Picks and Pans Review: The Serpent and the Rainbow

updated 02/15/1988 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/15/1988 01:00AM

No, this isn't an animated kiddie film as the title might indicate. It's a campy romp through the occult from that master of the gore genre, Wes (Nightmare on Elm Street) Craven. Inspired by the 1985 nonfiction book by former Harvard botanist Wade Davis (or, rather, inspired by the book's title), the movie stars Bill(Spaceballs) Pullman as an anthropologist who goes to Haiti before the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier to investigate real-life zombies. Author Davis had discovered a drug that indeed creates zombies, but does it by inducing comas in live people, not by reviving the dead. Craven, however, extrapolates wildly. Pullman is told that the drug could revolutionize anesthesia and save thousands of lives. After he comes face to face with his first zombie, you can almost see the balloon pop out of his mouth when he says, "A warning—that's what I felt in those eyes. I didn't know of what, but it chilled me to the bone." His contact in Haiti is, of course, a beautiful doctor, Cathy (Mona Lisa) Tyson, who runs a clinic to treat victims of the zombie drug. She and Pullman become targets of terror because Duvalier's secret police, the tontons macoutes, use voodoo to subjugate people and want to keep the zombie business to themselves. Most of the gore—and there's gore aplenty—comes from those is-this-reality-or-a-nightmare sequences, which Craven overdoes. But if you're a fan of such foolishness, this movie should be right up your dark alley. (R)

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