Thursday, March 26, 2009

Film Review: THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988, Wes Craven)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 98 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson (MONA LISA), Zakes Mokae (BODY PARTS, Tony-Winner), Michael Gough (TROG, Alfred in the Tim Burton BATMANS), Paul Winfield (WHITE DOG, STAR TREK II, SOUNDER).
Tag-lines: "Don't bury me...I'm not dead!"
Best one-liners: " The way Dr. Schoonbacher spoke of you, it was as though you could walk on water! Now I know why. Shit floats!"

Shit the bed! This movie is crazed- it's talkin' gibberish and foamin'at the mouth! Somebody better put a bit between its teeth before it hurts itself! This movie realizes that there is a line, and it crosses it with nails-through scrotum, head decapitatin', scorpions-in-the-mouth flourish. This movie made so little sense that they added a Bill Pullman narration track in post, and then there's still parts that make the tax code look like a coherent narrative.

So we've got a movie that earns maybe three stars and an extra pat on the back for wack political subtext and being a damned lunatic- but then I started reading about the production, which is as psychotic as the movie itself.

Cast and crew having collective hallucinations of cows with TV sets for eyes, Wes Craven and his producer getting dragged to a voodoo ritual and almost having to drink pig's blood, the writer taking the "walking dead" drugs and locking himself in his room and doing God knows what for 72 hours- damn! This movie is epic! And it claims to be based on a true story! And there's even a few clever nods to NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. So if you're in the mood for a trippy film that will have even seasoned moviegoers going 'WHUTT?!,' then, by gum, hit up THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. (And why it's called THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW makes only slightly more sense than the most esoteric portions of the film.)

-Sean Gill


Anonymous said...

Awesome, it's like Craven doing high art, which rules. For the opposite end of the Craven spectrum, see "Shocker" (which, oddly, also rules!).

Sean Gill said...


Ah, yes- SHOCKER is indeed the opposite end of the spectrum. While I would hesitate before saying that it rules, I will say that a triple-feature of it, HOUSE III- THE HORROR SHOW, and THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE would reveal its cultural staying power. At least until 1993. Too bad "Let's take a ride in my Volts Wagon" didn't take hold as a catchphrase.