The Serpent and the Rainbow 1988 Movie Amazon shaman wearing bright and colorful feathers smiling as Bill Pullman is hallucinating

The Serpent and the Rainbow [1988]

If you’re a fan of the zombie genre and want to see something different I recommend The Serpent and the Rainbow. It just seems like a perfect hipster movie that you can use any time your friends say anything about zombie movies. However, this is also an adventure and a period movie taking you to a point in time where things were just different. It’s loosely based on a book of the same name written by anthropologist and researcher Wade Davis. The book is a non-fiction account of Wade’s quest to find out what happened to Clairvius Narcisse who was reportedly turned into a zombie. I will leave the link below the review if you want to learn more about this case.

And while some of the claims have been disputed in the following years, it’s still unclear what was going on here. As a very fervent proponent of the scientific approach, I realize that it’s all probably just a case of bad science where they disregarded evidence that didn’t fit with the initial premise. However, whenever pharmaceutical companies are involved in something I tend to be extremely cautious of my conclusions. In the end, we don’t have to reach a final conclusion to enjoy The Serpent and the Rainbow. It does have a bit slower pace and it might not be as grand as the motives it explores but it’s a damn fine movie.

Dennis Alan, an anthropologist who just got back from the Amazon jungle has a new and interesting offer to consider. A pharmaceutical company found out about a strange voodoo ritual used to create zombies. And while the premise seems rather dubious, there seems to be some evidence that the potions used in these rituals might be of some value. Dennis decides to travel to Haiti and find out more, not knowing that this trip will change his life forever…

Directed by Wes Craven and starring Bill Pullman, this is an authentic and very atmospheric horror movie with very strong roots in reality. We witness corruption, political instability, love, mystery and torture all from a feverishly intense perspective of a stranger in a strange land. Haiti is a place with a long and difficult history, a place where people life feels just a little bit different. You can feel this throughout the movie, this mixture of raw reality and macabre mystery. During the filming, political instability in Haiti grew to dangerous levels and the movie was finished in the Dominican Republic.

The Serpent and the Rainbow is visually impressive with Craven reveling in Alan’s dark and unsettling nightmares and visions. Without CGI, using only practical effects we see scenes that are not so much gory but more haunting and unnerving. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll refrain from any mentions. Something he without a doubt perfected in his A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The atmosphere seamlessly switches from adventurous to foreboding. If I didn’t know any better I would say that we’re watching Indiana Jones and The Temple of Voodoo.

You shouldn’t expect wonders from this movie, it feels unresolved and like it bit more than it can chew. However, if you’re willing to look past this and immerse yourself in its vibrant and mysterious atmosphere, you will be greatly rewarded. The subjects that it explores are timeless and still relevant, no matter how much we think science and humanity have advanced.

Director: Wes Craven

Writers: Wade Davis, Richard Maxwell, Adam Rodman

Cast: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings, Conrad Roberts, Badja Djola

Link to the original incident: Clairvius Narcisse

Fun Facts: Newly-wed, Bill Pullman’s wife was invited to be an extra and appears on screen as the blonde who pushes a long needle through a willing man’s cheek.


IMDb Link:

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