#152 -- The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Director: Wes Craven
Rating: 3/5

I've been meaning to watch this movie for years now. I knew that it was pretty popular, and I saw that a lot of people listed it as their favorite, so I was interested. That was back before I knew anything about voodoo zombies, though, so I'm kind of glad I waited. I've been seeing the cover for years too, and I never once realized that the star was Bill Pullman. He stars as medical researcher Dr. Dennis Allen. We first meet him in Brazil, where he was sent to gather medicinal plants from a shaman. Then he is sent to Haiti. The people he works for received information about a dead man who was seen walking the streets, fully alive. They want to know how they brought him back to life, so that they can use it to save lives. Dennis realizes, though, that retrieving this information will not be as easy as he hoped. Once in Haiti, he teams up with a female doctor and they set about finding the answers. The people of Haiti are frightened, and they want to stop whoever is turning people into zombies. They meet a man named Mozart who makes the poison that causes the zombification. After five hundred dollars and a test run with a goat, he takes Dennis to the cemetery to make some of his own zombie powder. There's a brutal police force on duty in Haiti, and the leader of this force is also the man responsible for the zombies roaming around. He's a vicious man, and he will not let Dennis ruin his plans. He tortures him to try to make him stop, but that doesn't work. Dennis is too determined. He eventually loads him onto a plane at gunpoint and sends him home, but at that point Dennis had already finished his batch of zombie powder. He goes home, shows the powder to his bosses, and all is well. But he's got the feeling that something is wrong over in Haiti. He's still having the hallucinations (or premonitions?) that were caused by a potion the Brazilian Shaman gave him, and his visions are telling him that he has to return to Haiti to help the female doctor that he's grown feelings for. Even though it's probably not the best idea in the world, he returns to Haiti, and an epic battle with the evil bokor commences. But not before he's given a little bit of zombie powder himself.

There are a couple of interesting things going on here. First, it stayed true to the lore of voodoo zombies. People were given the powder, presumed dead, and buried. According to their research, the brain remained active, but the parts that controlled motor skills were destroyed--at least for a little while. Once all of their motor skill returned, they were already underground. When they woke up, if they were lucky enough to be found and dug up, they wouldn't suffer any brain damage. They would still have their memories and such, rather than being the brainless zombies we usually see. Also, the zombies weren't the enemies here, the ones creating them were. The zombies were the victims, and it kind of made you feel sorry for them. That was interesting, but that's the part that disappointed me. I wanted creepy zombies heeding their master's every command. The bokor was able to steal their souls (he kept them in jars), and he used those to control them. But we didn't see that very much, and when we did, he didn't really do much with it. I think the point was the fact that the zombies weren't the enemies. So, it was an interesting story, but all in all, I wasn't extremely impressed by it.

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