Hey, look, it’s the perfect horror formula to give me bad dreams: Americans stuck inside hostile foreign lands that practice Voodoo. I mention it every time I review one of these stupid-American-should-have-stayed-home films, that for me, the idea of being left defenseless inside a Godless foreign land is nothing less than ghastly. Wes Craven’s The Serpent & the Rainbow is a decent 80’s horror film with some straight up evil calling the shots. Arrogant American, Dr. Dennis Alan (Pullman), travels to Haiti in search of the drug known to cause zombification in humans. Dennis meets Dr. Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson), who helps facilitate his search. In the cash-starved society cultivated by Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the drug and all its misery is easy to find.
The film claims to be rooted in truth, based on the book by Wade Davis. I won’t use the term “loosely” because Voodoo seems scary as all get out on a subatomic level. That stuff is older than old and has to fight it out with Catholicism in its native land, so the level of anger and evil has to rank off the charts. As suspected, Dennis meets a verified zombie and learns all he can about the mysterious toxin he believes can be positively used in medical research. He meets a local dictator and does his due diligence to makes enemies quickly. As he comes closer to obtaining the powder, his world takes a turn for the worst. Bullied by both strong-arm thugs and the supernatural, Dennis learns he should have kept his white ass at home.
Until tonight, the last time I saw this film was at the theater in 1988. I remember parts of it being schlocky, but this is a formidable zombie film that strives to go old school in its origins. There are several moments of sheer terror involving everything from torture to soul stealing and worse. The Serpent & the Rainbow isn’t a five-star film, but it is an entertaining and ambitious product of the 1980’s. The visceral approach to the film’s harsher elements is gruesome, and created several sneaky scares. This is overlooked in my opinion and I think it’s definitely worth the 90 minutes. I hope you enjoy scenes involving graves.