The Serpent and the Rainbow (film)

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The Serpent and the Rainbow
Serpentandtherainbow.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWes Craven
Produced byDoug Claybourne
David Ladd
Written byRichard Maxwell
Adam Rodman
Based onThe Serpent and the Rainbow 
by Wade Davis
StarringBill Pullman
Cathy Tyson
Zakes Mokae
Paul Winfield
Narrated byBill Pullman
Music byBrad Fiedel
CinematographyJohn Lindley
Edited byGlenn Farr
Production
company
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
  • February 5, 1988 (1988-02-05)
Running time98 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$7,000,000 (estimated)
Box office$19,595,031 (USA)
 
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The Serpent and the Rainbow
Serpentandtherainbow.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWes Craven
Produced byDoug Claybourne
David Ladd
Written byRichard Maxwell
Adam Rodman
Based onThe Serpent and the Rainbow 
by Wade Davis
StarringBill Pullman
Cathy Tyson
Zakes Mokae
Paul Winfield
Narrated byBill Pullman
Music byBrad Fiedel
CinematographyJohn Lindley
Edited byGlenn Farr
Production
company
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
  • February 5, 1988 (1988-02-05)
Running time98 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$7,000,000 (estimated)
Box office$19,595,031 (USA)

The Serpent and the Rainbow is a 1988 American horror film directed by Wes Craven and starring Bill Pullman. The script by Richard Maxwell and Adam Rodman is loosely based on the non-fiction book of the same name by ethnobotanist Wade Davis, wherein Davis recounted his experiences in Haiti investigating the story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was allegedly poisoned, buried alive, and revived with a herbal brew which produced what was called a zombie.

Plot[edit]

Dennis Alan, an ethnobotanist and anthropologist from Harvard University, narrowly escapes the Amazon Jungle and returns to Boston after acquiring rare herbs and medicines from a local shaman. During his ordeal, Alan drinks a hallucinogenic potion and experiences a horrifying image of a black man surrounded by corpses in a bottomless pit. Alan also sees his totem jaguar spirit which leads him out of the jungle to safety.

Back in Boston, Alan is approached by a large pharmaceutical corporation looking to investigate a drug used in the Voodoo religion of Haiti to create zombies. The company wants Alan to acquire the drug for mass production and use it as a type of "super anesthetic". The corporation provides Alan with significant funds and sends him to Haiti where the country is in the middle of a revolution. Alan's exploration in Haiti to find the drug, assisted by the doctor Marielle (Cathy Tyson), quickly draws the attention of the authorities. The commander of the Tonton Macoute, Captain Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae) - the same black man from Alan's vision in the Amazon, warns Alan to leave Haiti. Alan is at first not harmed by Peytraud, due to Alan's status as a U.S. citizen.

Alan refuses to leave, and continues to investigate. Eventually, he encounters a local witch doctor, Mozart (Brent Jennings), who can produce the zombie drug; but Mozart sells him a fake substitute instead. After embarrassing Mozart in public, the Voodoo witch doctor agrees to show Alan exactly how to produce the zombie drug for a fee of $1000 to which Alan agrees. Before gaining this knowledge, however, Alan is arrested a second time by the Tonton Macoutes and tortured. After having his scrotum nailed into a chair, Alan is dumped on a street with the message clear that he had best leave Haiti before he is killed. Alan, however, still refuses to do so and meets with Mozart to create the zombie drug.

A few hours before picking up the final product, Alan has a terrifying dream. This was planted in his head by Peytraud, revealed to be an evil bokor who turns enemies in zombies and steals their souls. When Alan wakes up, he is lying next to a dead woman. The Tonton Macoutes enter, take photos, and frame Alan for murder. Brought to Peytraud, Peytraud tells Alan to leave the country and never return, lest he be convicted of the framed murder, executed, and then his soul stolen by Peytraud. His puts Alan on an airplane at gunpoint, but Mozart sneaks onboard at the last minute and gives Alan the zombie drug for free. Mozart simply asks Alan to tell people about him, so that Mozart can achieve international fame. Alan agrees and returns to Boston with his mission apparently completed.

