach on the author's investigation in Haiti about a drug used in the Voodoo religion to create zombies.

Davis wanted Aussie director Peter Weir to direct and his then favorite leading actor, Mel Gibson to portray him on screen, but after the duo lost interest, the project was delivered to the "master of schlock", Wes Craven due to his work in the dreamlike movies such as "Deadly Blessing", "Deadly Friend" and his most well-known "A Nightmare on Elm Street". Craven brought in all his bizarre imagination, surreal sets & gruesome scenes, but with him on the helm the movie started itself to distance from the realism of a, supposedly, true story.

Visually, "The Serpent and the Rainbow" is craftsmanship at its best for a movie of this peculiar genre: the locations were perfectly spotted so as the hundreds of extras selected and the engaging cinematography by John Lindley gave it a sweaty, gritty & hypnotic feel, in the vein of what Michael Seresin did for Alan Parker's "Angel Heart" a year before.

The screenplay have its flaws, it may be too confusing for a viewer at a first watch and like Craven's own direction, it tried to achieve in so many genres: the 'serious' drama / suspense movie; an unrealistic popcorn horror film (such as "A Nightmare on Elm Street") or a revolution / war drama (such as Weir's "The Year of Living Dangerously") that the end result is a bit messy.

The pace is uneven and the plot is slow to develop and the editing even if it isn't the best, it's still passable.

Bill Pullman for the central role of Dennis Alan (an alias for the author Wade Davis) was an odd choice, he isn't that great of an actor and lacks charisma to carry a movie on his shoulders and his clean looks, boy scout smile and fragile appearance of a townsman did not contrast well with the "Indiana Jones" adventurer, skilled in Jungle methods of survival and in establishing contact with lost tribes that his character required. The supporting cast however were fantastic in their roles, especially Brent Jennings as the quirky Mozart & South African actor, Zakes Mokae as the unforgettable creepy Dargent Peytraud.

In short, even with its flaws, "The Serpent and the Rainbow" still works as a piece of surrealism / hypnotic film that captivates the viewer and put him side-by-side with the fears of the protagonist of falling into the realms of a strange drug: a compound of tetrodotoxin, a powerful hallucinogenic plant called Datura and black magic, that can provide him a worse fate than death...
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Hot Voodoo
Richard Chatten15 April 2017
This vividly designed but muddled Wes Craven extravaganza about voodoo clocks in at just 98 minutes but feels much longer. Structurally it recalls 'Nightmare on Elm Street', with local Tonton Macoute commander Zakes Mokae as its Freddy Kruger equivalent as its hero's grasp on reality grows ever more tenuous and the film increasingly resembles either an extended dream sequence or a drug-induced hallucination. Using an actual revolution that had just taken place in a Caribbean country as the backdrop for such a fanciful subject seemed to me rather tasteless.
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Ridiculous ending ruins everything
John Brooks4 November 2016
The movie starts off a bit roughly, then takes on a nice pace and settles in, delivers its plot and introduces the various characters, all the while showing life in Haiti, some of the cultural aspects there.

It should be said Zakes Mokae, the 'bad guy', puts in a fabulous performance.

Other than that, the ending ruins so much of the potential the whole film may've been driving towards, there's not much commentary to be made really. We get the gist of it, but it totally explodes in that last act and there's little to salvage, really.

Good for a while, not good as a whole.
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Voodoo: Real or Fake
Michael_Elliott29 October 2016
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

*** (out of 4)

Anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) is hired by an insurance company to travel to Haiti where there are rumors of a voodoo medicine that will bring humans back to life. Once in Haiti Dennis gets a look around with Marielle (Cathy Tyson) and before long he's battling the local police as well as zombies.

If you're expecting a George A. Romero type of zombie film then you'll certainly be disappointed because this here is really an old-school throwback to films like I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. I say that because there's not any rotting flesh here and there isn't any gory violence. There's no flesh eating for that matter either. Director Wes Craven has created one of the more original zombie movies that manages to use it's brain more than anything else.

Heck, you could really make the argument that this isn't really a horror movie. Yes horror elements are certainly here and especially in the dream sequences where the voodoo begins to work its magic. What the film really works at is the adventure of the lead character to try and find out what the truth is and the film's entertainment comes from his search. There are some extremely good sequences here including a voodoo ceremony early on as well as the dream sequences where we're not quite sure what is real or fake.

