Tall, Dark, and Dead – 62 – The Serpent and the Rainbow

Title: The Serpent and the Rainbow
Year: 1988
Director: Wes Craven
Leads: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson

Favorite quote: “Don’t let them bury me! I’m not dead!”

Thoughts: Are there classics – movies, books, video games – that you’ve always heard about, that feel almost familiar, even though you’ve never actually gotten around to experiencing them for yourself? The Serpent and the Rainbow is like that for me. This is, admittedly, the first time I’ve ever watched it.

I wonder what took me so long. For me, this film emphasized everything I’ve said up to this point regarding the confusion of science and magic when it comes to zombies. As in White Zombie, there’s some mystery about what is attributable to religion or superstition and what’s just chance occurrence, or just the physical result of ingesting a toxin. I find it really cool that this has been a topic in zombiedom since the very beginning. (It also lends a lot of weight to my arguments for the inclusion of living zombies in the canon.)

Likewise the discussion about reality and dreams, and the exploration of the fact that our reality is not objective, but is constructed by the lump of flesh between our ears. Really, becoming a zombie in this movie is all down to the workings of the brain. We can become imprisoned within our own bodies, our minds holding us captive.

We watch Pullman’s character go from, “Hit me, shaman dude!” to wandering through the streets, disoriented and distrustful of everyone he meets. That sense of alienation, that sense of marginalization, is also incredibly important when discussing certain aspects of the zombie experience and narrative.

As far as the cinematography goes, what really hit me was the coffin-like interiors and the use of small spaces. This emphasized not only the condition of being a zombie, slave to your own twisted perceptions, but the condition of being squeezed out of society – kept in a box, off to the side. It was really effective.

Links: The Serpent and the Rainbow at IMDB
The Serpent and the Rainbow on Wikipedia

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