Monday, April 25, 2022

Cursed Films: The Serpent and the Rainbow

This film probably couldn’t be produced anymore. There are just too many minefields to traverse when it comes to voodoo. Yet, for decades, the only zombies in movies were of the voodoo variety. In his book, Wade Davis tried to de-mystify the zombification phenomenon, but critics of Wes Craven’s adaptation consider it more of the same sensationalism. Yet, Craven and producer David Ladd strived for authenticity, filming on-location in Haiti. The resulting drama explains why The Serpent and the Rainbow is the subject of this week’s Cursed Films, on Shudder.

Unlike many
Cursed Films subjects, most of the cast and crew on Serpent are still available to talk about it. The most notable exception is Craven, one of the most important directors of the genre. Understandably, Davis had mixed emotions when he signed on to direct that were largely justified.

Regardless, Craven and Ladd started filming in Haiti, which was an ambitious decision. On their first night, the crew was blessed in a real-deal ceremony. According to some interview subjects that blessing may have saved their lives. Despite the lack of a body count, the production had at least one “possession,” maybe even two—call it one and a half. That is a good deal of cursing. Plus, there was a full-scale riot.

All and all,
Serpent is definitely one of the craziest productions the series could hope to chronicle. It is so crazy, Bill Pullman and Craven’s son Jonathan cannot help telling some pretty revealing (and potentially controversial) anecdotes, even though their intuition tells them not to. No matter what you think about voodoo and the film’s representation of it, this episode delivers.

In retrospect, the 1980s look like the golden age for voodoo horror movies. In addition to
Serpent, we also had John Schlesinger’s The Believers and Alan Parker’s Angel Heart. All three are pretty scary films, directed by A-list directors. Frankly, Serpent’s behind-the-scenes chaos would also make a pretty wild film. Recommended for delivering dish for fans, The Serpent and the Rainbow gets the Cursed Films treatment, this Thursday (4/28), on Shudder.