The Serpent and the Rainbow

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ethnobotanist/anthropologist Dennis Alan, in visiting the Amazon, receives a potion connecting him to his protective totem (a jaguar) through a series of visions, and is later guided by a jaguar from the Rainforest itself. Returned to Boston, he is sent to Haiti by a pharmaceutical corporation looking to investigate a drug used in Haitian Vodou, in the hope of using it for anesthesia.

Alan’s exploration in Haiti to find the drug, assisted by the doctor Marielle, draws the attention of the authorities, so that the commander of the Tonton Macoute, Captain Dargent Peytraud, warns Alan to leave Haiti. Alan refuses to leave, and continues to investigate. Eventually, he encounters a local witch doctor, Mozart, who can produce the drug; but Mozart sells him a substitute instead.

Alan is arrested a second time by the Tonton Macoute and tortured; but again refuses to leave. Later he meets again with Mozart to obtain the true poison. A few hours before gaining this, Alan experiences a nightmare planted in his mind by Peytraud, and wakes beside a dead woman. The Tonton Macoutes then frame Alan for murder.

Alan is brought to Peytraud, who places him on an airplane at gunpoint; whereupon Mozart gives him the drug in exchange for international fame. Alan thence returns to Boston to study the components and effects of the drug.

At a celebration dinner, the wife of Alan’s employer is possessed by Peytraud, who warns him of his own imminent death. Thereafter Alan returns to Haiti, where (at Peytraud’s behest) he is buried alive. Having emerged he returns to the Tonton Macoute headquarters looking for Marielle. There, Alan and his jaguar spirit defeat Peytraud, prompting Marielle to say “The nightmare is over”.


When will people learn to stop messing with voodoo? It never ends well! The Serpent and the Rainbow takes us to the voodoo capitol of the world, Haiti. I don’t need to tell you that this will not end well, do I?

What is this about?

Anthropologist Dennis Alan travels to Haiti in search of a mysterious voodoo powder that turns the living into semiconscious zombies. But as he comes closer to finding the mystical drug, the natives turn Alan’s life into a nightmare.

What did I like?

Buried. Here we go again, another film with people being buried alive. Unlike Buried, no one is buried for the whole film, there is a scene with Bill Pullman being buried alive. You’d think that I would be tired of this, but the way it is used in this film, and the fact that he isn’t down there that long, thanks to help from a certain character, sets up the rest of the picture.

Cerebral. Most horror movies, especially from the 80s, are just scary and/or gross. Well, this is an exception to that rule, as it takes us through a cerebral journey involving jaguar totems, nightmares, and all kinds of things that will cause the audience to take a moment to think about what is truly going on.

Lone Star. I was talking to someone awhile back about Bill Pullman and was surprised that they thought he wasn’t a capable actor. Sure, the guy may have some odd choices on his resume, but he gives everything he has in each role. This is no exception. As the film goes on, his performance gets stronger and stronger, especially when his “woman” is threatened.

What didn’t I like?

Sex. I’m the last person to complain about a sex scene, but about an hour into this, Pullman and his co-star, Cathy Tyson get their freak on, so to speak. Maybe it is just me, but it felt out of place and unnecessary, even for an 80s gratuitous nude scene.

Winnfield. Paul Winnfield isn’t exactly a household name, but he is someone who you’ve seen here and there in bit parts. I just saw him this morning in an episode of Family Matters, for instance. Apparently, he is some kind of voodoo/spiritual expert, but his role isn’t as expanded upon as it probably should be, especially given the fact that the film’s antagonist has some kind of spiritual power of his own.

Walking dead. So, the Haitian government wants to make zombies. They should just do what the US has done for the past 10 or so year, pump reality television into their households! Seriously, though, I like the way they went about making the so-called “zombies”, but I didn’t find it believable, especially when they threw in that it wears off after an hour.

I have to wonder where the rainbow is in The Serpent and the Rainbow. The snake is seen in one of Bill Pullman’s dream sequences, so there is that. Anyway, this is one of those films that a friend recommended I check out, just because they liked it. Unfortunately, I’m not so ecstatic. For me, this was ok, but nothing to write home about. A god chunk of the film feels like a car stuck in the mud spinning its wheels, going nowhere. The rest is just…well, it is just there. Do I recommend this? Not really, but if you’re a fan of these psychological thriller films, you might get some pleasure from a viewing.

3 out of 5 stars


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