The film also benefits from some strong performances with Pullman doing a great job in the lead. He's certainly an entertaining figure and he keeps you glued to the adventure that he's on. Tyson adds terrific support as does Zakes Mokae, Paul Guifoyle, Michael Gough and Paul Winfield. On a technical level the film is certainly well-made and Craven brings a great touch to it.
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A cult classic horror film - the best from Wes Craven
ivo-cobra826 October 2016
Wes Craven's cult classic horror zombie film The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) is one of his best films in my opinion! If someone is looking for a real horror movie and not just a big gore fest, then you should check this one out. It still creeps me out! This movie is more a creepy and a spiritual fantasy movie more than anything. But it gets us a good look into the beliefs of voodoo, and it has Bill Pullman in it! The anthropologist that wrote the original book only hated it because in the scientific community having any kind of spiritual beliefs is like heresy (the book was a scientific look at voodoo). You have to see it at least once. It provides a narrated and well drawn out story into the mysterious underworld of voodoo culture in Haiti.

This film was scary, entertaining from the beginning till the end of the film. It is my favorite Wes Craven horror film he ever directed. This movie is in my Wes Craven top 10 and It is my sixth favorite movie from Wes Craven that I absolutely love to death. One of Wes most creepy and most frightening films he's ever done that still does make my crunch ''I want to hear you Scream'' Bill Pullman along with the wrest of the cast do a really knockout job. I don't have this movie on Blu-ray or DVD but someday I would really like to get this movie in my Blu-ray collection.

Wes Craven (The People Under the Stairs, Shocker) directs this terrifying story of one man's nightmarish journey into the eerie and deadly world of voodoo. A Harvard anthropologist (Bill Pullman) is sent to Haiti to retrieve a strange powder that is said to have the power to bring human beings back from the dead. In his quest to find the miracle drug, the cynical scientist enters the rarely seen netherworld of walking zombies, blood rites and ancient curses. Based on the true life experiences of Wade Davis and filmed on location in Haiti, it's a frightening excursion into black magic and the supernatural.

The movie has a great creepy score from Brad Fiedel, it has a wonderful performance by Bill Pullman, he really showed that he can do a dramatic role. I love the story Based on The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis. Of course loosely based they pick great locations in Haiti. When things went crazy they went to Dominican Republics. The locations were very effective really felt you were in different world. This movie is about Voodoo and zombies walking alive. This is my favorite Bill Pullman film dealing with voodoo It is my sixth favorite Wes Craven Film. There are a lot of creepy images, where Bill Pullman wakes from his bed and he is watching from his door and he sees a bolt on fire with a corpse and than a bride with a corps walk towards him on a doorway things flutter and shutter close and the room sort turns in to a coffin and than blood starts filling up over him. Just really creepy images. Bill Pullman get's revenge on the end of the movie and you have perfect ending you even have a spiritual animal.

You don't see any movies making this days like this one is today. Seriously Wes Craven did a well made job it wasn't goofy but you see pretty serious and scary all the time. If you love Scream you will definitely love this film, It is definitely a cult classic horror film

R.I.P. - Wes Craven (1939 - 2015) I really miss you and thank you for all the Freddy movies, thank you for all horror franchise and movies like are: A Nightmare on Elm Street, New Nightmare, Scream, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Shocker and The People Under the Stairs. I love you so much I wish you could done more horror movies I really love them.

The Serpent and the Rainbow get's 8/10 I absolutely love this movie to death It is awesome I love it and it is definitely a cult classic and a really scary creepy movie that Wes Craven did a terrific wonderful job.

The Serpent and the Rainbow is a 1988 American horror film directed by Wes Craven and starring Bill Pullman. The script by Richard Maxwell and Adam Rodman is loosely based on the non-fiction book of the same name by ethnobotanist Wade Davis, wherein Davis recounted his experiences in Haiti investigating the story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was allegedly poisoned, buried alive, and revived with a herbal brew which produced what was called a zombie.

8/10 Grade: B+ Studio: Universal Pictures Starring: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings, Conrad Roberts, Aleta Mitchell, Badja Djola, Theresa Merritt Director: Wes Craven Producers: Doug Claybourne, David Ladd Writers: Richard Maxwell, Adam Rodman Based on The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis Rated: R Running Time: 1 Hr. 38 Mins. Budget: $7.000.000 Box Office: $19,595,031
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I want to hear you scream....
Predrag4 May 2016
This is Craven's finest piece of work, explores the voodoo, black magic almost like a religion, set pieces are great and the music score is haunting! Craven takes a mature step into the world of magic/spirits, with its narrative story telling approach it grips the audience.

