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Dennis Allan is a scientist who visits Haiti on the strength of a rumour of a drug which renders the recipient totally paralyzed but conscious. The drug's effects often fool doctors, who declare the victims dead. Could this be the origin of the "zombie" legend? Alan embarks on a surprising and often surreal investigation of the turbulent social chaos that is Haiti during the revolution which ousted hated dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Often a pawn in a greater game, Alan must decide what is science, what is superstition, and what is the unknown in a anarchistic society where police corruption and witch-doctory are commonplace. Written by
Murray Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[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 »
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.
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