The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Serpent and the Rainbow1987

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987)



Critic Consensus: Although it's occasionally overwhelmed by excessive special effects, The Serpent and the Rainbow draws on a chilling atmosphere to deliver a intelligent, politically informed story.

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Movie Info

Somewhat based on the true-life experiences of ethnobotanist Wade Davis, this provocative horror outing is set in Haiti and offers a fascinating look into the voodoo cult and the making of zombies. Davis' book was a serious examination of the zombie phenomenon, but the film adds plenty of horror elements to sensationalize it. He was sent to Haiti by a drug company to see if there was a pharmacological explanation for the walking dead, but once there, he finds that the practitioners and the locals will do anything to keep him from learning their secrets.

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Bill Pullman
as Dennis Allen
Cathy Tyson
as Marielle Duchamp
Zakes Mokae
as Dargent Peytraud
Paul Winfield
as Lucien Celine
Conrad Roberts
as Christophe
Michael Gough
as Schoonbacher
Paul Guilfoyle (II)
as Andrew Cassedy
Dey Young
as Mrs. Cassedy
Aleta Mitchell
as Celestine
William Newman
as French Missionary Doctor
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Critic Reviews for The Serpent and the Rainbow

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (8)

Offers a few good scares but gets bogged down in special effects.

September 25, 2007 | Full Review…

Genuinely frightening.

September 25, 2007 | Full Review…

Unfortunately, the political parallel between the ideological repression of Baby Doc's regime and the stultifying effects of the zombifying fluid is only sketchily developed, leaving us with a series of striking but isolated set pieces.

February 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

A lame documentary-flavored horror story.

January 25, 2006 | Rating: C | Full Review…

The Serpent and the Rainbow has a screenplay that often breaks its spell.

August 30, 2004 | Rating: 2.5/5

Take a powerful, revealing nonfiction book, sift through it for its most cliche'd elements and turn it into a terror film and you've got The Serpent and the Rainbow.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Serpent and the Rainbow


A very subversive film for its time, "The Serpent and the Rainbow" deals with the real world of zombie culture in Hait,i and its folklore. Craven appropriates the culture for the film but stays very true to the legends of zombification which have floated around for hundreds of years. He threads through a storyline about a mad zombie priest and his many followers. The story also has an American scientist, played by Pullman, who tries to use a zombification powder for medicinal purposes. The story isn't all that horrifying, because the villain of the story isn't all that frightening. What he can do is very scary, and the hold he has over others is horrifying, but he himself is just an old man with limited power. What makes the film entertaining are all the hallucinations that Pullman has, including getting sucked into the ground and being controlled, even from far away. For that reason Craven's film still stands as a very frightening exploration of Haitian culture.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

When Bill Pullman is your most commanding presence, you can rest assured that the casting is pretty maladroit. In a precursor to the early 2000's torture porn, Pullman's scrotum is ruptured with a nail and aside from that unpleasant image, the film is piddling and not hair-raising in the least. Craven has always been an overpraised director of the horror variety and while the concept is brimming with occult potential, it is more suited to a documentary than a full-fledged chiller. To spice up the otherwise lumbering proceedings, Craven shoehorns a medley of hallucinations with corpse brides and reanimated zombies. None of these approach cohesion. All of the titillating genre elements are extraneous (the aforementioned dream sequences and a needless sex scene). In a career of monumental near-misses, 'The Serpent and the Rainbow' might be Craven's most bungled effort.

Cory Taylor
Cory Taylor

Super Reviewer

After directing some of the most legendary Horror films in the business, Wes Craven continues his streak of creepy horror films with The Serpent and the Rainbow, a film that is often overlooked. Using voodoo as his subject, Craven conjures a creepy horror film that has some intense moments and good scares. The Serpent and the Rainbow is a film that relies on its atmosphere to create its tension and steadily build up the horror. Set on a Haitian backdrop of Voodoo, and the undead, you get one creepy film. This is a solid offering from Wes Craven, and I thought it was a film that well crafted to bring on genuine scares. Bill Pullman and Paul Winfield were terrific in their roles, and I have to say, that this is one of the best roles that actor Bill Pullman has ever chosen. I think this is a terrific of horror cinema, and one that every Wes Craven fan should watch. A very creepy film with some terrific acting, make this a must horror film. An effective film, The Serpent and the Rainbow though has a few flaws which bring the film down a notch, but it's still good nonetheless. This is an awesome departure from Wes Craven's usual work, and overall is a solid and creepy horror film that will give you a few good chills. A terrific film, one that is underrated and quite possibly one of Wes Craven's best and overlooked films.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

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