Blu-ray Review: The Serpent and the Rainbow (Collector’s Edition)

Wes Craven is noted as a master of the horror genre having helmed The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. While those films are enjoyable in their own blood curdled ways, my favorite has always been The Serpent and the Rainbow. The movie caused quite a stir when it came out in 1988. Turns out certain groups were upset at its depiction of voodoo culture in Haiti. It wasn’t good for tourism. The movie took major liberties with the non-fiction novel of the same name. But all can be forgiven with this cinematic journey into the real Haitian locations with a gripping story.

Dennis Alan (Independence Day‘s Bill Pullman) roams the jungles of the world looking for native remedies and potions that might be put to use by major pharmaceutical companies in America. He’s the Indiana Jones of drugs. While in the Amazon, he drinks up with a Shaman. He trips out and hallucinates a lot of troubling images including being buried alive. He does get back to Boston safely even after this transportation guy has an industrial accident. He gets his next big assignment to go down to Haiti to check out what turns people into zombies. The drug company has a hunch it could be a major anesthetic. They believe they found a doctor who had died seven years before. Alan flies down to the troubled Caribbean country. A local doctor (Cathy Tyson) helps him locate the zombie doctor. Trouble happens when Alan encounters Captain Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae) of the evil Tonton Macoute. He doesn’t want the white guy exploring the voodoo rituals. Alan knows this guy means trouble since Dargent showed up in his drug dream in the Amazon.

There’s a harsh level of brutality in the film. Alan finds himself familiar to hammer time when he won’t take a hint to stop asking for zombie juice. Craven does a great job mixing the spiritual ecstasy of voodoo ceremonies with the violence of the Haitian secret police during the end of Baby Doc’s reign over the island. There’s serious glass eating action as well as an understanding of how zombies were made in the pre-Walking Dead era. The ending is fittingly intense as Alan and Dargent face off. The very young Bill Pullman looks convincing as the nerdy explorer who can’t back off the adventure and danger. He resembles True Blood‘s Alexander Skarsgård. The big reason to get absorbed into the film is the Haitian locations (with a little bit of Dominican Republic on the other side of the island). The Serpent and the Rainbow is essential Wes Craven viewing.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the lush and colorful views of Haiti. The audio is 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The sound mix brings out the beat and the torture screams. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary with Bill Pullman reflecting on how this was his first leading role.

The Making of The Serpent and the Rainbow (23:57) explores how Wes Craven wanted to do more than make a horror film. Author Wade Davis chimes in about what Craven did to his book. He feels Craven had to turn his work into a horror flick. Mel Gibson was supposed to be the lead. Pullman talks about how adventurous the shoot was for him. They speak about shooting on location in Haiti in the post-Baby Doc time. Director of Photography John Lindley points out they shot people who really practiced voodoo rituals. The some of the glass eating is real.

Theatrical Trailer (1:23) sets up the voodoo fears of life and death.

TV Spot (0:31) promises the ultimate nightmare.

Photo Gallery (5:10) contains dozens of behind the scenes shots, promotional materials and the lobby cards.

The Serpent and the Rainbow: Collector’s Edition gives another view of zombie life.

Scream Factory presents The Serpent and the Rainbow: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Wes Craven. Screenplay by: Richard Maxwell & Adam Rodman. Starring: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae & Paul Winfield. Rated: R. Running Time: 98 minutes. Released: February 23, 2016.

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