A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"The Serpent and the Rainbow" was inspired by a book by Wade Davis, a Harvard scientist who investigated the voodoo society of Haiti and identified two of the drugs used for "zombification" - drugs that lower the metabolic rate of their victims so much that they appear dead, and are buried, only to be dug up later and revived.
Resurrected zombies apparently appear somewhat lobotomized, a not unreasonable result of being turned into the living dead and buried alive. Although Davis did not become a zombie - at least not more so than any other doctoral candidate - his adventures inspired this thriller in which a Harvard researcher, played by Bill Pullman, ventures into the heart of voodoo and witnesses strange and gruesome realities.
In the movie, Pullman plays a cross between William Hurt and Indiana Jones. He's a tall, good-looking, sensitive intellectual who is called upon to wrestle leopards, battle corpses, confront an evil voodoo leader and eventually be buried alive along with a deadly spider that makes itself cozy on his paralyzed eyeball.
Pullman's mission in going to Haiti is to isolate the active ingredient in secret voodoo powder, so that it can perhaps be used as an anesthetic. His contact in Haiti is the beautiful Marielle Celine, played by Cathy Tyson in her first role since "Mona Lisa." She runs a people's clinic, as the sexy heroines in these movies always do. Other local experts include Paul Winfield, as a well-connected local leader, and Brent Jennings, as a man named Mozart who knows all of the secrets in the secret ingredients.