Wes Craven’s 1988 classic has aged incredibly well. The Serpent and The Rainbow is every bit as terrifying today as it was in 1988.
The Serpent and The Rainbow Synopsis
Ethnobotanist Dennis Alan travels to Haiti to investigate a Voodoo ritual drug supposedly capable of creating zombies. He is threatened and tortured by Dargent Peytraud, Captain of the Haitian Special Forces, but persists in his efforts to obtain a sample of the drug. After returning to Boston, Alan continues to be tormented by Peytraud, who is revealed to be a powerful Voodoo sorcerer. Convinced that his death is imminent, Alan chooses to return to Haiti. He soon discovers the mystical drug he is so fascinated by is every bit as deadly as rumoured.
With material as rich as a zombie-making powder, it’s easy for any director to go overboard. Be it with scares, characterisation, or special effects.
The late Wes Craven didn’t, though, with this 80s gem of his. Instead, he opted for an even approach that steadily draws in the viewer through dazzling voodoo rituals and unforgettable dream sequences. The surreal scares, even when watched today, are incredibly effective. Two of our greatest fears are surreptitiously played up, that of being buried before one is truly dead, and that of having no control over surroundings when sound asleep.
In short, The Serpent and the Rainbow is an effective and disturbing movie, one that sometimes doesn’t entirely make sense though you would not be inclined to question too much because you are so unnerved. For those familiar with Haitian history, the likeness of Zakes Mokae’s villain to Papa Doc is bound to be unmistakable too. This makes the movie doubly chilling. One does wonder how many characters in the movie have real-life counterparts.
Check out this interesting read about the scientific nature and discovery of “zombie powder” by Dr. Wade Davis.
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