(In French, On Cable TV, June 2019) Knowing that The Serpent and the Rainbow is a horror movie taking place in midt-1980s Haiti, I was expecting the worst—and for the most part I got what I was expecting: the portrayal of a nation torn between petty dictatorship (The Duvalier regime fled the country midway through the shoot, prompting a move to nearly Dominican Republic) and old-school pre-Romero voodoo zombies. In the middle of it comes a white scientist (Bill Pullman, mildly likable) investigating the voodoo drug that turns people into zombies—for pharmaceutical science! What he encounters in Haiti is a nightmare gallery of characters either in service of a terror-based regime complete with genital torture, or all-knowing in the ways of voodoo. What may have been plausibly deniable as drug-fuelled realism turns ambiguously supernatural in time for the ending, with a villain defeated by lost souls freed from their restraints and a hero whose mind can now do telekinesis. No, The Serpent and the Rainbow (very loosely adapted from a true story) does not deal in subtleties. That’s too bad—As a French-Canadian, I have a real affection for Haiti, and I wish the country was portrayed in a somewhat more credible fashion once in a while. On the other hand, and I’m not that happy about it: now that the film is thirty years old, there is some value in it having captured the terror of the Tontons Macoutes and the Duvalier family of despots. The Serpent and the Rainbow is on somewhat firmer ground when dealing straight-up scares: Director Wes Craven knows what he’s doing, and while the hallucination shtick gets obvious early on, he still gets to build a few intriguing images and suspense sequences along the way. The film does also benefit from solid work from Zakes Mokae as a villain, Brent Jennings as a morally chaotic contact, and the very cute Cathy Tyson in the thankless role of the doctor/damsel-in-distress. As distasteful as the stereotypical portrait of Haiti can be, it does add quite a bit of atmosphere to The Serpent and the Rainbow and helps it stand out from blander horror movies of the time.