At Your Leisure – The Serpent and the Rainbow

by John L. Davis IV

Horror movies and Halloween go hand in hand. They are as ubiquitous as candy corn, grinning pumpkins and cackling witches. Every television channel and every streaming service has a curated group of select horror movies, all aimed at adding to the spooky holiday feel, and we as viewers tend to eat it up like a bag full of candy.
Whether you’re one who tends toward the lighter fare, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas or Hocus Pocus, or you prefer something darker, Halloween seems to get most of us in the mood for a little creepy viewing.
I recently sat down to re-watch Wes Craven’s 1988 horror classic The Serpent and the Rainbow, one of his more well-known films. (Many may not now that the movie is based on a book of the same name by Wade Davis.)
The movie begins with the death and subsequent burial of a Haitian man named Christophe. We see his casket lowered into the ground, his eyes open, and a tear begins to track down his face, as people above mourn his death.
Seven years later anthropologist Dennis Alan is sent to Haiti by a pharmaceutical company, to investigate a drug used in Haitian voodoo to create zombies.
Haiti is in the midst of a revolution at the time, and Alan finds himself the target of Dargent Peytraud, captain of the Tonton Macoute. Peytraud warns Alan to leave Haiti, and forget the drug. Alan persists, and is led by his investigations into an even darker and more violent world than he imagined possible.

The zombies in The Serpent and the Rainbow are nothing like your classic Romero shamblers. These living dead are humans whose souls have been stolen after their deaths, and once they’re resurrected, they become unwitting slaves of those who control their soul.
The movie is light on the gore, compared to other Wes Craven films, relying more on storytelling couched in the voodoo myths to instill terror in the viewer. That’s not to say that there aren’t some bloody and disturbing moments. There certainly are, it IS Wes Craven after all, but this is one movie that does well not relying on just the gore-factor to unsettle people.
Starring a young Bill Pullman, The Serpent and the Rainbow is a terrific addition to your Halloween holiday video selection.