Jason’s Awesome DVD Shelf #623: The Serpent And The Rainbow

This movie is on a three DVD set featuring all Wes Craven movies that aren’t called “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. It includes Shocker and The People Under The Stairs. This was the only movie on this set that I haven’t seen yet.

I only knew one thing about this movie: it was about voodoo people making it appear that people are dead but they are not and they get buried. Well, I also knew it starred Bill Pullman, the Bill Paxton of his era.

Bill Pullman IS Dr. Alan, a guy who studies weird medicine all over the world. When we meet him, he’s tripping balls in the Amazon jungle. Some shaman spiked his drink and he started having visions of him falling into the earth with hands grabbing at him. He eventually comes to and finds his helicopter pilot dead. So he roams through the jungle until he finds civilization.

Once back home, he’s called upon to go to Haiti to check out a zombie. What?! Yeah, at the very start of the film, we see this Haitian guy get buried but we see inside the coffin that he’s crying and trying to move. The dude’s sister sees him roaming around the streets and freaks out. Turns out there’s a drug that can bring people to life, so Alan has to go investigate.

He arrives in Haiti and meets up with Dr. Marielle Duchamp, A LADY DOCTOR! OOOOH! She shows him the zombie dude’s death certificate and they go looking for him. They eventually find him in a cemetery (this made me laugh, he was DEAD, he’s technically a zombie, and he’s hanging out in a cemetery) and try to question him but all he remembers is being buried alive and suddenly he’s back roaming around.

In Haiti, meanwhile, there’s some tension across the land as a very evil dictator police guy named Peytraud is around being evil with his toothy grin. He apparently has some “control” over the residents, even able to temporarily possess people has he sees fit. Meanwhile, it seems like SOMEBODY doesn’t want Dr. Alan to figure out how these “zombies” are being made as his hotel room gets trashed and people keep shooting at him.

This guy paid for that gold tooth and god damn it we’re gonna see it!

Hiding out, Alan and Marielle blend in with some people going on a pilgrimage into the forest and camp out, where Alan has horrible nightmares (like this director knows ANYTHING about nightmares. Pssh!) regarding snakes and corpses coming after him. The next day, Alan finds this guy named Mozart (that’s seriously his name in this movie) who can make this powder that can bring people back from the dead. Mozart needs some time to make it, which gives Peytraud enough time to capture Alan and tell him he needs to leave Haiti now.

Alan does NOT leave Haiti and agrees to meet up with Mozart to make the powder. Peytraud finds out, captures Alan AGAIN, and threatens to nail his penis to a chair. Yes, I cringed too and I had to WATCH the god damn thing. Peytraud dumps Alan into the streets and he and Marielle hide out in a beach house while Mozart makes the powder, which takes three days.

On the third day, Alan has another nightmare and wakes up to a dead woman next to him in bed. Peytraud’s men burst in, take pictures of Alan and the dead woman, and capture him YET AGAIN. Peytraud finally comes clean: he’s doing all of this because HE’S the one making the zombies. What he’s actually doing is “capturing the souls” of people by blowing this powder onto people, they appear to be dead for 12 hours, and when they come back to life, Peytraud captures their soul in little baby food jars and…? I didn’t really get what he did with them after this. The dude we met who died in the beginning was just roaming around doing whatever, so it’s not like he’s making the citizens do something under his control. I guess it’s just a “hey I have your soul!” thing for the guy.

But Peytraud is a nice guy. He’s going to put Alan on a plane back to America and as long as Alan never returns, everything will be good. But Mozart sneaks onto the plane, gives Alan the powder, and leaves. When Alan returns to America, they test the powder and sees that it works. Peytraud, through visions, learns about this and haunts Alan’s waking life, even possessing a random chick near him and threaten him. Alan knowing that Marielle is in danger, Alan goes BACK to Haiti and is immediately captured.

By a friend of Marielle’s that is. But this friend ends up being possessed by Peytraud cause he blows the powder into Alan’s face, causing him to appear to be dead in the streets. He’s very much awake when he’s buried and it looks like there’s no hope for him. BUT WAIT! Here’s come the OG zombie from the beginning of the film! He digs him out with the fury of 20 dogs digging a hole in the backyard and manages to get Alan out.

Except Alan has been a wimp this entire movie. He keeps getting captured and nearly tortured and captured and beaten up over and over and over. He’s ESPECIALLY worthless now that Peytraud has his soul. Speaking of, Peytraud is about to decapitate Marielle when the news reports that Haiti’s original leader is coming back to take back his throne or something, which means Peytraud is no longer in power. This makes all the residents of the island happy and they have a protest/riot. Alan shows up and figures if he smashes all the baby jars full of souls, Peytraud will get weaker and weaker. Peytraud is lit on fire and he vanishes. Alan finds the jar with his soul and he returns to “normal” aka just a tad stronger.

Alan and Marielle are about to leave when Alan wants to rid of the torture chair Peytraud used but Peytraud returns out of nowhere and attacks Alan. This time Alan has had enough! He punches the shit out of Peytraud and psychically ties Peytraud to the chair, causing a nail to go through his dick. Then he sends the chair through the floor and into hell, I guess. It’s a rather confusing ending but there you go.

I did like this movie, despite its flaws in story telling. It took me the two captures to realize Peytraud just didn’t want Alan to find out about the powder. There was a very random sex scene that came out of nowhere and yes I’m all about sex scenes but this felt very forced in that if it was edited out, no one would be none the wiser. But hey, it was the ’80s, what you going to do? But yeah, this movie was freaky as fuck. One of my biggest fears is being buried alive and this movie REALLY makes you feel that several times. Overall, I liked it. Not one of Wes Craven’s best but not one of his worst ever.

3 rating systems out of 5.

-Jason

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