A sloppy but ambitious mix of pop anthropology, political observation, and good old-fashioned Val Lewtonesque horror, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW succeeds more often than it fails. Cult director Wes Craven reclaims the zombie from George Romero's LIVING DEAD films and returns it to the
Caribbean culture whence it sprang.
Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) is a young scientist hired by an American pharmaceutical company to go to Haiti and uncover the secrets of zombification. Recent studies have proven the existence of actual zombies, and scientists suspect a drug or potion (the discovery of which could mean a fortune to
drug manufacturers looking for a new anesthetic) is involved in the process. Dennis' trip, however, happens to coincide with the collapse of the Duvalier government, and he finds himself tossed into the resulting violent social upheaval. In Haiti Dennis teams up with beautiful local psychiatrist
Marielle (Cathy Tyson), who introduces him to the mysterious world of voodoo. The deeper he probes, however, the greater the opposition from voodoo priests, who attempt to invade his mind and transform him into a zombie.
Writer-director Craven sees Haiti as a vital, mysterious society where harsh economic reality and belief in the supernatural walk hand in hand, and where the elite has corrupted deep traditional religious beliefs to oppress the masses through fear of violence, death, or, even worse, zombification.
From this vivid sociopolitical morass emerges a chilling horror story in which the dead appear to walk and people are possessed by spirits regularly. In conveying this sense of unease and dread, Craven combines the terrifying dream sequences of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET with the subtle and
evocative atmospherics of Val Lewton. leave a comment