The biggest star of the film is Haiti itself, with the action taking place in several beautiful and exotic locales. This gives it a real sense of authenticity, as many of the actors and extras are actual Haitian natives. I also very much enjoyed Dr. Alan's dreams and hallucinations, which were disturbing and led the film to an even more sinister edge. The story is not far-fetched and when the word "Zombie" is mentioned you can understand the meaning of the word. Not, like our wonderful George A. Romero of the walking dead back to life, but an interesting in-sight into Zombiefication and how it occurs and the onset of long term mental health issues. The powder that is mentioned, and seen, in S&T.Rb is today still secretly under wraps and even to this day medical professionals are still trying to work out the affects and how it is made.

Overall rating: 8 out of 10.
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poe-4883323 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW boasted one of the greatest trailers I've ever seen; the movie, unfortunately, didn't live up to its promise. Bill Pullman in the lead was a big part of what went wrong: his delivery throughout is as dull and monotonous and as lifeless as... a zombie... There ARE a couple of good scenes: the scene where the missing man, Christophe, turns up (...) in a graveyard and the scene where Pullman is buried alive. The Big Finale drags on for far too long and it doesn't help that Craven employs the same type of stunts he used in SWAMP THING (which were not unlike the stunts we saw every single week on THE INCREDIBLE HULK teleshow). For all that, I still think this is the late Wes Craven's best effort.
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like the exotic voodoo zombie
SnoopyStyle2 August 2015
In 1985, Dr. Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) from Harvard is in deepest Amazon studying the locals. He is given hallucinogens. His helicopter pilot is killed and he's forced to travel the 200 miles on his own. Back in Boston, he's recruited by a pharmaceutical to study a possible case of zombification in Haiti. Christophe Durand was declared dead in 1978 and buried. However he has returned under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Duchamp (Cathy Tyson). She introduces him to Lucien Celine (Paul Winfield) and local hustler Louis Mozart. There is also Dargent Peytraud, the leader of the feared Tonton Macuse who are the thugs of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

I really like the exotic realism and the idea of voodoo zombies. Actually the more traditional horror gimmicks from Wes Craven in the last act is not that exciting. I like the woman eating glass at diner but the last section tries too much. The strength of the movie is any remote connection to reality. It's creepy and Zakes Mokae is such a great villain.
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Serpent and the Rainbow 7/10
skybrick73610 July 2015
For starts, one thing that Wes Craven's Serpent and The Rainbow doesn't lack is originality. Everything is just a little different about Serpent and the Rainbow, the main character narrating at different points in between scenes to fill up loose ends. Also, it's different to see filming in poverty stricken Haiti, as a setting for a horror film. Craven definitely made this interesting and it the story itself is written in a way, to leave the viewer guessing on what's reality or dark voodoo magic.

Normally, Bill Pullman as a lead in a movie ends up being a stinker, but he didn't overact his role and seemed to be in the moment. The film should actually be watched with an open mind, so leaving out plot details will lead to a better view. Believe this, it's hard not to spoil the movie right now since the main climax is so chilling and leaves you in awe. Serpent and the Rainbow is dull at parts and not something with a lot of re-watch-ability, but it's definitely one of a kind, that's for sure.
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The Real Walking Dead?
Matthew Kresal6 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
It seems safe to say that we are experiencing something of a wave of interests in zombies at the moment. Yet I'm sure many of those who are interested in the various movies, shows and books based on the undead might well be unaware of their real world roots in Haiti and voodoo. Offering something of a contrast with George Romero, 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead is this film from 1988. Directed by Wes Craven and inspired by the real events detailed in Wade Davis' book of the same title, The Serpent And The Rainbow presents a look at the real-life "zombie" phenomenon with dashes of horror added to it.

Note that I used the word "inspired" above. The film itself claims to be inspired by true events and cites that it is inspired by the book rather than based on it. I must confess that I've (yet) to read the book but watching the film and doing a bit of online research makes it clear that a liberal amount of adaptation must have taken place. The real life ethnobotanist (a scientific field that mixes elements of anthropology and botany) Wade Davis becomes the fictionalized Doctor Dennis Alan in the first of many changes the film makes. Amongst the changes are a shifting of the time frame in which events take place from across several years in the late 1970s and early 1980s to a short period of time in 1985-86 (which was in fact after the book had been published). Nor does it appear that Davis went through many, if any, of the hellish experiences presented in the film. In other words, it is VERY important to take what the film presents in terms of events with a grain of salt though there are, to mix metaphors, nuggets of truth in an otherwise barren landscape of fiction.

