The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

R  |   |  Horror  |  5 February 1988 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 16,684 users  
Reviews: 78 user | 87 critic

An anthropologist goes to Haiti after hearing rumors about a drug used by black magic practitioners to turn people into zombies.



(inspired by the book), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Cathy Tyson ...
Badja Djola ...
Aleta Mitchell ...
William Newman ...
Jaime Pina Gautier ...
Julio (as Jaime Piña Gautier)
Evencio Mosquera Slaco ...


In 1985, after a successful research in Amazonas, Dr. Dennis Alan from Harvard is invited by the president of a Boston pharmaceutics industry, Andrew Cassedy, to travel to Haiti to investigate the case of a man named Christophe that died in 1978 and has apparently returned to life. Andrew wants samples of the voodoo drug that was used in Christophe to be tested with the intention of producing a powerful anesthetic. Dr. Alan travels to meet Dr. Marielle Duchamp that is treating Christophe and arrives in Haiti in a period of revolution. Soon Alan is threatened by the chief of the feared Tonton Macuse Dargent Peytraud, who is a torturer and powerful witch. Alan learns that death is not the end in the beginning of his journey to hell. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Don't bury me...I'm not dead!




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Release Date:

5 February 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La serpiente y el arco iris  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$7,000,000 (estimated)


$19,595,031 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The CD Soundtrack to this film is extremely rare, as it was pressed in limited quantities. Part of this was due to the film's poor release and the fact that the market was transitioning from LP to CD as a mass format, meaning that the number of copies is much smaller than an average soundtrack album run. See more »


Just before the spider starts crawling on Dr. Dennis Alan's face, you can see the crew member in the left background who placed it there. See more »


Dennis Alan: Don't let them bury me! I'm not dead!
See more »

Crazy Credits

[Opening card] In the legends of voodoo the Serpent is a symbol of Earth. The Rainbow is a symbol of Heaven. Between the two, all creatures must live and die. But because he has a soul Man can be trapped in a terrible place Where death is only the beginning. See more »


Referenced in Deadwood Park (2007) See more »


Ma Bouya
Performed by Tabou Combo
Courtesy of Mini Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Interesting, But Could Be Even Better
5 October 2004 | by (Athens, Greece) – See all my reviews

The best thing about "The Serpent and the Rainbow" is probably the topic it covers: Not known to the general public (including me, until I watched the film and researched the subject a little more afterwards), the so-called zombies, which legend has it that they are people who were condemned by sorcerers to become living deads, are in fact nothing more than the victims of a special powder thrown to them, whose active ingredient is a substance which is now well-known by scientists worldwide. This substance has the effect of rendering the person in a dead-like state (no ostensible breathing, moving, etc.), while his brain is still lively (which means that the horrified person is even able to understand what surrounds him, without being able to do anything about it); in such cases, an inexperienced doctor claims the person deceased, and he is then put into a grave. When the effect of this substance starts to diminish after 12-24 hours, the sorcerer is usually there to undig the completely shocked and shattered person, convincing him that he is now his zombie-slave.

The movie is based on a true story by a scientist (Pullman) who went to Haiti, a country were such practices were rife, in order to get his hands on this substance and provide it to his employer, a pharmaceutical company, in order to analyze it and use it as an anaesthetic. In his quest he was assisted by a female local psychiatrist (Tyson), who treated several "zombified" people. However, he soon realized that things were much more complicated than that, as the police chief (Mokae), who used this zombie-trick as one of his suppression tools, was quite unhappy with this intrusion.

Although based on a very interesting story, the movie goes a bit far and becomes a typical horror film, full of black magic, terrifying visions, etc. In my opinion, it would be much better if the plot sticked to the basics, as from some point onwards everything (and especially the ending) becomes too unconvincing.

The cast does a fair job, despite the fact that it includes actors not widely known. The make-up and scenery produce and impressive atmosphere, traveling the viewer to the mystifying secrets of Haiti.

Grade: 7/10.

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