The Serpent and the Rainbow (1998) Movie Review

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1998)

1998 | Horror, Fantasy
98 minutes /

User Score: 50/100

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The Serpent and the Rainbow Review


An anthropologist goes to Haiti after hearing rumors about a drug used by black magic practitioners to turn people into zombies.

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1998) is an American fantasy horror that was filmed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and Haiti. Director Wes Craven (Scream (1996), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), New Nightmare (1994)) disappointed me in this film because he did not put his best foot forward. The movie was an entertaining watch, but Wes Craven could have made this film into an outstanding, exceptional film. Richard Maxwell and Adam Rodman’s screenplay was loosely based on ethnobotanist Wade Davis nonfiction book of the same. Wade’s book is about his experiences in Haiti while investigating the story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was said to be poisoned, buried alive, and then a herbal brew was used to revive him into a zombie. The movie contains minor nudity of a female’s breast, violence, people being buried alive, bad language, suspense, creepiness and bring the dead back to live.

The Serpent and the Rainbow began with Christophe (Conrad Roberts - The Scorpion King (2002), The Mask of Zorro (1998), Man on the Moon (1999)) a Haitian man in 1978. He mysteriously dies in a clinic while a mysterious suited man was outside Christophe’s hospital window and there was also a voodoo parade marching past his window with a burning coffin while Christophe was dying/died. Christophe was buried with a Catholic funeral but his eyes open and tears came out as his casket was lowered.

Skip forward seven years later and we meet Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman - Independence Day (1996), Lost Highway (1997), The Equalizer (2014), While You Were Sleeping (1995)) who is an ethnobotanist and anthropologist from Harvard University. Dennis received rare herbs and medicines from a shaman in the Amazon Jungles and returned to Boston. A large pharmaceutical corporation approaches Aan about investigating the Voodoo religion of Haiti using drugs to create zombies. The company is up to no good as they want Alan to get his hands on the drug so they can use it as a type of super anesthetic after mass producing it. Alan accepts the deal with the huge amount of funds and travels to Haiti.

Doctor Marielle (Cathy Tyson - Mona Lisa (1986), Priest (1994), The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (2001)) teams up with Alan to help him find the drug. W e are then treated to seeing Christophe, who is very well alive. The same man that was outside of Christophe’s clinic room window warns Alan to leave Haiti, but Alan is stubborn and continues his investigation. Alan later meets Doctor, Mozart (Brent Jennings - Moneyball (2011), Witness (1985), Life (1999), Red Heat (1988)) who is a local witch that knows how to get the zombie drug and how to create it. Skip forward and Alan is having his scrotum nailed to a chair after once again disobeying orders to leave Haiti and is thrown on the streets knowing that he will die if he does not leave Haiti. He was later taken to an aircraft at gunpoint as a way of being thrown out of Haiti, but Dr. Mozart snuck onto the aircraft and gave Alan the zombie drug and told him to mention his (Mozart) name so he can become recognized/famous. There is so much more to this movie that is interesting and entertaining, but I will leave it up to you to see all that I did not mention.

The last battle was not needed because it harms the movie more than it helped the film with pointless special effects and giving a false ending. I am not sure what Wes Craven was thinking while shooting this movie, and if he saw the screenplay did not fit his style, then he should have told the writers to do better or do it again. I am a huge Wes Craven fan and like this film but I know it could have been better regardless of what budget Wes Craven had. This film was overwhelming at points where it made me question if the character was tripping or just sleeping - one of those scenes was a young bride’s corpse. Serpent had an estimated budget of $7 million and grossed over $19.6 million but was considered to being a box office failure but that does not make it a bad movie, it is a better motion picture than it was given credit for. Every horror fans should watch this film at least once in their lifetime and do so in the dark; it will spook the heck out of you.

About The Serpent and the Rainbow (1998)

Title: The Serpent and the Rainbow
Year: 1998
Runtime: 98 minutes
Type: Movie
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Score: 4 / 5 stars
Avg. Rating: 2.5/5 stars from 6 users.
Total Avg. Votes: 6
Starring: Bill Pullman, Michael Gough, William Newman, Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, Paul Guilfoyle, Francis Guinan, Dey Young, Harold Désiré, Gérard Matonbe, Theresa Merritt, Diamanda Galás, Buche, Robert Regaldo, Ti-Blanc, Providenia Alcántara, Aleta Mitchell, Marie Carmel Noel, Dikatel Charles, Jaime Pina Gautier, Frantz Thomas, Ana Ramirez, Evencio Mosquera Slaco, Johnny Pephanon, Rosa Bautista, Kimberleigh Aarn, Lucienne Charles, Juliana José, Philogen Thomas, Suzette Cajusle
Writers: Wade Davis, Richard Maxwell, Adam Rodman
Director: Wes Craven

The Serpent and the Rainbow Cover Poster Art