Judging the film on its own merits, it's actually pretty good for what it is. For much of its running time, we're presented with a film that's part Indiana Jones, part The Omen as the cynical American Doctor Alan goes to Haiti in search of a presumed drug responsible for the zombie phenomenon and begins to encounter a series of strange people and events that leads the film into psychological horror territory. Not that the film has the budget or story for Indiana Jones large scale action sequences but it's hard not to see Doctor Alan as something of a Jones type though his brashness and cynicism quickly lead him into trouble. With the horror being played out in largely dreams and hallucinations, combined with threats and a moment of slightly overplayed but unsettling torture, the film has an air of menace to it that lends tension to proceedings. For its first seventy minutes or so, while the film is firmly in this territory, it works.

It's in the last twenty-five minutes or so that the film goes off the rails a bit. Having presented a solid tale of intrigue and psychological horror, the film shifts into full-on horror film mode for its last act. In a full departure from real events, we see Alan go through the zombie process and have a showdown with the sinister head of secret police who it turns out is at the heart of the phenomenon. Neither the writing, nor the special effects for that matter, are up for much here (nor are they in another major departure from real events earlier on in the film) as clichés including the villainous cult leader combine with low budget effects to give the film a rather unsatisfying ending.

More satisfying perhaps is the film's cast. A young Bill Pullman does quite well as Doctor Alan, bring the right amount of both American naiveté and scientific cynicism to the role as someone who has to deal with increasingly strange happenings while also just trying to get out of the country in one piece. Indeed the film's American characters, including Paul Guilfoyle and the always delightful Michael Gough, probably come across best of all the performances. The film's Haitian characters are, largely due to the script, little more than walking and talking clichés. The standouts from those include Zakes Mokae as the villainous head of Haiti's secret police who, despite the clichés attached to his character, gives quite a good performance under the circumstances and Conrad Roberts as Christophe Durand (a character inspired by the real-life zombie case of Clairvius Narcisse). Despite some of the script issues that hamper them, the performances by and large work and serve the film well.

Looking past the script and sometimes iffy special effects, the production values are quite good as well. The film benefits immensely from being shot in location in both Haiti and the nearby Dominican Republic, both of which lend the film a strong sense of both place and (perhaps more importantly) verisimilitude that it might otherwise lack given its subject matter. The sets, costumes and especially the make up all look good when they're trying to be done subtly and not (as mentioned earlier) when they're put to full on "horror" effect. All of which leaves the film feeling solidly made at the very least.

Despite its far removal from reality and its ill-done shift to "horror" movie in its last act, The Serpent And The Rainbow stands up decently. As a tale of intrigue and psychological horror, as well as presenting an interesting look at the real-world inspiration behind zombies, it works quite well thanks to its cast and production values. Those expecting a horror film might be disappointed while those hoping for something that plays more to the film's strengths will likely be left feeling likewise with its last act. The film seems to fall between the two and, due to being unable to pick a side and stay there, ends up being intriguing though perhaps a tad unsatisfying in the end.
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Death is not the End in Haiti
Claudio Carvalho7 March 2015
In 1985, after a successful research in Amazonas, Dr. Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) from Harvard is invited by the president of a Boston pharmaceutics industry, Andrew Cassedy (Paul Guilfoyle), to travel to Haiti to investigate the case of a man named Christophe (Conrad Roberts) that died in 1978 and has apparently returned to life. Andrew wants samples of the voodoo drug that was used in Christophe to be tested with the intention of producing a powerful anesthetic. Dr. Alan travels to meet Dr. Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson) that is treating Christophe and arrives in Haiti in a period of revolution. Soon Alan is threatened by the chief of the feared Tonton Macuse Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae), who is a torturer and powerful witch. Alan learns that death is not the end in the beginning of his journey to hell.

"The Serpent and the Rainbow" is one of the creepiest and most originals zombie movie ever produced. Directed by Wes Craven, the story uses the background of political environment of Haiti and entwines horror and politics. Bill Pullman has good performance and Cathy "Mona Lisa" Tyson completes the romantic pair of the story. But Zakes Mokae "steals" the movie with a scary performance in the role of the wicked Peytraud. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "A Maldição dos Mortos-Vivos" ("The Curse of the Living Dead")
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Almost shockingly bad
Wuchak2 March 2015
In 1988's "The Serpent and the Rainbow" Bill Pullman plays an anthropologist who goes to Haiti to investigate a rumored drug that can make people seem dead, but they're really not. In other words, the plot addresses the reality behind the zombie myth. The story's supposedly based (loosely) on factual material contained in Wade Davis' book.