At a celebration dinner, the wife of Alan's employer is possessed by Peytraud, who warns Alan of his own imminent death. Thereafter Alan returns to Haiti, where his only ally, a houngan named Lucien Celine, is killed by Peytraud by dark magic causing a scorpion to materialize inside Celine's throat; Mozart is beheaded at the same time as a sacrifice for Peytraud's evil power. Alan is then sprayed with the zombie powder which "kills" him, afterwards Peytraud steals Alan's body from an American medical clinic before Alan's death can be reported to the American Embassy. Peytraud takes Alan to a graveyard where, helpless in his coffin, Alan sees that Peytraud has captured Marielle and will kill her as a sacrifice to Baron Samedi. Peytraud further shows Alan the soul of Lucien Celine in a canari. Alan is then buried alive with a tarantula to "keep him company". Waking up screaming in his coffin a few hours later, Alan is rescued by Christophe (Conrad Roberts) who was also turned into a zombie by Peytraud many years earlier and now lives in a cemetery thinking that he is still dead.

Having escaped Peytraud's trap, Alan returns to the Tonton Macoute headquarters looking for Marielle. There, Alan and his jaguar spirit defeat Peytraud and send the evil bokor's soul to Hell. As the Haitian people celebrate the downfall of Jean-Claude Duvalier, Marielle proclaims "The nightmare is over".

Cast[edit]

Americans

Haitians

The dancers seen in the film were all natives of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and were performing actual possession dances on camera.

Others

Production[edit]

The film is based on Wade Davis' non-fiction book of the same name, Davis had agreed to sell the rights for the book on the condition that Peter Weir would direct and Mel Gibson would star in the film, however neither Weir or Gibson would be involved in the project. Wes Craven eventually signed on as the film's director.[1]

The Serpent and the Rainbow was filmed in Boston, Massachusetts, Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and in Haiti.[2] During production in Haiti the local government informed the cast and crew that they could not guarantee their safety for the remainder of the film's shoot because of the political strife and civil turmoil that was occurring during that time and as a result production was relocated to the Dominican Republic for the remainder of the shoot. In an interview, Wes Craven stated that unlike his previous films that had problems with the MPA, the first cut for this film got an R rating without any problems.[3]

Differences from the Book[edit]

The literary work The Serpent and the Rainbow was a first person narrative of Wade Davis' actual experiences in Haiti. Rather than a single dangerous expedition as depicted in the film, Davis in fact took several uneventful trips to Haiti in the 1970s and 80s, researching both the zombie legends and the drugs associated with voodoo. He eventually came across the case of Clairvius Narcisse, who was poisoned and appeared dead due to ingestion of tetrodotoxin. After a mock funeral, Narcisse was unburied by a voodoo priest and given a brew derived from Datura stramonium, which he claimed had mind control properties.

Narcisse's narrative does not depict the zombie potion as a powder blown into the victim's face, but rather as a mixture placed in food (in the film, a mention is made that the zombie potion in food would completely kill its victim). Davis did discover several other voodoo powders, including stories consistent with the involuntary dosing of scopolamine, an alkaloid found in datura. The scopolamine drugs were stated to be blown onto a victim and thereafter facilitating behavior control but not the appearance of death.

The character of Captain Dargent Peytraud is loosely based on Luckner Cambronne, who was second-in-command to François Duvalier and the commander of the Tonton Macoutes during the reign of Duvalier. Wade Davis would later claim that he in fact had little trouble with the Haitian authorities, in stark contrast to Doctor Alan's horrific encounters in the film, and that the greatest obstacle to Davis' research was in fact Customs and Immigration through which Davis frequently encountered difficulties bringing back foreign grown plants and live animals to the United States.

Release and Reception[edit]

The film was released theatrically in the United States by Universal Pictures in February 1988. It grossed $19,595,031 at the box office.[4] The film received mixed reviews from critics, it currently holds a 59% on Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

The film was released on DVD by Image Entertainment in 1998.[6] This version is out of print. It was subsequently re-released by Universal Studios in 2003.[7] The film is today available on Amazon.com.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Serpent and he Rainbow (1988) - Trivia". IMDb.com. IMDb.com. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) - Filming Locations". IMDb.com. IMDb.com. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "The Serpent and he Rainbow (1988) - Trivia". IMDb.com. IMDb.com. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Serpent and the Rainbow". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 2011-04-13. 
  5. ^ "The Serpent and the Rainbow". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes.com. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "The Serpent and the Rainbow (DVD)". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-04-13. 
  7. ^ "The Serpent and the Rainbow (DVD)". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-04-13. 

External links[edit]