Wes Craven is extremely hit-or-miss with me.He’s either spot on with the product he puts out.Or he falls short tremendously.Last House On The Left, Hailed by many as one of the most disturbing films ever made, remains his finest work in my opinion.However, he also gave us the Scream franchise. (need I say more?)
It’s his 1988 film The Serpent And The Rainbow however, That I’m somewhat undecided on.I don’t like it, but I also don’t dislike it.In my opinion it had a lot of potential.It could have been something wonderful, but it just fell short of what it could have been.Filmed on location in Haiti, the film is “loosely” based on Wade Davis’ book of the same title.Now for those of you who are unfamiliar, Wade Davis is a longtime contributor to National Geographic.He had spent several years studying Voodoo and observing rituals and ceremonies.Here’s the first downgrade, adapting the book to screen was in process for years.By the time Craven got a hold of it,Let’s just say he took quite a few liberties with the source material.Davis has since gone on record denouncing the film as wildly inaccurate.
The origins of the zombie phenomena in popular culture begin in Haiti.More specificly when American marines stationed there would write embellished tales of Voodoo rites.So you have a film going back to basics and the origins of the pop culture explosion of reanimated beings.Almost a throwback to the 1943 classic I Walked With A Zombie.Which brings me to the Zombie’s themselves.They aren’t the maggot riddled ghouls of Lucio Fulci or the comic like undead of George Romero.They have the appearance of real people who are possessed, thy don’t devour on the living or prowl the streets.Somewhat staying true to the voodoo legend.The one thing that I found most intriguing was the only sound they make is a high pitched screech.Provided by my favorite musician Diamanda Galas.This is the one part of the film I can clearly get behind.Galas had provided her harsh vocals as the voice of the witch in Conan The Barbarian.
Side Note: If you ever have a chance to listen to Diamanda Galas, please do.She’s not only my favorite, But I strongly feel she’s the only true artist left in music.
A problem I did have with this film, It all takes place during the regime of Jean-Claude”Baby Doc” Duvalier.Now, it was always rumored that Duvalier practiced Voodoo.During his regime he ruled Haiti with an fist.Applying a supernatural storyline to current events (Duvalier was deposed in 1986) doesn’t always work.This time around it wasn’t a bad plot device, but it did seem a bit much.But some could argue that it’s fitting.To each their won.
With all of these interesting key elements. The films largest downfall is it’s inability to keep the viewer interested.So much could have been done, but the story drags on at almost a snails pace.It’s hard to keep focused for it’s duration.I think this film had a lot of potential that was squandered.If you have a chance read the source material and watch the film.You may draw conclusions very different than mine.