Davis reportedly wanted noted director Peter Weir to direct the film, but he got stuck with horror maestro Wes Craven. Wes is great for cartoony horror flicks, like "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and the "Scream" series, but he was apparently out of his league here. I hate giving bad reviews to movies because I realize no one intends to make a bad film. Making decent movies is expensive and takes a lot of work by scores of talented people. "The Serpent and the Rainbow" had the funds, talent, locations and music to make a quality film, but it horribly fails.

Over the years it's taken me four attempts just to get past the 20-40 minute mark. I finally forced myself to watch the entire film last night and it was a chore. It starts out intriguing, but immediately fails to engross. The story's fine, but the way it's told is bad, which includes the puzzling editing. It's incoherent and you soon find yourself bored watching interesting images and cool percussion-oriented music, but characters and a tale you don't care about, mainly because you were never allowed to comprehend it.

There's a shallow love story with the requisite beautiful native (Cathy Tyson) and the second act gets a little better with Brent Jennings as Mozart, but the third act spirals into to ultra-horror cheese. Some scenes are so ridiculously bad they're laugh-out-loud funny. For instance, a classy white woman suddenly jumps on the dinner table radically attacking the anthropologist; a torture-chair moves across the room by itself on a couple occasions; someone's head falls off; a scorpion walks out of someone's mouth; something alien and diabolic comes out of someone else's mouth (or head); etc. On top of this, there are so many dream/hallucination sequences that they become tedious. These scenes were obviously included to up the ante with horror props and – hopefully – jolt the audience, but they utterly fail because, after a while, you suspect that what's going on isn't really happening and it's hard to be scared by illusions. Most of the time, they just make you laugh, like the (supposedly) creepy hand coming out of the soup (rolling my eyes). Don't get me wrong, scenes like these CAN work in horror films, but they have to be done right and in the right context, which isn't the case here, unfortunately.

The only reason I'm not giving it an "F" is because of the positives noted above.

The film runs 98 minutes and was shot in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Boston.

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The Master of Horror Tackles Voodoo
TheRedDeath307 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
In our modern horror cinema, the "zombie" genre has been overtaken by flesh-eating ghouls and infection films that come from the Romero/ Fulci family tree. However, before Romero's Living Dead films, the word "zombie" often had a very different connotation, going back to the voodoo rituals that would create mindless slaves. From classic horror movies like WHITE ZOMBIE and I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE to Hammer's PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, this was the archetype that Hollywood explored when it talked about zombies and it is this territory that Craven hearkens back to in this late 80s classic.

There is a lot to love about this movie, starting with that general concept. Though lovers of classic cinema may be familiar with the films I mentioned, most "modern horror" fans hadn't really seen a voodoo zombie movie before. To me, as a 13 year old kid when this was released, this was something completely new, exploring a culture that was wild and exotic and more than a little creepy.

That creepiness pervades this movie. There is so much atmosphere created. Craven does a great job of introducing his main character to psychotropic drugs right in the beginning. This allows him to play with some surreal dream imagery thereafter and create all sort of bizarre images for us, all wrapped under the guise of our heroes mind being opened up to the spiritual. Beyond the dream images, Craven injects all manner of wonderful imagery into this movie, using the Haitian landscape, human fear of being buried alive, catholic and voodoo iconography and some of the creepiest cemeteries you'll see. All of it creates this world where just about anything is possible and most of it will be nightmarish.

The writing is actually pretty good, for a horror movie. They work in the requisite budding romance, without it ever feeling tacked on and unnecessary. They manage to add in several subplots, as well, that add to the movie instead of detract, created a very layered film that not only explores voodoo, but the temperature of the Haitian political climate at the time.

Some of the effects now look a little dated, but I'm not going to hold that against a movie. They are products of their time, naturally. If they are one of those lucky films that manages to hold up, even better, but many look dated 30 years later.

