Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Director: Wes Craven

Starring: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings, Conrad Roberts, Badja Djola, Thresa Merritt, Michael Gough

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Don't bury me...I'm not dead!

Plot: Dennis Allan is a scientist who visits Haiti on the strength of a rumour of a drug which renders the recipient 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 "Baby Doc" Duvalier. 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.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

I remembered this one being better twenty years ago. It's an interesting story with some interesting moments but there's something about it that just didn't do it for me. For one, it's too long. The love scene was unnecessary and brought the picture to a halt (is it me or was Cathy Tyson using a body double?) which made it seem obligatory. Zakes Mokae is one creepy ass looking mofo. He was great fun to watch. I would have liked more scenes with him skeezing out the screen.

The camerawork and optical effects are outstanding. Methinks Wes Craven is a fan of I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943) which also dealt with Voodoo.

Paul Winfield is always fabulous. I miss that guy. He and Raul Julia went way too early. Anyway, back to the picture. SERPENT meanders, going between science, superstition and politics and it was the latter that I could have done without. It's not without interest but the political stuff going on in the background didn't add to the story in such a way that it would be impossible to tell without it. I would have rather Craven & pals focus on reality and fantasy aspects of the Voodoo culture and belief system and how it can affect an entire population into believing that zombies, curses, etc are fact and a real threat. (Gee, it sounds like living here in the Bible Belt in the Southern United States.) I generally like the film but I'm convinced it was a missed opportunity for a director who has shown he can deliver the goods.

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