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The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987)

tomatometer

43

Average Rating: 5/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 4

No consensus yet.

audience

57

liked it
Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 15,072

My Rating

Movie Info

Horror maven Wes Craven attempted a slight change of pace from his usual slasher movie milieu with this chiller loosely based on a true story. Bill Pullman stars as Dennis Alan, a Harvard researcher sent to Haiti by a pharmaceutical company to investigate the zombie legend and any possible connection it might have to a rumored drug that could be used as a new breed of powerful anaesthetic. Once on the Caribbean isle, Alan is aided by a good voodoo priest or "houngan" (Paul Winfield) and his

R,

Horror

Oct 10, 2000

MCA/Universal Pictures

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Cast

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All Critics (27) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (16) | Rotten (11) | DVD (6)

Offers a few good scares but gets bogged down in special effects.

September 25, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Genuinely frightening.

September 25, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Unfortunately, the political parallel between the ideological repression of Baby Doc's regime and the stultifying effects of the zombifying fluid is only sketchily developed, leaving us with a series of striking but isolated set pieces.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
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The Serpent and the Rainbow has a screenplay that often breaks its spell.

August 30, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Serpent and the Rainbow is uncanny in the way it takes the most lurid images and makes them plausible.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Take a powerful, revealing nonfiction book, sift through it for its most cliche'd elements and turn it into a terror film and you've got The Serpent and the Rainbow.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Flavorful Grand Guignol

April 1, 2010 Full Review Source: CinePassion
CinePassion

Despite the strongly emphasized exoticness its Haitian scenery, The Serpent and the Rainbow may be Wes Craven's most pedestrian film.

October 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Projection Booth
Projection Booth

Craven combines the terrifying dream sequences of A Nightmare on Elm Street with the subtle and evocative atmospherics of Val Lewton.

September 25, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

A lame documentary-flavored horror story.

January 25, 2006 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

A trippy, guilty pleasure.

August 30, 2004
Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)

Director Wes Craven learned that the scariest things often have nothing to do with special effects wizardry.

August 27, 2004 Full Review
Spirituality and Practice

A scary, hallucinogenic and underrated horror movie, and one of Wes Craven's best.

November 4, 2003
KFOR Channel 4 News

Mildly effective "fact" based horror from Wes Craven.

October 19, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Genuinely chilling, one of Wes Craven's best.

January 12, 2003
Flipside Movie Emporium

Possibly Craven's best -- an original voodoo thriller that's also primo Pullman

January 9, 2003
New Times

Craven tries something different, with mixed results

January 5, 2003
Kalamazoo Gazette

An invisibly smart film, a lot brighter underneath than its surface gloss would suggest.

November 7, 2002 Full Review Source: Netflix | Comment (1)
Netflix

Wes Craven chiller that thinks it's ten times the picture it actually is.

August 4, 2002
Juicy Cerebellum

Surprisingly solid effort from Wes Craven.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: rec.arts.movies.reviews
rec.arts.movies.reviews

Audience Reviews for The Serpent and the Rainbow

A very subversive film for its time, "The Serpent and the Rainbow" deals with the real world of zombie culture in Hait,i and its folklore. Craven appropriates the culture for the film but stays very true to the legends of zombification which have floated around for hundreds of years. He threads through a storyline about a mad zombie priest and his many followers. The story also has an American scientist, played by Pullman, who tries to use a zombification powder for medicinal purposes. The story isn't all that horrifying, because the villain of the story isn't all that frightening. What he can do is very scary, and the hold he has over others is horrifying, but he himself is just an old man with limited power. What makes the film entertaining are all the hallucinations that Pullman has, including getting sucked into the ground and being controlled, even from far away. For that reason Craven's film still stands as a very frightening exploration of Haitian culture.
June 22, 2014
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

When Bill Pullman is your most commanding presence, you can rest assured that the casting is pretty maladroit. In a precursor to the early 2000's torture porn, Pullman's scrotum is ruptured with a nail and aside from that unpleasant image, the film is piddling and not hair-raising in the least. Craven has always been an overpraised director of the horror variety and while the concept is brimming with occult potential, it is more suited to a documentary than a full-fledged chiller. To spice up the otherwise lumbering proceedings, Craven shoehorns a medley of hallucinations with corpse brides and reanimated zombies. None of these approach cohesion. All of the titillating genre elements are extraneous (the aforementioned dream sequences and a needless sex scene). In a career of monumental near-misses, 'The Serpent and the Rainbow' might be Craven's most bungled effort.
October 8, 2013
Cory Taylor

Super Reviewer

After directing some of the most legendary Horror films in the business, Wes Craven continues his streak of creepy horror films with The Serpent and the Rainbow, a film that is often overlooked. Using voodoo as his subject, Craven conjures a creepy horror film that has some intense moments and good scares. The Serpent and the Rainbow is a film that relies on its atmosphere to create its tension and steadily build up the horror. Set on a Haitian backdrop of Voodoo, and the undead, you get one creepy film. This is a solid offering from Wes Craven, and I thought it was a film that well crafted to bring on genuine scares. Bill Pullman and Paul Winfield were terrific in their roles, and I have to say, that this is one of the best roles that actor Bill Pullman has ever chosen. I think this is a terrific of horror cinema, and one that every Wes Craven fan should watch. A very creepy film with some terrific acting, make this a must horror film. An effective film, The Serpent and the Rainbow though has a few flaws which bring the film down a notch, but it's still good nonetheless. This is an awesome departure from Wes Craven's usual work, and overall is a solid and creepy horror film that will give you a few good chills. A terrific film, one that is underrated and quite possibly one of Wes Craven's best and overlooked films.
August 15, 2011
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

An American anthropologist travels to Haiti to discover the zombification drug used in voodoo cult practices. It's inspired by true events apparantly which is always appealing to me and it was an interesting take on the zombie genre and quite enjoyable overall. It does have some cool scenes but it's not a gore fest.
June 26, 2011
WrenchLT
Lee ?

Super Reviewer

Movies Like The Serpent and the Rainbow

    1. Dennis Alan: What do you want from me?
    2. Dargent Peytraud: I want to hear you scream!
    – Submitted by Noah G (2 years ago)
View all quotes (1)

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