The biggest negative to me and the thing I notice the most on recent viewings is that Bill Pullman is just...bad. He's presented to us as an almost Indiana Jones type of explorer and I'm not buying it for a minute. His vocal tone seems more high-pitched than I remember him being in his other roles. The worst parts of his performance come when he's relied on to perform the more physical aspects such as the torture scene, or his big moment when he's been drugged and looking for help. He just looks really amateurish to me in these moments and I find that he's the biggest thing keeping this from being a little higher rated in my opinion.
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Voodoo and Zombies
Uriah4319 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Dennis Alan" (Bill Pullman) is an anthropologist who is sent to Haiti to acquire a mysterious drug rumored to cause people to enter into an unconscious state similar to death. However, given the turbulent state of affairs within Haiti it is no easy task for Dennis to get his hands on this drug as violence and corruption are extremely problematic. Another difficulty lies in the fact that he also has to delve deep into the dangerous realm of voodoo in the process. Assisting him in his search for this drug is a pretty Haitian doctor named "Marielle Duchamp" (Cathy Tyson) and a couple of voodoo practitioners by the names of "Lucien Celine" (Paul Winfield) and "Louis Mozart" (Brent Jennings). Unfortunately, another devotee of the black arts, who also happens to be a high-ranking member of the secret police, named "Dargent Peytraud" (Zakes Mokae) jealously guards any and all voodoo secrets with a violent passion. And he doesn't want Dennis poking around. Now, rather than reveal any more of the story and risk spoiling the film for those who haven't seen it I will just say that this turned out to be a rather creepy horror movie which kept my attention from start to finish. I especially liked the way it captured the Haitian people and culture. In any case, I think that those who enjoy movies relating to voodoo and zombies will certainly appreciate this particular film. Above average.
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Real Zombism
Rainey Dawn24 June 2014
Very interesting movie! What makes this movie scary is that things like this really do happen in certain parts of the world... it seems South America mainly.

Most people are familiar with the get bit by a zombie you will turn into a zombie scenario which is not that realistic. Romero's Night of the Living Dead or other zombie films are good examples of it. But Serpent and the Rainbow is not that type of a zombie film.

Serpent and the Rainbow is a very underrated and extremely creepy film about REAL ZOMBISM. Yes I say REAL ZOMBISM! To understand the movie Serpent and the Rainbow on a deeper scale research REAL ZOMBISM: Scopolamine aka Devil's Breath is one such drug from the Borrachero tree it is also known as Angel Trumpet: Brugmansia. This plant is known turn people into a zombie-like state... people will even give up their free will.

If one is interested in real zombism and other magic from South America I recommend a book by Jaya Bear: Amazon Magic: The Life Story of Ayahuasquero & Shaman Don Agustin Rivas Vasquez -- very good book that goes well with the the theme of the movie "Serpent and the Rainbow".

Yes I loved Serpent and the Rainbow! It maybe Wes Craven's best movie to date! 9.5/10
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Silly at times but still enjoyable and very creepy.
MartinHafer16 November 2013
"The Serpent and the Rainbow" is a film that works best if you don't think through the plot but instead just take the movie as it comes. This is because if you think about it, the plot doesn't make a lot of sense---especially the amazingly silly finale. On the positive side, the film has a wonderful sense of creepiness--all brought to you by the guy responsible for the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series, Wes Craven.

The film is set in Haiti during the latter part of the Baby Doc Duvalier era. For some completely insane reason, a doctor (Bill Pullman) has been sent to the country by a pharmaceutical company to learn the secret of zombification so that they could possibly use the zombie formula for positive/curative purposes. This really makes no sense at all. What also doesn't make sense is how horrible and dangerous it is there--with all sorts of voodoo, zombies and terror. The ending is amazingly stupid--where some of this terror is really scary and creepy and some of it is hampered by the 1988-style prosthetics which look very fake by today's standards. Still, the creepy factor is an A+ for the film overall. It's not the sort of film I'd usually watch, but for a change of pace, it was pretty good.
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"Good, Underrated Craven Horror Flick!"
gwnightscream19 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield and Brent Jennings star in Wes Craven's 1988 horror film based on the book. Pullman plays anthropologist, Dennis Alan who is sent to Haiti to find a formula that is able to resurrect the dead. He learns that those who take it can still hear while not being able to move. Dennis is determined to find it and becomes thrust into a nightmare when he meets twisted voodoo priest, Dargent Peytraud (Mokae) who thrives on inflicting pain and fear onto others. Tyson plays Marielle Duchamp, a woman who helps and falls for Dennis, the late, Winfield plays other voodoo priest, Lucien Celine and Jennings (Red Heat) plays Louis Mozart, a man who makes the substance. This is a good horror flick that's underrated. Pullman is great in it and the late, Mokae was a terrific villain. I recommend this.
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I hated this movie with a passion even more so considering what it could have been.
alex wolfman24 September 2013
Wes Craven really is kind of a hit or miss director. He made The Serpent and the Rainbow in 1988 at an interesting time of his career after having some success with Nightmare on Elm Street but after the disaster of Deadly Friend. The Serpent and the Rainbow has a few interesting ideas but Craven never really develops them very well. This is really a big miss film from Craven.

Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman ) a researcher out of Harvard goes to Haiti to tackle the mystery of a zombie legend and also a type of drug that might be connected. There is also a voodoo theme as the drug is used in Haitian voodoo rituals.

