Time for more morbid musings from your Morose Host with the Ghostly Most!
And there you have it ...
Today - for those of you playing along at home - I must sadly substitute the scheduled feature, the Hammer horror classic "The Blood on Satan's Claw" with something else. Because although I know at one time I had "Blood" in digital format, it seems to have disappeared. If I locate it, I will put it back on the list further down the line (by replacing one of the more obscure films like "Bucket of Blood") because this is a GREAT film and one I was looking forward to watching.
So in its stead, we shall view the 1988 Wes Craven misstep, "The Serpent and the Rainbow." I say misstep because up until this point, Craven was horror's new master who could do no wrong. Then he did wrong. Check The Skinny below and read on, ravers!
Tomorrow's film is another Hammer horror classic starring Christopher Lee as The Count in "Scars of Dracula!" I CAN'T WAIT!
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988): Directed by Wes Craven. Starring Bill Pullman, Paul Winfield, Cathy Tyson.
The Skinny: Based on ethnobotanist Wade Davis' book of the same name, Bill Pullman stars as a scientist sent by a pharmaceutical company to research an alleged drug that turns men into living zombies. While on the search for the elusive "zombie powder," Pullman outs his very soul at risk in the name of science as he exposes himself to Haiti's voodoo subculture.
What's Good: Craven had one hell of a run in the late 70s/early 80s. "The Last House on the Left," "The Hills Have Eyes" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" are quality movies that still to this day other horror directors strive to achieve. Then, in an effort to separate himself from Freddy and the slasher film phenomenon, he tried to adapt Wade Davis' great book about his experiences in Haiti. The problem is, Craven attempted to interject some of the very stuff he was trying to get away from into this horror thriller. Pullman is great (as usual), even when he butchers the French Creole language. And Brent Jennings and Zakes Mokae as Louis Mozart and Dargent Peytraud are both credible and great fun to watch. And the first two-thirds of the film are compelling and very watchable. As Pullman is dragged deeper and deeper into the cultural miasma of Haitian religion, we see him slowly come unraveled as his faith in science is tested against occurrences beyond his comprehension. But then ...
What's Bad: In the final third of the movie, in a seemingly desperate move to "horrify" the goings-on, the film lapses into dull, run-of-the-mill horror tropes. Suddenly, people have mental powers and there is a battle in the dreamscape (I think) that is more psychological than physical, and it's just boring and not scary. The ending is as pat and as dry as two day old pizza crust and it robs the rest of the film of its ambition to disturb on a deep, psychological level by tossing monstrous bad guys at us instead of real terror.
Why We Like It: I actually do like this movie - in fact I watched it a lot as a teen, and even read Davis' book. I think I like it because I like Pullman and he just about always gives a credible performance. And like I said, the first two parts of the movie are great, packed with drama and terror and great performances all around, especially from the always solid Paul Winfield. It is one of those films that has its great moments but falls apart under its own logic as it spirals out of control and tries to bring Slasher Film ethics to a wider audience.
Memorable Stuff: When Pullman gets a face-full of the zombie powder and stumbles down the open streets of Port Au Prince, eyes bleary, hands grasping strangers for help, only to be buried alive ... that's intense shit. And the camera follows him into the coffin and stays as he slowly emerges from the Zombie powder's trance and starts to pound and scream., See, Craven knows how to scare the shit out of us when he wants to! Also, the opening scene of a funeral with torches and big scary Haitians covered in crazy voodoo body paint are fantastic, but set you up for the disappointment in film's final moments. It's still worth a look, if only once.