• R, 1 hr. 38 min.
  • Horror
  • Directed By:
    Wes Craven
    In Theaters:
    Jun 1, 1987 Wide
    On DVD:
    Oct 10, 2000
  • MCA/Universal Pictures

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The Serpent and the Rainbow Reviews

Page 1 of 32
Spencer S

Super Reviewer

August 27, 2010
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.
Cory T

Super Reviewer

October 6, 2013
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.
TheDudeLebowski65
TheDudeLebowski65

Super Reviewer

August 15, 2011
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.
WrenchLT
WrenchLT

Super Reviewer

June 26, 2011
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.
DragonEyeMorrison
DragonEyeMorrison

Super Reviewer

November 9, 2010
Starts ok, goes to crap in the second half. It has it's moments.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

March 29, 2010
Big respect to Craven for leaving the Freddy Franchise to make a more serious horror film. Not that this comes across as very serious, I would in fact file this one under (unintentionally) cheesy 80's horror film, lots of fun and very re-watchable.
Emily A

Super Reviewer

January 12, 2009
The reason I watched this originally is because I wanted to see the film that inspired one of my favorite songs: Voodoo by Godsmack. I found it a little disappointing, to tell you the truth. I was expecting a little more brooding darkness and horror, but this movie reminded me a little bit of Altered States in its pacing and themes. If I had made a movie about voodoo, it would look much different than this.
366weirdmovies
366weirdmovies

Super Reviewer

December 28, 2007
An anthropologist travels to Haiti in search of the legendary "zombie drug" and gets mixed up in voodoo and third world politics. Sadly, horror movie cliches eventually overtake the unique premise and vivid nightmare sequences. Zakes Mokae's black voodoo priest steals the show.
_kelly .

Super Reviewer

December 5, 2008
See this if you want a Voodoo horror drama about an American who goes to Haiti in search of uncovering the truth and feasibility of zombification.

This film has an interesting, and in horror, not always effective, structure where the first two thirds are spent on genuine plot and character development, with only hints at the lurking malice to come in all its gory. Craven pulls off this tough format with utter grace and natural pacing. The horror stuff kicks in at an hour into this 90 minute feature, and it's a regular Craven wallop of effective and inventive horrific distortions of reality. So it's a divided film (but the parts compliment and tie together). The first segment is legitimate drama and if done through to feature length by a non-horror director, would be praised as such. That's what makes the horror part work - that Craven's whole film balances and feels real in its plot and characters. So much horror films cannot achieve this.

Bill Pullman does a really stellar job as the scientific Westerner scouting for the next pharmaceutical breakthrough in a dangerous politically upset poorer nation. His character falls into the Haitian world so well, that the second half, wherein Voodoo takes center stage, the magical and spiritual elements his character once doubted now seem wholly real, and for him, beyond lethally dangerous. We can believe that souls are really at stake; this is what any good drama with Voudon or or Christianity or paganism or any faith-based practices aims toward.

The production design is stellar. The Voudon temple setup reminds me of old Hammer Voodoo films.

Reflecting on many of the earlier non-supernatural action sequences in the movie, I really like Craven's action style in the 80s, and think he doesn't always get acknowledged for his extreme flair for orchestrating action because his primary peer their is John Carpenter. (They are each complete masters of the action horror, but Carpenter is utterly and incomparably genius with his action directing, and Craven is utterly and incomparably genius in his talent for horror.)

The three primary zombie (or zombified) examples here are just plain great. The makeup is subtle and the sell is in the acting and scene framing and lighting. The harsher and gorier bits (which are non-zombie but still atypical and advanced in concept) are very 80s; they're NOT BAD but they have that distinctly 80s makeup aesthetic going on and the big tell is in a poorly done decapitated head.

Like how the finale reconnects the spiritual and physical worlds - while a small group combats for their souls, a nation-forming revolution ensues in the streets above.
Daniel J D

Super Reviewer

July 29, 2007
It gets 3 stars almost, if not entirely, based off its premise. There are a few cool scenes though. But Bill Pullman? Really?
Cassandra M

Super Reviewer

October 13, 2008
In this intense thriller inspired by a non-fiction book by Wade Davis, Bill Pullman plays Dr. Dennis Alan, who travels to Haiti in search of a mysterious white powder that is supposed to have powers of resurrection. While there, he hooks up with attractive local doctor Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson) and locks horns with nasty, psychotic villain Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae).

