Wes Craven

The Serpent and the Rainbow

Year: 1988
Directed By: Wes Craven
Written By: Wade Davis (novel) Richard Maxwell and Adam Rodman (screenplay)

 

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie that was suggested to me years ago and in lieu of renting it I simply bought a copy and added it to the collection. In hindsight I probably should have just rented it because this movie is very near unwatchable. I should have known when I had never heard of it before. A Wes Craven film featuring zombies made from Voodoo sounded like something that would be awesome but sadly that is not how it worked out.

Adding to the intrigue of this story is the fact that it was based on a non fiction book by the same title. Of course as most movies do this one embellishes a lot and exaggerates even more. The author, Wade Davis, did make many trips to Haiti to research the drugs associated with Voodoo and zombies but never really found anything of note. More importantly he was never harassed, or tortured by the Haitian government for his efforts. He sold the rights to his book on the condition Peter Weir would direct and Mel Gibson would star but neither of those things happened and it would have made for a very different movie.

Voodoo is a fascinating religion with ideals that spark lots of curiosity and misconceptions. The lore that goes along with it is more fantasy than reality. While it’s awesome to think of the magic that comes with voodoo dolls and the creation of zombies these are not really part of the religion and simply part of other ideals that are just associated with Voodoo. For example, the ancient African practice of Hoodoo is often confused and lumped together with what people think of Voodoo but they are not the same. It’s movies like this that lead to the confusion, and as fun as it is to fantasize these things they ultimately mislead people.

I’m calling this movie nearly unwatchable, even at only an hour and a half running time. The narration, the poor camera quality, and the lack of good story telling all bring this movie down. I tried to sit down with it in the middle of the afternoon to give it my best effort but somehow during the wide eyed post coffee hours of the day it literally put me to sleep. I think a movie with this type of story has no business not being any good but it just isn’t. Wes Craven usually brings it with these types of films but he simply missed the mark on this one.

This is a forgettable movie and it isn’t worth your time. I made a mistake getting caught up with the possibilities a movie like this could offer and I have been disappointed every time I try to watch it. This movie qualifies as a horror film with Craven behind camera but it isn’t going to scare you like some of his best films will. For something better check out Nightmare on Elm Street or The Hills Have EyesBoth are really good horror films from Wes Craven. Don’t waste your time with this one though, it’s not worth the hour and a half it would steal from you.

 

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The Hills Have Eyes

Year: 1977
Directed By: Wes Craven
Written By: Wes Craven

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a classic horror film by one of the men who made a career out of making them. Like many classic horror films its name has been tarnished by a subpar remake that people are more apt to see and associate the title with these days. It’s a shame that we are in a film era where producers are more eager to simply rip off something great rather than take a chance on something new. The genre has suffered because of it. It’s time for a new breed of horror filmmakers to step up and follow in the footsteps of men like Wes Craven to bring horror films back to their full potential.

It’s been years since I saw the remake of this film. I saw it when it first came out and never went back to it. It doesn’t compare to this film and it only frustrated and disappointed me as a film fan when I saw it. This movie is absolutely terrifying and didn’t have to resort to cheap Hollywood ideas like nuclear mutated people or whatever they did in the remake. This movie is about a good old fashioned freakish family of mountain maniacs who have flourished in a place America has forgotten about. These people are much scarier because they are bloodthirsty savages motivated by the desire for food more than anything else. It just so happens they are down with eating human meat and have their eye on the delicacy the unfortunate family have on hand in the baby. Such a terrifying and unheard of prospect. Movies are much scarier when they feature the deranged who are desperate and even more willing to do anything.

This large family made the bad decision to go where they didn’t belong and that’s where real horror movie scenarios take place. They cross paths with the wrong kind and they are too far out for anybody to help them. One by one they are all subjected to horrifying deaths unless they fight to defend themselves. This family is played by good actors and I like the group as they are. The movie really holds no bars in killing them off either and you can never be quite sure who will survive this ordeal. I do love that they have a pair of badass German Shepherds and are able to rely on them for defense. I really like the younger dad who clearly doesn’t have the respect of his lawman father-in-law yet rises to the challenge when things get tough. Plus he looks kind of like Howard Wolowitz with a mustache and I like that about him.

                

These are the best pics I could find of the two. I spent the whole movie trying to figure out who this guy looked like and it wasn’t until this final shot of the film that it hit me. He looked like Howard from The Big Bang Theory. I am a big fan of the show and I specifically like Simon Helberg. The similarities between him and the character in this film mainly come from the haircut and the few times Howard has sported a mustache.

As for the maniac family I think they are as scary as they come. I like their tribal lifestyle in the mountainous desert atmosphere. I love how wild and unkempt they look because it is so intimidating. Their names are awesome and something I specifically remember not liking about the remake. It’s cool that these savages are all named after planets and I’m surprised they failed to utilize that in the remake effort. The scar across the face of Pluto is wicked and even though there are a few screw ups with it in the final cut of the film it is still cool when you see it. There are several shots in the film where the scar is obviously absent from his face, but it’s a low budget film from the 70s and such things are excusable. Michael Berryman, who plays Pluto, is as scary looking as a man can be because of his really unfortunate looking face. He has made a career out of that mug and been utilized many times in movies like this one. He brings a lot to the film with his look and is perfect for the role.

This movie isn’t for the faint of heart because it is a gritty and graphic horror film. Such films offer their own forms of excitement and this one offers plenty. It comes out of an era when scary movies had a much harder hitting impact. So much of what comes out today is intended to shock us rather than scare us. The movies that come out now are so aggressive in their efforts.  The greatest horror movies showcase a certain level of patience and build up to the terror that awaits. I appreciate a film like this one so much more because for whatever reason they just can’t do it these days. There aren’t horror movies coming out that have the same capabilities of the classics. There is always hope to be had with the future and maybe one day horror films will make a return to what they used to be.

This is a Wes Craven film and few men are as synonymous with the horror genre as he is. Wes Craven has built a legacy for himself by making scary movies and this film is part of what made him great. I love how savage this one is because that’s what you really want when you watch a movie like this. I also love that there isn’t really an end. The film just stops in the middle of a dramatic moment and leaves the rest to your imagination. There is a sequel to this film made seven years later, also by Wes Craven. I haven’t seen it and if anybody reading this has then please leave a comment and let me know how it was.

Bottom line on this one. If you want something that will make you get up and lock your doors this is the movie for you. If you want something that will scare you and make you think twice before ever detouring on a road trip through the west then see this movie. It’s great for Halloween season and it will hit the mark if you are looking to be scared.