Serpent and the Rainbow

There’s a moment in director Wes Craven’s “The Serpent and the Rainbow” that literally hurts to watch. Most men who have seen the film know what scene I’m talking about. Halfway through the film, after having been warned to leave Haiti, Harvard Anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) is brought in by sadistic police chief Peytreaud (Zakes Mokae) for questioning.

Actually, torturing is more like it. Alan was requested (very persuasively if you ask me) to leave the island and forget everything he has learned about Voodoo and zombies. Always the inquisitive type, Alan returns to Haiti, and immediately finds himself in the grips of Peytreaud. Actually, Alan’s scrotum finds itself in the grips of a giant spike. To make a point, Peytreaud hammers in the spike through Alan’s…oh, it just hurts to think about it…That’s just one of the unpleasant moments in Wes Craven’s horror film about the effects Voodoo has on one man. Based loosely on the nonfiction novel by Wade Davis, “The Serpent and the Rainbow” is a departure for Craven, fresh off the success of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” It’s more adventure than horror, even though it’s filled with horrific images. Like being buried alive. That’s the ultimate nightmare, one played to good effect in Craven’s ultimately chilling film. Like “Nightmare,” “Serpent” is filled with hallucinatory nightmares that haunt the central character. Pullman is tremendous as the unassuming Alan, a good looking, good natured adventurer whose quest leads him to the darkest corners of the world. After a spooky encounter in the Amazon jungle, in which Alan met his spiritual guide, he’s off to Haiti for a pharmaceutical company that wants to manufacture zombie powder for use in surgical procedures. It sounds like a sound plan, but getting the powder will require Alan to abandon all he knows about life and death. As revolution starts to swarm over the island, Alan looks for the elusive powder. With his ally, a female doctor played by Cathy Tyson, Alan finds the source of the powder, and makes an offer to purchase some. Hot on Alan’s trail is Peytreaud, who prefers to keep the zombie powder a Haiti secret, and is willing to kill to make it so. Alan is a lost soul in a no man’s land, one filled with mystical beliefs that challenge his very soul. His faith is put to the test when he becomes a victim of the powder, and finds himself being buried alive. How long can you hold your breath? Handsomely shot, engagingly acted (Mokae is extremely vile as the crooked police chief), and genuinely chilling, “The Serpent and the Rainbow” comes alive on DVD with a beautiful transfer and an expressive soundtrack.


VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Nicely rendered 1.85:1 widescreen digital transfer delivers exceptional colors, appealing flesh tones and solid blacks, which hold up under tight scrutiny. The color scheme is especially vivid. Craven balances the film with cool, blue-lit shots, and warm, amber-lit shots, and all survive intact. Hardly a trace of digital compression artifacts, and no pixelation or chroma change whatsoever. The images are solid and sharp, with impressive depth. There’s a hallucinatory look to a lot of the film, and not once do you suspect a bad transfer. The DVD has been enhanced at 16:9 for widescreen televisions.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Extremely expressive Dolby Digital Surround track makes good use of Brad Fiedel’s ominous score that completely envelops the room with it’s strong basses and haunting high ends. The dialogue mix is sensational, never prone to drop outs. I was especially impressed with the stereo separation and distinctive ambient noise that added to the overall creepy feeling of the film. No noticeable hiss or distortion, just clear, vivid aural information.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ X ] Poor

No closed captions or subtitles.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ X ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

Wow, talk about extras…each DVD comes with a small vial of the zombie powder so you can cast spells on your friends and neighbors….oh, excuse me, I must have been under a spell…what you really get is a creepy main menu and customary scene access menus, plus a filmography of director Wes Craven. No theatrical trailer.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

You don’t have to dance around naked in your backyard and sacrifice something (although I’m not saying that’s a bad thing) anymore. Now you can just slip in this DVD and get the same effect.

VITALS: $24.95/Rated R/98 Minutes/Color/20 Chapter Stops/Snapcase/#ID4625USDVD




HMO: Image Entertainment

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