The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) Movie Review
Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Wes Craven
Producers: Doug Claybourne, Rob Cohen, and David Ladd
Writer: Richard Maxwell, based on the book The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis
Date Released: February 5, 1988
Bill Pullman as Dennis Alan
Cathy Tyson as Marielle Duchamp
Brent Jennings as Louis Mozart
Zakes Mokae as Police Chief Dargent Peytraud
Rating = 2.5/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Hotshot anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) is sent to Haiti to learn more about a drug that is thought to be able to create real-life zombies of voodoo tradition. As Dennis investigates Haiti and learns more about this mysterious drug, he gets himself into deep water with some of the locals.
There is a bit of gore here and there, with the occasional fresh wound shown. However, many scenes of actual injury are obscured in some way.
The Grave Review
Dennis Alan enters an unfamiliar culture to pursue a drug that makes zombies at the whims of a Boston-based pharmaceutical company, which wants to develop a better anesthetic. Surprisingly, the company does not turn out to be the secret villains. The leader of the local corrupt arm of the Haitian government (Zakes Mokae), who also happens to be a voodoo practitioner, is unquestionably the villain throughout, which allows for a somewhat unique and much deeper story to be told. For the most part, the story works, though there were a few plodding sections that I couldn’t help but wonder while I was watching them why I was watching them.
The most impressive members of the cast were those that played locals: even though Louis Mozart (Brent Jennings) is a con man whose motives are sometimes questionable (who also seems to have no qualms over murder), I looked forward to seeing him. He plays the role convincingly and manages to make the character likable, which is no small feat. Similarly, Zakes Mokae played Dargent Peytraud, the local enforcer of the corrupt government, and made him so believably evil that I couldn’t help but pay closer attention when he appeared onscreen (though I didn’t find him likable in any way!)
The Serpent and the Rainbow is an odd movie. Though it is generally classified as a horror across the board, there were long stretches where I felt as if “drama” or “thriller” should be added to the classification. It is creepy, and the concept of actual voodoo zombies is scary (the “based on a true story” tag at the beginning of the film isn’t a complete fib), but the movie itself has so much else going on in terms of the research, political tensions, racial/cultural tensions, and even a romance, that the horror aspect just feels like another drop in the pot. I would say The Serpent and the Rainbow is a perfect pick if you are in the mood for a horror movie, but the person or persons you are hanging out with aren’t fans of horror—there’s enough of multiple genres and enough kept off-screen that it could work for everyone in the room. I would say that it’s best to approach this movie with an open mind. It won’t be the outright horror you may be expecting based on others’ recommendations, as most people tend to focus on one specific scene when talking about this movie, but it has effective horror elements and is interesting enough in most of its other aspects to make a watch worthwhile.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) two and a half graves out of five graves.
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