The Serpent And The Rainbow – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Serpent-RainbowLoyal fans of legendary director Wes Craven (Scream, The People Under the Stairs, A Nightmare on Elm Street) know well the terrifying story of one man’s nightmarish journey into the eerie and deadly world of voodoo from the 1988 horror cult classic THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, directed by Craven and executive produced by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, The Running Man), and Keith Barish (The Fugitive, Big Trouble in Little China).  The film stars Bill Pullman (Independence Day, Lake Placid), Cathy Tyson (Priest, Neil Jordan’sMona Lisa), Zakes Mokae (Waterworld, The Island) and Paul Winfield (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Terminator). On February 23, 2016, Scream Factory™ is proud to present THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW Collector’s Edition Blu-ray™, packed with insightful bonus content including new interviews with actor Bill Pullman, author Wade Davis, director of photography John Lindley and special makeup effects artists Lance Anderson and David Anderson, and much more.

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Film Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-0

A Harvard anthropologist is sent to Haiti to retrieve a strange powder that is said to have the power to bring human beings back from the dead. In his quest to find the miracle drug, the cynical scientist enters the rarely seen netherworld of walking zombies, blood rites and ancient curses. Based on the true life experiences of Wade Davis and filmed on location in Haiti, it’s a frightening excursion into black magic and the supernatural.

Fun story, I once did a speech for my high school speech class on zombies.  It should come to no surprise that I was a horror movie nut in my early youthful film days.  I supposed maybe I was the resident Randy, what with pictures of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees on my locker instead of classmates or pinups.  My speech opened with the biker sequence from Dawn of the Dead (uncut mind you)…how I wasn’t suspended, I don’t know.  The content had talked about zombies in the media, but it also had much of its focus on REAL LIFE zombies, talking about South and Central America and ‘Bokors’ and such.  Why is my speech relevant here?  Because it was during my research that I discovered Wes Craven’s The Serpent And The Rainbow.

Craven’s movie is more a zombie movie than anything before or after it (That I know of).  He actually followed the history of burying someone supposedly dead, only to have them rise, completely brain dead at easy command to work for slave labor.  This IS where the zombie term and stuff actually came from.  Not what we typically see on The Walking Dead or know from George Romero’s films.  Is it as thrilling of a movie as those?  Well, yes and no.  This film does have quite its share of suspense, but the action quotient is much down.  The societal commentary also isn’t there.  Its more of a mystery than anything else.

Another feat from Craven, is that he got a hell of a performance out of Bill Pullman.  Pullman, not the world’s greatest ranging actor, actually does great work here in a dramatic role.  The guy is put through the wringer in this movie and after seeing it, you’re kind of excited to see what’s next from the guy.  Its that good of a performance.  But, Craven was always good in that regard, but it goes to show that he can pull it out of anyone.

The film almost falls apart in the end.  In typical Craven fashion, it gets pretty outrageous and goofy for its climactic battle.  However, I feel the film has earned it at that point.  Also worth noting is the score for the movie is both fantastic and iconic.  You’d probably listen to it and say “OHHHHH that’s where that’s from!!!”  This is one of Craven’s films that I see both overlooked and that people just have never heard of it or seen it.  And really, they should as its probably in his top 5 for me easily.  With him unfortunately no longer with us, we can look at his career in a full spectrum and this is really one of the big highlights of it and during an unappreciated run of three films with this, The People Under The Stairs and Shocker.

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Video Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-0

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  I couldn’t be any more happier with how The Serpent And The Rainbow came over to Blu-ray.  It looks up to snuff with a lot of the films of this era.  Detail isn’t going to make any demos at Best Buy, but its still impressive.  The image is sharp is it could go and looks better than the film ever has on home video.

Depth:  Decent depth work.  Background imagery is discernible when focus allows and character movements are smooth and cinematic.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty solid.  Some detail is hidden in the shadows and no crushing is present in this transfer.

Color Reproduction:  Craven keeps a very natural, lifelike presence with this one, toning down the colors.  However, there is still a good palette on display here and when blood is going to gush into view, its going to gush.  Tribal face paint looks very good as well.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain consistency throughout the film.  Close-ups provide a real good look at wrinkles, stubble, scuffs and layers of make-up and paint on faces.

Noise/Artifacts: Pretty clean, there’s a hint of some specs, but this looks really good.

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Audio Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-0

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  No 5.1 here, but we get the original 2.0 track and it sounds lovely as it could be.  The film’s terrific score comes through with good presence.  Effects and the like sound a hint dated but work well in this balanced mix.  The sound of chewing on glass is exceptionally gut punching.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clear, sounding nice and ever present in any given environment.

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Extras Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-_5Dexter-0Dexter-0

This release comes with a reversible cover featuring the original poster art.

Audio Commentary

  • With Actor Bill Pullman

The Making Of The Serpent And The Rainbow (HD, 23:57) – Bill Pullman, Wade Davis, John Lindley, Lance Anderson and David Anderson recall the production of the film.  Its your normal Scream Factory retrospective documentary, but its odd because not everyone interviewed appears on camera (Including Pullman) and Wade Davis appears via a little FaceTime kind of window.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:23) 

TV Spot (HD, :31)

Photo Gallery (HD, 5:10)

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Summary Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-0

The Serpent And The Rainbow has always been one of my favorite of Wes Craven’s works.  Until the film’s climactic battle, its really unlike anything else he had done to that point and afterward.  Its also one of the most accurate true to life zombie movies there ever has been.  Interestingly enough, its a film that I even find Craven fans haven’t ever seen it.  Scream Factory’s US Blu-ray debut of the film has it looking and sounding better than it ever has.  I must be getting spoiled with Scream Factory extras as I was hoping for a little more than what’s here, but what they do have on here (Nothing personal from Craven) is top notch.  And easy recommend based on the strength of the film alone.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “The Serpent And The Rainbow – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Cash

    Well wes craven died last year so they could only have got vintage footage.. maybe there wasnt much for this film.