You really to have to question what Craven was doing with this film. He starts with what seems like an interesting plot and the really lets it sink. The plot really goes everywhere and is very hard to follow. There is also a love story that is very shallow as well as dream scenes that never seem to end. By act 3, you expect that it can't get much worse but you would be wrong. It also has an ending that has you saying "What am I even watching?" Frankly, this is a movie where in the end, you don't even know what you just watched.

Interestingly, this was Bill Pullman's second film ever and before he had his big roles. Actually, he plays his role very well and the character is smart, has a heart and is easy to root for. Pullman makes this movie somewhat bearable along with some rather different zombies.

I think this is a case where Craven basically had a couple of random ideas and put them together and called it a film. I hated this movie with a passion even more so considering what it could have been.
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Probably the Most Realistic Take on 'Zombies'
Girish Gowda19 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Dennis Allan (Bill Pullman) is an anthropologist who goes around the world searching for rare traditional cures from the far corners of the world. He visits Haiti on the strength of a rumour of a drug which renders the recipient totally paralyzed but conscious. The drug's effects often fool doctors, who declare the victims dead. Could this be the origin of the "zombie" legend? Alan embarks on a surprising and often surreal investigation of the turbulent social chaos that is Haiti during the revolution.. Alan must decide what is science, what is superstition and what is the unknown in an anarchistic society where police corruption and witch doctors are commonplace.

This is a very underrated movie directed by Wes Craven and based on a true story (book). Dennis comes off as an Indiana Jones kind of protagonist in this adventure horror film. While he does take some questionable moronic decisions, he's not completely unlikable. The stereotypes of the Haitian community in the eighties are wholly embraced by the writers. Most horror movies that deal in some way with voodoo have absolutely no idea what it is really about. The movie is genuinely creepy because it showcases some of the real kind of voodoo effectively. Voodoo is not all black magic as glorified by terrible Hollywood movies.

The visuals are powerful and the dream sequences are terribly eerie and fantastic. Allen is often attacked in his dreams (and in real life as well as shown in one very disturbing scene where a nail is driven through his scrotum) and the situations can cross the line of reality and still be plausible. Him being pulled into the earth while being grabbed at by a rotted corpses is a notable example. A villain and a leader, Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae) and Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson) are really good in their roles. The last 10 minutes is typical Hollywood nonsense which is a damn shame because what preceded it was very engaging. Probably the most realistic take on the phenomenon that is 'zombies'.

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Great horror film!
ashleybrownmedia12 July 2013
Years ago I heard a brief plot summary of this film and thought it sounded a little boring. However, when I finally came to see it earlier this year - I was very surprised. I've not actually read the book, so I won't go into that - although it is on my 'to-read' list.

What I liked most about this is the way it plays out as a supernatural adventure, a lot of horror films nowadays are more worried about creatively killing off characters and using snapcuts. But this film builds up a dream-like feeling of dread and sustains it the whole way through, with some truly memorable and disturbing scenes. Although I must say that the battle at the end is a tad over the top, but I'm not cynical enough to let that change my positive review too much.

Bill Pullman's lead character is a kind of geekier Indiana Jones, and as much as I say 'geekier' he is still able to scrap with the best of them - he has no hesitation when it comes to smashing someone over the head with a bottle certainly.

In short this is a well-worked adventure story with subtle, creeping horror themes running throughout it - put down that slasher film and watch this.
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My favorite Wes Craven movie
dworldeater8 March 2013
The Serpent And The Rainbow is one of my favorite horror films that I loved watching as a teenager and it still holds up 20 plus years later. This film has depth and realism to balance the surreal and the horrific . Based on supposed true events and dealing with Haitian voodoo , Wes Craven took this film seriously and made a very original and classy horror film . Bill Pullman as well as the rest of the cast did an outstanding job. The cinematography, South American landscape and f/x look great. The score sets the tone and the atmosphere is creepy. This flick might be a little heavy ( dramatic ) for some horror fans , but if you want to see a different kind of horror film that is original and well made you should give The Serpent And The Rainbow a shot. I much prefer this to the average, generic slasher movie.
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Do you believe in black magic?
sunznc7 December 2012
The Serpent and the Rainbow has some great scenes of what is supposed to be Haiti, and I suppose some of it is, and there are some great sets as expected and some great scenery. The story itself is actually interesting however, the film is marred by poor dialog and a rushed feel. Also, the ending is flawed by Hollywood special effects that seem out of place in the otherwise gritty and rustic feel of the prior scenes.

