The Serpent and the Rainbow will always be one of my favorite movies. The movie itself is loosely based on a book by the same name, by a gentleman of the name of Wade Davis. (I have read the book and will be posting a review on it later, fear not!) On the drive to my family’s house in another town on Christmas, I started to wonder what my first encounter with zombies was – a movie, book, song, or something else. I’m not entirely sure, but I believe The Serpent and the Rainbow was my first encounter.
There is one scene in the movie that I truly believe I will take to my grave. Wade Davis (as portrayed by Bill Pullman) is asleep at a vodoun holy site. He awakes to find a corpse in a wedding dress staggering towards him. Everyone around him is fast asleep, impervious to its high pitched screeching. It keeps reaching out towards him and he can’t seem to get away from it fast enough. Here’s the real kicker – the corpse was sent into Davis’ dream for the purpose of warning him away from his inquiries. Scary stuff. That scene out of every other in the movie terrified me to the core. The first time I watched the movie I was very little, and it kept me from sleeping for at least a week.
Another sequence of interest is the making of the zombie powder. Craven treats the cultural and medicinal aspects of the mixture with respect. He doesn’t overly embellish the cultural part for the sake of the movie (even though other parts of the movie are certainly not direct from or based on the book). Careful explanation is given as the zombie powder is mixed and later used.
Nostalgia aside, The Serpent and the Rainbow is a great film. Even though it was released in 1988 I believe it will continue to be a classic. Wes Craven proves his horror mastery once again. The film sets and locale are very convincing, as are the characters. All of the actors are top-notch. The storyline compliments the effects nicely, as neither overpowers the other. The effects aren’t flashy and done just to draw movie crowds, but flow seamlessly with the storyline.
Solely considering plot and storyline – nothing is left to be desired. The movie draws the viewer completely into the world of Haitian voodoo. Explanations of unfamiliar terms such as bokor (think of him as the zombie keeper – he takes your soul and uses you for his own purposes), and loa (the general term for the voodoo gods and goddesses) are all explained within the movie and in the context of the scenes. That is to say that you know as much as you need to know at any given point, regardless of your own religion.
If you are looking for a good, old-fashioned zombie movie then I suggest you pick up a copy of The Serpent and the Rainbow. It is an interesting and exciting tale of Haitian zombies and the culture behind them. It is well acted, well filmed, and will easily stand the test of time.