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The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Bill Pullman , Cathy Tyson , Wes Craven  |  R |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings
  • Directors: Wes Craven
  • Writers: Richard Maxwell, A.R. Simoun
  • Producers: David Ladd, Doug Claybourne
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: September 23, 2003
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000AOX0E
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,499 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Serpent and the Rainbow" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Recommendations

  • Editorial Reviews

    Wes Craven (The People Under the Stairs, Shocker) directs this terrifying story of one man's nightmarish journey into the eerie and deadly world of voodoo. A Harvard anthropologist (Bill Pullman) is sent to Haiti to retrieve a strange powder that is said to have the power to bring human beings back from the dead. In his quest to find the miracle drug, the cynical scientist enters the rarely seen netherworld of walking zombies, blood rites and ancient curses. Based on the true life experiences of Wade Davis and filmed on location in Haiti, it's a frightening excursion into black magic and the supernatural.

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Bury It. . .It's Not Dead! October 28, 2003
    Before venerable horror maven Wes Craven directed the highly acclaimed SCREAM trilogy, many serious and critical fans of horror cinema considered THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW to be his masterpiece. Not only is the direction tight and top-notch, but the acting is superb--Bill Pullman and Cathy Tyson are quite convincing as the endagered principals, with excellent character actors like Paul Winfield, Zakes Mokae, and Paul Guilfoyle fleshing out a wonderful supporting cast--and the story is sufficiently tense and creepy. It is one of the few horror films to deal with voodoo practices in a serious and non-condescending manner, often compared by film critics and historians to Jacques Tourneur's classic voodoo flick I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943).
    Much ado has been made concerning the uneveness of this effort from Craven, particularly how the film supposedly jumps back and forth between horror and straight drama. However, these inaccurate interpretations likely stem from a misunderstanding of Craven's use of his source material, anthropologist E. wade Davis' non-fictional book THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. It is true that Craven and his scriptwriters were INSPIRED by the book--which is a TRUE account of Davis' infiltration of Haiti's voodoo culture in search of a plant-based sedative reputedly used to create "zombies"--but the plot of the film is NOT, as many believe, a visual retelling of the book. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that the main character, ethnobotanist Dennis Alan (excellently played by Bill Pullman), is not named after the author of the aforementioned book. Add to this the film's numerous supernatural and magical plot elements and it should be easy to comprehend that this is indeed a FICTIONAL horror film.
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    22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars The Best Treatment So Far August 9, 2000
    I am a fan of Voodoo cults (being a denizen of New Orleans for five years) and Wes Craven in general (Though his Nightmare on Elm Street series did degenerate over the years). This film is extremely fast-paced and entertaining overall. The images come fast and furious, particularly during the ceremonial scenes. It gets a bit boggged down and confused in the latter stages, but not enough to entirely distract from the denouement. The acting is generally excellent (there were very few characters I didn't find believable) and the script is on a par with the book from which it is derived. I found myself involved with the central character (the anthropologist), which is as much as one can ask from a film of this variety. I enjoyed the local color and the feeling of location authenticity. Some of the Ken Russell derived special-effects tended to get in the way, but didn't hinder the overall treatment. At some stages I did believe I was reexperiencing "Altered States," however.
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    8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but could have been great. April 10, 2007
    Bill Pullman (you may know him from Independence Day) stars a Harvard Anthropologist who is sent to Haiti to investigate some of the holistic drugs and plants that the natives use. While in Haiti he is given a strange mixture that shows him his sacred animal and it guides him back to saftey after he has horrific visions. Once he returns to the States he is hired by a desperate drug company to return to Haiti and find a plant that is supposed to bring the dead back to life. When he returns to Haiti he is dragged into a web of voodoo rituals and rites that may engulf him forever...

    The main problem I have with this film is the direction by Wes Craven. He hasn't quite grasped the fact that sometimes the scariest moments don't come from special effects. This movie should work, and it should work very well. It doesn't. Even though Craven was given a better than average screenplay to work from, from an even better novel, he messes up every chance he has to truly bring this film to the next level.

    While better than your average horror film it could have been great. A classic even. Bill Pullman gives us a great performance as he usually does. If Craven did only one thing right with this film it is the atmosphere. He has created a truly bleak and harrowing atmosphere around the whole used up voodoo plotline. From the strange Amazon rainforest style music to the casting of the minor roles the atmosphere is pitch perfect for this film. As most everyone knows, Craven would go on to do great things in the genre (well at least succesful things) and make a name for himself as a horror master. This is evidence of the better things that would follow. While I have mixed feelings about it, you should check it out.
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    5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece from Wes Craven November 3, 2002
    This brillant 1988 film, about voodoo was directed by Wes Craven. It stars Bill Pullman as Dennis Alen, and Cathy Tylson as Marielle. This film was based on true events. Dennis is a Harvard anthropologist and is called up by his old professor with a job for a pharmaceutical company. He is to go to Haiti and investigate the rumors and folklore of zombies. A man who died 7 years earlier, was found wandering in the village. He is to go there, and find out how he has come back to life. Dennis goes to Haiti, and meets Marielle, a doctor who treats the mentally ill, and since zombies have no control over themselves, she gets a lot of them. Dennis and Marielle go on investigating, and they find out, people are turned into zombies through a powder through the skin. Dennis is a scientist, and doesn't really believe this. Little does he know, there are things about this voodoo powder that science will never know. All of this is going on as a strict dictatorship is running Haiti. The leader does not want Dennis investigating this. It is rumored he is a powerful black magician. What will Dennis learn after his decent into a mystical, dark world in Haiti?
    This film has a very creepy mood, and is filmed mostly in Haiti. It has a documentary feel to it. The acting is done very well, as is the direction. All top notch. This is one of the best religious films I've ever seen. It explores voodoo, the rituals, and deities. Some scenes are very scary. There is a torture scene no male will ever forget. There is also a good romance subplot in the film, that works well with the two main characters. I have nothing but positive things to say for this film, except one: some effects are not needed. I recommended this to all film lovers. Take a chance, with an alternative religious film, its quite interesting. 5 stars. Check it out.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    4.0 out of 5 stars Take A Trip Into The World of Voodoo
    The Serpent and the Rainbow stars Bill Pullman as Dennis Alan, an anthropologist who visits Haiti on an assignment trip to investigate a drug that is being used by the natives in... Read more
    Published 1 day ago by Kane's Review
    5.0 out of 5 stars Like Zombies? See this movie.
    If you are into zombies you will love this movie. It mixes fantasy and reality in a magical way that will keep your attention. Creepy, fascinating and a little scary. Read more
    Published 9 days ago by Lois V. Peters
    4.0 out of 5 stars Pharmaceutical History?
    Well I guess this is the way it happens, they way indigenous peoples achievements get lost in eurocentric society. Read more
    Published 10 days ago by Fizzle
    4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
    It was an excellent movie
    Published 22 days ago by elizabeth gonzalez
    3.0 out of 5 stars 8 word review
    A bit cheesy, but good fun to watch.
    Published 1 month ago by Fallon Mosley
    4.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual
    Saw the movie already but sent it as a gift to a friend
    Published 1 month ago by Natacha
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    Very good movie
    Published 2 months ago by Lisa Simms
    2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
    Wasn't that impressed ....
    Published 2 months ago by Warren L. Cotts
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    Great movie
    Published 2 months ago by Vanessa Robinson
    5.0 out of 5 stars Been wanting this for years!
    Great movie! Finally at a price I can a ford. The free 24 rental was nice too.
    Published 3 months ago by Bobbie Jean
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