A Harvard anthropologist is sent to Haiti to retrieve a strange powder that is said to have the power to bring humans back from the dead. In his quest, the cynical scientist enters the rarely seen netherworld of walking zo... more »mbies and ancient curses.« less
"I am a fan of Voodoo cults (being a denizen of New Orleans for five years) and Wes Craven in general (Though his Nightmare on Elm Street series did degenerate over the years). This film is extremely fast-paced and entertaining overall. The images come fast and furious, particularly during the ceremonial scenes. It gets a bit boggged down and confused in the latter stages, but not enough to entirely distract from the denouement. The acting is generally excellent (there were very few characters I didn't find believable) and the script is on a par with the book from which it is derived. I found myself involved with the central character (the anthropologist), which is as much as one can ask from a film of this variety. I enjoyed the local color and the feeling of location authenticity. Some of the Ken Russell derived special-effects tended to get in the way, but didn't hinder the overall treatment. At some stages I did believe I was reexperiencing "Altered States," however."
Don't Bury It. . .It's Not Dead!
Michael R Gates | Nampa, ID United States | 10/28/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Before venerable horror maven Wes Craven directed the highly acclaimed SCREAM trilogy, many serious and critical fans of horror cinema considered THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW to be his masterpiece. Not only is the direction tight and top-notch, but the acting is superb--Bill Pullman and Cathy Tyson are quite convincing as the endagered principals, with excellent character actors like Paul Winfield, Zakes Mokae, and Paul Guilfoyle fleshing out a wonderful supporting cast--and the story is sufficiently tense and creepy. It is one of the few horror films to deal with voodoo practices in a serious and non-condescending manner, often compared by film critics and historians to Jacques Tourneur's classic voodoo flick I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943).Much ado has been made concerning the uneveness of this effort from Craven, particularly how the film supposedly jumps back and forth between horror and straight drama. However, these inaccurate interpretations likely stem from a misunderstanding of Craven's use of his source material, anthropologist E. wade Davis' non-fictional book THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. It is true that Craven and his scriptwriters were INSPIRED by the book--which is a TRUE account of Davis' infiltration of Haiti's voodoo culture in search of a plant-based sedative reputedly used to create "zombies"--but the plot of the film is NOT, as many believe, a visual retelling of the book. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that the main character, ethnobotanist Dennis Alan (excellently played by Bill Pullman), is not named after the author of the aforementioned book. Add to this the film's numerous supernatural and magical plot elements and it should be easy to comprehend that this is indeed a FICTIONAL horror film.That said, it could be cogently argued that with THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, Craven was attempting to recreate the realistic and austere timbre of his earlier horror films like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and THE HILLS HAVE EYES. As Craven himself has stated in many interviews, he and his crew did indeed face many real dangers when filming THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW in Haiti and the Dominican Republic--there was political unrest in Haiti at the time, and voodoo practioners were often vehemently private or secretive--and this risky on-location shooting most certainly helped to create an eerie atomosphere and added an amazing sense of reality and credibility to the film's preternatural voodoo sequences. Of course, such realism makes it easier for the viewer to suspend disbelief, and this, combined with the non-fictional "source" material, could explain why some viewers find it hard determine if the movie is a docu-drama or a horror flick. But for the true horror aficionado, and especially for long-time fans of Wes Craven, it is this gritty slice-of-life approach that has propelled the director to the top of the genre.THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW is a great horror film, both believable and downright scary in its semi-authentic depiction of voodoo practices and rituals in the West Indies. Though it is often wrongly neglected or disparaged by casual audiences, a viewing will earn the film a revered spot in the collection of any serious fan of cinematic horror. And it's a must-own for Wes Craven fans."
A pure treasure to see and a warning to the wise....