For me, "The Serpent and the Rainbow" is one of those rare scary movies that thoroughly engrossed me. It's a heart-pounding, solidly acted (particularly by Mokae), elaborate movie with lots of local flavour since the film-makers had the good sense to film it on location in Haiti. The atmosphere is so heavy that it's palpable. I would consider it to be one of the better Wes Craven pictures which I have seen. It's probably not one of his better known films - I think that most of them get kind of over-shadowed by the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" and the "Scream" trilogy. But I would suggest that interested viewers seek it out. It takes Dr. Alan and the viewer on an interesting if morbid journey.
FilmFanatik
FilmFanatik

Super Reviewer

April 26, 2007
A disturbing film, this one gave me my greatest fear.
puffchunk
puffchunk

Super Reviewer

November 16, 2007
Actually pretty good. Haiti is crazy and scary. Based on a true story makes it even crazier. The front cover needs to be better so it doesn't look like a $500 budget vampire movie. For those who played Grand Theft Auto, Vice City, you'll find that this movie contains the quote "I want to hear you scream!" which is something the Haitian characters say in the game.
Cindy I

Super Reviewer

August 25, 2007
Pretty cool, creepy flick about the creation of zombies in the Caribbean. Supposedly based on a true story, so the supernatural ending is even more disappointing than it normally would have been.
Lafe F

Super Reviewer

August 20, 2007
Somewhat interesting thriller movie about Bill Pullman embroiling himself in real zombies in Haiti. Scary things happen to the main character when he gets in too deep. Lots of cool voodoo imagery and atmosphere.
Dr Blood  

Super Reviewer

June 23, 2007
Lots of gratuitous horror for Wes Craven fans but little real investigation into the practice of voodoo almost turn this into yet another run-of-the-mill zombie movie.
Dean !

Super Reviewer

June 20, 2007
A pretty good and original horror film based on true events. Quite a change from Wes Craven's usual horror films.
Stuart B

Super Reviewer

February 17, 2007
Decent enough
Matt P

Super Reviewer

January 12, 2012
Cheap special effects and a distracting plot leave The Serpent And The Rainbow colorless.
Ryan M
Ryan M

Super Reviewer

July 11, 2011
7.3/10

Wes Craven's horror films have always had a way of drawing me in. This is why I watch them; and this is why I even like a couple of them. While "Scream" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" are still the man's best films, "The Serpent and the Rainbow" sees him on a particularly good day.

Maybe I say this because "The Serpent and the Rainbow" is a horror movie that worked well for me. I openly acknowledge the fact that not everyone will like it, but there's plenty about it that I admired and enjoyed. The film covers familiar grounds, and tells its story with simplicity, but that ends up working out fine for the movie itself. It moves around nicely, and contains impressive, sometimes surreal imagery. It is another fine showcase of Craven's love for nightmares, and it is a fine, perhaps even beautiful mess.

Bill Pullman plays an anthropologist who is sent on a mission to Haiti, in order to investigate a mysterious drug which is said to be connected to zombification. People claim that the drug has allowed the dead to rise and prosper once more. The drug, however, is only used in Voodoo religion. Thus, Pullman's character must adapt to the culture and practice, while earning the trust of some locals. But who can be trusted, and who can be feared?

Throughout his exploits, things both fascinating and terrifying occur. Pullman finds a man who can create the drug for him, and he tries it on himself. It is dangerous; it is peculiar. Pullman suffers from nightmares of zombies in bridesmaid gowns, serpents, and blood-filled coffins. There are some memorable sequences of visual perfection to be found here, and Craven introduces us to bizarre and macabre images. For example, there is a scene where a man dies, and a scorpion emerges from his mouth. There's something surreal and abrupt about the scene, although I can't quite put my finger on it. But maybe, just maybe, that's why I liked "The Serpent and the Rainbow", warts and all.

Bill Pullman plays a convincing part; as a genuine hero character. There's nothing special about the performance, but the actor brings enthusiasm and undeniable dedication to the role, so its undeniably entertaining and enjoyable in equal doses. The real performer here might be Craven; who understands ever-so-well that some of the best horror comes from the places where we can go, or might have been. "The Serpent and the Rainbow" incorporates realism into its story, even if sometimes it comes off as preposterous. That seems to be the point; and it makes it all the more fun to watch this movie. I liked it, I was entertained by it, and while it's no classic or masterpiece, it's worth watching.

I was most surprised by the way the film's story treated Voodoo. The film is based, or inspired by the novel of the same name by Wade Davis. I am told that the book is not a work of fiction; and there really was a drug that could, presumably, bring back the dead. There was criticism about the accuracy of the novel, but anyways...that's besides what I'm covering. I appreciated the film's approach to Voodoo because it is all about the practice/religion. It's not like a roadside attraction, as it would be in many other films. Craven respects the existence of Voodoo; and his film is interesting enough in its exploration of the subject. It's nice to see Wes Craven make a good movie that's not a slasher film, and his home is still horror, but he likes making films like this one, and man, he's damn good at it. For Pullman's solid performance, Craven's fantastical imagery, and the intelligent approach to Voodoo religious practices, I say you should see "The Serpent and the Rainbow".
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