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 Don't bury me...I'm not dead!


The Serpent and the Rainbow is a 1988 horror film directed by Wes Craven. It is, in a broad sense, a zombie movie, but one of the more traditional, pre-Night of the Living Dead voodoo types. Originally filmed in Haiti, where a majority of the action takes place, the political and social unrest meant moving the entire production to the nearby country of Dominican Republic midway through production for the safety of the cast and crew.

Anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) travels to Haiti to investigate rumors of a drug used by Black Magic practitioners: one allegedly capable of transforming the living into zombie slaves. He meets with Marielle Duchamp, a Haitian medical doctor who has been working closely with cases of zombification. One of her most recent cases is a man named Christophe, a fresh zombie with a better memory than usual. In their investigation, they meet with Louis Mozart, who, despite being something of a Con Man, is willing to provide them with the mysterious zombie drug.

Meanwhile, Haitian dictator Dargent Peytraud notices Dr. Alan's investigations, and seeks to intimidate him into leaving the country. Alan stands up to the man, only to have his dreams haunted by visions of Peytraud, and the living dead.

Tropes used in The Serpent and the Rainbow include:

  • Badass Boast: After purchasing a vial of zombie powder from Mozart, Dennis Alan loudly calls him an idiot, says "You want to know what I think of your powders?", pours the entire vial into a drink, then chugs the mixture. Before leaving, he hisses: "It's piss." He actually used slight of hand to switch the real vial out for one of his own; ultimately, it was a move meant to psyche out Celine enough to give him the real powder.
  • Buried Alive: This is part of the zombie-creation process.
  • Creepy Cemetery: Several scenes.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Peytraud.
  • Groin Attack: With a nail. "I want to hear you scream!"
  • Hollywood Voodoo: At least, in the sense that it the religion was highly sensationalized (see below).
  • Ironic Echo: "I want to hear you scream!"
  • Just Think of the Potential: Dr. Alan is working for a pharmaceutical company that believes the zombie powder can be used as a safe anesthetic; something that might prevent patients from dying on the operating table as the result of anesthetic shock.
  • Masochist's Meal: A woman, apparently under the influence of possession, eats part of a wine glass.
  • Mind Over Matter: As part of the climax, Dennis Alan gains telekinesis.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Dennis Alan suffers through this more and more frequently as the movie continues, eventually having to cope with waking Hallucinations.
  • Our Souls Are Different: They are stored in ceramic pots.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Averted. See You Keep Using That Word.
  • Religious Horror: Voodoo or vodoun, in this case.
  • Scary Black Man: Peytraud.
  • Secret Police: the Tonton Macoute.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The film was inspired by a book of the same name, by a Botanist who went to Haiti to scientifically analyse the substances used in Voodoo rituals and investigate the legends of powerful Houngans who could re-animate the dead as zombie slaves. Turns out the truth is somewhere in the middle. Zombies are real, but they're not actually dead, it's just a combination of fugu poison, oxygen deprivation-induced brain damage from being buried alive for a while and a healthy dose of the power of suggestion.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: Haitian dictator Dargent Peytraud keeps a collection of them.
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