Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow is a better-than-average supernatural tale [inspired by Wade Davis’ book] that offers a few good scares but gets bogged down in special effects. Film is intriguingly eerie as long as it explores the secrets of voodoo in a lush Haitian setting alive with mysteries of the spirit.
Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman), a Harvard anthropologist looking for a magic zombie powder at the behest of an American drug company, is sort of a second-rate Indiana Jones.
In Haiti, Alan gets involved with psychiatrist Marielle Celine (Cathy Tyson) who is battling the cumulative effects of deep-rooted black magic, religion and everyday mental illness.
Opposing the more progressive Marielle are the reactionary political and supernatural forces of police chief Dargent Peytraud, played with evil zeal by Zakes Mokae. Speaking out of the side of his gold-toothed mouth, Mokae walks a narrow line between being truly frightening and truly hilarious.
Special effects are well done, but fail to capture the creepy undercurrents of voodoo.