Eva K. Kilpatrick | Canajoharie,NY 13317 | 03/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wes Craven has proved his ability to direct recollection is as finate as his ability to master horror. In this based on truth film, the main character(Bill Pullman) is in search of a remedy to change the face of medicine forever. In his search, he finds himself in Haiti, immersed in a plot of lust, revenge, and the truth of what the unknown can behold. This film is one that never looses its ability to shock the viewer. if you've ever wondered just what taboos and rights may lie within other cultures walls, watch and be engulfed."
Good, but could have been great.
D. R. Cromwell | Boston, MA | 04/11/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Bill Pullman (you may know him from Independence Day) stars a Harvard Anthropologist who is sent to Haiti to investigate some of the holistic drugs and plants that the natives use. While in Haiti he is given a strange mixture that shows him his sacred animal and it guides him back to saftey after he has horrific visions. Once he returns to the States he is hired by a desperate drug company to return to Haiti and find a plant that is supposed to bring the dead back to life. When he returns to Haiti he is dragged into a web of voodoo rituals and rites that may engulf him forever...
The main problem I have with this film is the direction by Wes Craven. He hasn't quite grasped the fact that sometimes the scariest moments don't come from special effects. This movie should work, and it should work very well. It doesn't. Even though Craven was given a better than average screenplay to work from, from an even better novel, he messes up every chance he has to truly bring this film to the next level.
While better than your average horror film it could have been great. A classic even. Bill Pullman gives us a great performance as he usually does. If Craven did only one thing right with this film it is the atmosphere. He has created a truly bleak and harrowing atmosphere around the whole used up voodoo plotline. From the strange Amazon rainforest style music to the casting of the minor roles the atmosphere is pitch perfect for this film. As most everyone knows, Craven would go on to do great things in the genre (well at least succesful things) and make a name for himself as a horror master. This is evidence of the better things that would follow. While I have mixed feelings about it, you should check it out."
An underrated shocker from Wes Craven!
John Lindsey | Socorro, New Mexico USA. | 10/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
Dennis Allan (Bill Pullman) is a Harvard anthropologist who just came back from the jungles of South America has been given an assignment to go to Haiti to find a formula which is rumored to bring the dead back to life and can be useful. On his trip, he falls for a female doctor (Cathy Tyson) who's father is a voodoo priest named Hougan (Paul Winfield) as he finds out that the secret of reanimating the dead which can bring deadly results when it comes to Alan.
Loosely based on a true story and a book by Wade Davis, this is a very fascinating and strange film from Wes Craven that is one of his most underrated movies yet. He makes a non-traditional zombie movie in the "E.C. Comics" mode and explores the secrets of vooodoo with the myth behind bringing the dead back to life. It also has the tradition of a classic Hammer film including masterpieces like "White Zombie" to it, Bill Pullman was ahead of his time making a good performance as the anthropologist. The movie has some intense and memorable moments such as the "I want to hear you scream" sequence which will make male viewers cringe, the make-up effects are alright and the storyline is quite solid. This is a more different zombie movie then your typical George Romero or "Return of the Living Dead" movie, i recommend it for fans of zombie movies and supernatural flicks.
This DVD has great picture with good sound and picture with the only extras being a Craven Bio and Theatrical Trailer.
Also recommended: "Cemetery Man", "Pet Sematary", "An American Werewolf in London", "The Return of the living Dead 1 2 and 3", "Dawn of the Dead (1978 and 2004)", "Tales from the Hood", "Re-Animator", "Day of the Dead (1985)", "White Zombie", "Bride of Re-Animator", "Candyman", "Hellraiser 1 & 2", "Versus", "Zombie (a.k.a. Zombi 2)", "City of The Living Dead", "Beyond Re-Animator", "Hell of the Living Dead (a.k.a. Night of the Zombies, Zombie Creeping Flesh)", "Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (a.k.a. Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue)", "The Belivers", "The Skeleton Key", "Dead Heat (1988)", "Dead and Buried", "House By the cemetery", "The Beyond", "Prince of Darkness", "Night of the Living Dead (1968 and 1990)", "Diary of the Dead", "Land of the Dead", "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things", "Shaun of the Dead", and " I Walked with a Zombie"."