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The Serpent and the Rainbow
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The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

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Plot Summary:
"Dennis Allan is an industrial chemist who visits Haiti on the strength of a rumour of a drug which renders the recepient totally paralyzed but conscious. The drug's effects often fool doctors, who declare the victims dead. Could this be the origin of the "zombie" legend? Alan embarks on a surprising and often surreal investigation of the turbulent social chaos that is Haiti during the revolution which ousted hated dictator Papa Doc. Often a pawn in a greater game, Alan must decide what is science, what is superstition, and what is the unknown in a anarchistic society where police corruption and witch-doctory are commonplace."

Reviewer: Ben Aslett @horrorasylum
Review Date: 19 November 2001 My Rating: out of 5


# In the mid point of director Wes Cravens career comes one of his subtler masterpieces. The story, one of his less elaborate, revolves around a zombification drug. Allowing he who takes it to be impervious to pain, stop breathing and show no signs of life but not actually be dead, only to wake up when the effect has worn off to be buried alive six feet under. Word leaks to the USA and sure enough they have to capitalize on the positive use of the drug. And before long, Dennis Allan is on an adventure that he will never forget.

The film was actually based on Wade Davisís book of the same name, documenting his encounters with the strange voodoo underworld of Haiti. Wes Craven uses the vivid imagery associated with voodoo to varying effects. In some scenes like when Dennis is hallucinating, the visual effect portrayed is disturbing and edgy and in others, namely the scenes of the graveyard at night, are not up to what we have come to expect from Wes Craven.

Bill Pullman (Lake Placid, Independence Day) the fine actor that he is was a surprise choice to star as the lead. At the time (his fourth film) he was making his way up the ranks in Hollywood, and for those who saw him in The Serpent and the Rainbow were let in to his many talents. Bill brings the depth and anxiety to the character without letting down on his trademark ruthless resiliency.

The star of the show is local man come zombie powder dealer Dargent. A happy and lively person, he crafts the perfect disguise for his shady business venture. Itís not surprising he is happy, charging $ for each jar of zombie powder.

The film its self, with a surprising resemblance to the James Bond classic Live and Let Die, unexpectedly keeps you intrigued to the very end. The best aspect of the film is that there is never a point in the movie where something isnít happening. The minor storylines are changing focus rapidly and the keeping the audience on itís toes. That said however, the action is not always at full velocity. It is there but doesnít strike you with as much force as it did in Cravenís earlier (and best know film) A Nightmare On Elm Street.

One aspect that is left out of this film, like would be left out in years later in People Under The Stairs, is the use of full character development. The main characters are given to us fresh and then only a small proportion of their past and abilities is draw out throughout the film. At least in this film the make up effects were better that People Under the Stairs. The art department used lots of natural elements, dirt, trees, wood to create the atmosphere and feel that the film needed. Throwing in the odd snake or two helped as well.

If you are a Wes Craven fan then you will want to see this film. It shows that he can stray from horror and still manage to give the audience the excitement and fright they want. This film isnít or all, some will say it is too slow and some will say the action is abundant. The only way you will know for sure is if you watch it for yourself. One thing is for sure; viewing this film will put you off visiting the West Indies for a while.

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