The Serpent and the Rainbow

Writers:      Wade Davis (inspired by the book of the same name)
Richard Maxwell (screenplay)
Director:     Wes Craven

This movie had a 60 and a 56 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which, If I had any sense, should have informed me that it was a complete waste of time, but because I saw it show up on a couple of lists for “spiritual” films, I endured it. Normally Wes Craven’s films are not just pure horror and this movie was supposedly based on a true story, but I failed to find anything redeeming about this movie except the fact that it was only 98 minutes long.

I have no idea why Craven decided that the best depiction of this story was the horror genre, but that is where he chose to take it. I suppose the storyline simply lent itself to that area of film, which is one I have no interest in.

Just in case I haven’t discouraged you from watching this movie let me give you a quick glimpse of the supposed true story: Dr. Dennis Alan (played by Bill Pullman), an anthropologist, had some type of shamanic experience in the Amazon and barely escaped with his life while bringing herbs from the rain forest which were new to American Scientists. Upon hearing of his discoveries, the head of an American Pharmaceutical company commissioned Dr. Alan to travel to Haiti to obtain some alleged “Zombie” chemical so that the researchers could develop an anesthesia of remarkable capabilities.

Dr. Alan was shown evidence of a zombie, yes the walking dead, and it was his mission to locate and research this individual. Unfortunately, for Dr. Alan, Haiti was in the midst of a revolution aimed at removing an evil dictator, “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Alan was apparently exposed to hallucinogenic drugs and he was continually harassed and eventually tortured by one of Duvalier’s evil minions, Dargent Peytraud (played by Zakes Mokae).

(Spoiler Alert—Just in-case you are intrigued by this film’s premise and have not figured out that Dr. Alan lived to tell his story.) Anyway, if you really want to watch this, stop reading here.

Fortunately, for the planet, the persevering researcher overcame the evil, mind-controlling Peytraud, after Duvalier’s reign collapsed and he was able to share the Zombification Drug with researchers, not to mention the fact that he saved the lovely, love-interest, Marielle DuChamp (played by Cathy Tyson) from certain decapitation.

As the film ended there was a notice that the Zombification Drugs are still being investigated for their properties and possible uses in America and Europe. Since the film was made in 1988 and the Wade Davis book was written in 1984, I am guessing that if science had discovered many beneficial uses for these compounds it would have been big news, by now.

I do not mean to suggest that I doubt the veracity of the Wade Davis book, but I saw no value, whatsoever, in the presentation Wes Craven created. Perhaps it will appeal to you horror lovers out there, but it is not my cup of tea. As someone always on the lookout for movies which lend themselves to discussions of the spiritual nature, I cannot imagine why this film would ever make anyone’s spiritual film list. Of course, I suppose everything is spiritual so, there’s that.

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