Bill Pullman's acting lacks conviction and he never really seems to get into his character too deeply. His characterization seems to have a loose, slightly comic feel to it.

I would have much rather have seen something less slick and perhaps more low key or mysterious with some of the situations. Even Angel Heart, which is also about Voodoo, is able to convey mystery and death without splashy animated special effects.

This is not a bad film and it does contain some very interesting scenes. Some of the dialog and acting seem a bit thin and weak at times which is too bad. It's strengths are the sets, the lighting and the atmoshpere.
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Very confusing and sadistic
preppy-39 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) goes to Haiti to find how supposedly dead people are coming back to life as zombies. A doctor (Cicely Tyson) there tries to help him. He soon finds out he's in over his head and his life is in danger.

VERY confusing and unsatisfying horror movie from Wes Craven. For starters it goes all over the place. The movie does not move smoothly--it leaps around. Half the time I didn't have a clue about what was going on--or why! Pullman's character is also extremely dumb. It's made VERY clear that his life is in danger early on and he never does the reasonable thing (i.e. leave) but stays on. Also his character goes through utter hell in this movie. SPOILERS! He's beaten up, tortured, buried alive and (in a truly unnecessary moment) has a spike driven through his scrotum! END SPOILERS! It's not dramatic or scary just sick. There's also far too many dream sequences or hallucinations that lead to nothing but are added just to give the audience a sudden jolt. The only bright spots in this mess were good performances by Pullman and Tyson--but they're great actors who deserve better. I guess Craven was trying something different with this movie (it was "inspired" by a true story and book) but he doesn't pull it off. A 3 all the way.
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An intense and involving Wes Craven film.
Scott LeBrun19 May 2012
"The Serpent and the Rainbow" is true horror, a deeply sinister tale just dripping with flavour and atmosphere. It's based on the non-fiction book by Wade Davis, and tells the story of anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) who travels to Haiti for the purpose of investigating what could be causing supposedly dead people to still be alive. He finds himself in a whole lot of trouble, what with his stubborn insistence on solving the mystery and poking his nose into places where other people don't want it. His chief antagonist is local policeman Dargent Peytraud (an effectively scary Zakes Mokae), a man who's not exactly subtle about his malevolent intentions. Fortunately, Dennis has some allies, in the form of crusading doctor Marielle DuChamp (gorgeous Cathy Tyson) and business owner Lucien Celine (Paul Winfield). There are some absolutely great horror moments in this very competently made chiller, and some very vivid characters. Dennis, unfortunately, is an intelligent but not terribly likable protagonist, and Pullman can't do much to make us want to root for him; it's the other actors & characters that really make this sing. Tyson is appealing and Winfield solid as always; Brent Jennings as Mozart, Conrad Roberts as Christophe, Michael Gough as Schoonbacher, Badja Djola as Gaston, Theresa Merritt as Simone, and Paul Guilfoyle as Andrew Cassedy are all fine, especially the engaging Jennings and the haunted Roberts who is able to mine his part for much pathos. Adding to the feel of the piece is its political subtext as the movie takes place during the reign of the notorious "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Makeup and visual effects are nicely done, and the movie has some good zombie action and highly surreal moments. It sizes up as one of the more interesting and entertaining films of Craven's career, projecting a strong sense of doom & gloom; it could have used some more humour, and the finale gets a bit silly, but overall, it's definitely worth a look. Seven out of 10.
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don't think to see a real Wes horror
trashgang21 March 2012
Flicks about voodoo aren't really my thing but this one got my attention due the director, Wes Craven. This came in a period were he just finished Twilight Zone and as I said so many times horror wasn't the big thing.

It isn't really a typical Wes horror, don't think that you will see A Nightmare On Elm Street. It's about an anthropologist (Bill Pullman) going to Haiti to do some research on a drug used to turn people into zombies. It starts rather slowly and you really must dig the black magic of Haiti to understand it a bit because some effects are rather a bit weird like chairs moving or nails flying through the air. For a Wes flick it's low on red stuff but it do has some fine moments. It really goes deep into the black magic stuff and especially the powder used to make zombies from humans. It do has a decapitation and someone tearing out his own head. But it never is gory. Maybe this flick is a bit underrated due the year it came out and the subject it's all about.

It didn't had my full attention but still you want to know what is going to happen. If you can stand the first 25 minutes then you will enjoy the rest too. There's a bit of history about Jean-Claude Duvalier, nicknamed "Bébé Doc" or "Baby Doc" involved. Still for some effects worth watching.

Gore 2/5 Nudity 0,5/5 Effects 3/5 Story 3/5 Comedy 0/5
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