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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

1408 (2007) and the Nine Circles of Hell

Although not a critically acclaimed horror movie, 1408 (2007) was actually an incredibly enlightening horror movie; this movie, for a lot of people, may have come across as a simple ghost story narrative in a haunted hotel room, when in reality the story was a lot deeper than that. Adapted from a short story written by Stephen King, 1408 is actually a modern-day narrative that parallels Dante’s journey into the depths of hell in Dante’s Inferno (1427).

1408 (1999) A Short Story by Stephen King

1408 by Stephen King – Audiobook Part 01
1408 by Stephen King – Audiobook Part 02
1408 by Stephen King – Audiobook Part 03

1408 (1999) is a short story that was penned by Stephen King, it was released as the third story in an audiobook collection titled Blood and Smoke. In 2002, it was collected in written form as part of a twelve-part collection of Stephen King’s short stories under the titled Everything’s Eventual.

In the Introduction, King tells us that 1408 is really just his version of the “ghostly room at the inn,” this was his way of describing the theme of a haunted hotel or motel room within the horror genre of fiction.

The Plot of 1408

Stephen King spins the tale of a non-fiction writer named Mike Enslin–he writes about the paranormal and his goal is to find evidence that ghosts exist. Although Enslin privately does not believe in the paranormal or ghosts for that matter, he feels guilt that stems from his books being best-sellers.

Enter the Dolphin Hotel on 61st Street in New York City–a hotel that has one room with a sinister reputation and Enslin plans on staying there as part of the research for his next book, “Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Hotel Rooms.” Before being given his key to the room, the hotel’s manager, Mr. Olin, gives Enslin the details of the morbid history of it; room 1408 has been responsible for 42 deaths, including 12 suicides over the span of 68 years. Olin insists that Enslin not stay in the room, because he believes there is something evil that resides within, even if he himself does not believe in the paranormal.

One interesting detail that Olin provides is that the Dolphin Hotel doesn’t have a recognized 13th floor, so even though room 1408 is labeled as the 14th floor, it’s really on the 13th. What’s worse, is if you follow the rules of numerology, the room’s numbers even add up to the number 13 (1+4+0+8=13).

The Great Poet Dante Alighieri, and His Famous Inferno (1427)

Dante Alighieri wrote the Divine Comedy, the first part of which was the famous Inferno (1427), a poem told from the perspective of the narrator, who happens to be lost in a dark wood wherein he is attacked by three beasts from which he cannot escape. Virgil, the Roman poet having been sent by Beatrice, rescues him from these beasts and together they begin the journey into the Nine Circles of Hell.

Dante's Inferno
Dante Alighieri’s Inferno by Gustave Doré

First Circle: Limbo

The First Circle of Hell is inhabited by virtuous non-Christians and unbaptized pagans–here they are to endure a punishment which is an eternity within a subpar form of Heaven. Those in Limbo live in a castle that has seven gates which are there to symbolize the seven virtues–it is here that Dante recognizes many prominent non-Christian people from classical antiquity like the author Homer, the philosophers Socrates and Aristotle, the statesman Cicero, the physician Hippocrates, as well as the infamous Roman consul, Julius Caesar.

Second Circle: Lust

The Second Circle of Hell is the level at which Dante and Virgil find people who in their lives were overcome by lust. Their punishment is to endure an eternity of being blown violently back and forth by tumultuous winds which prevent them from finding any peace in their afterlife. The winds symbolize the ferocity with which a person pursues the object of lust and the restlessness they find by being led by their desires for the carnal knowledge of their object of lust. Once again Dante sees many historical and mythological people of note–Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra, the Cornish Knight Tristan, Helen of Troy and many others who were adulterous or let their lust control their path in life.

Third Circle: Gluttony

Upon entering the Third Circle of Hell, Dante and his companion see the souls of gluttons who guarded by a worm-monster Cerberus. The sinners in this particular circle of Hell are forced to lay in a vile slush that is caused by an constant sleet. The slush that lay in symbolizes the personal degradation of those who overindulge in food, drink, and other worldly pleasures. Even though there are others laying beside them in the slush, they have an inability to see each other, which represents the sinner’s selfishness and coldness.

Fourth Circle: Greed

The Fourth Circle of Hell, they find the souls of people who committed the sin of greed; this circle is divided into two factions of sinners, those who hoarded worldly possessions and those who spent it on unnecessarily lavish things. These two separate groups are meant to fight each other for all eternity, using enormous weights that they must push with their chest to symbolize their selfish desire of fortune within their lifetime. The damned within this circle is watched over by Pluto–likely due to his ancient Greek origin as the god of the underworld. In Dante’s narrative, he claims to see many clergymen including greedy cardinals and popes.

Fifth Circle: Anger

The Fifth Circle of Hell is reserved for the wrathful and the sullen; while being transported via boat by Phlegyas over the river Styx, Dante and Virgil witness the wrathful fighting on the surface and the sullen drowning below the surface. This punishment symbolizes their sins in life, where the wrathful show their anger on the surface and the sullen drown in their own turmoil.

Sixth Circle: Heresy

The Sixth Circle of Hell is where Dante and Virgil see the heretics that have been condemned to an eternity entombed within their flaming crypts.

Seventh Circle: Violence

In the Seventh Circle of Hell, the two companions see that it is divided into three rings–the outermost ring houses murderers, as well as those who were violent to other people and property in general, wherein they are sinking into a river of boiling blood. The middle ring houses those who have committed violence upon themselves and have ended up within this circle by taking their own lives–these people have been changed into trees and bushes where they are fed upon by harpies. Within the middle ring Dante also sees profligates as they are chased and ripped to shreds by rabid dogs. The innermost ring is reserved for blasphemers and sodomites, who are doomed to inhabit a desert of burning sand as a burning rain falls from the sky.

Eighth Circle: Fraud

Those who are fraudulent are meant for the Eighth Circle of Hell–they are watched over by Geryon, a flying monster with different natures, just as the fraudulent have ever-changing natures. This circle is divided into ten bolgias, or “evil ditches” that have bridges between them. The first is for panderers and seducers, the second is for flatterers, the third is for those guilty of simony (such as those who sold tickets to heaven, or a heavenly pardon to those already passed). The fourth ditch was for sorcerers and false prophets, the fifth for corrupt politicians, the six for hypocrites. The remaining four ditches were reserved for thieves, evil counselors and advisers, divisive individuals, and in the last various falsifiers, like alchemists, perjurers, and counterfeits.

Ninth Circle: Treachery

The Ninth and final Circle of Hell is divided into four different rings and who is housed within them is in accordance to the seriousness of the sin. While all of the inhabitants are frozen in an icy lake, the more severe the sin, the deeper within the ice they are. The first ring is named Caina, after Cain who killed his brother Abel. The second ring is named Antenora, for Anthenor of Troy the primary counselor for Priam during the Trojan War. The Third ring is named Ptolomaea, after Ptolemy, and the fourth ring is named Judecca, in honor of Judas Iscariot, the famous apostle who betrayed Jesus.

1408: The Philosophical Depths That Horror Can Reach

Real Dimensional Pictures on Youtube does a great job making this Philosophical argument that can made when the movie 1408 (2007), or Stephen King’s short story 1408 (1999) are put in juxtaposition with Dante’s Inferno (1427).

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Horror Mystery and Lore

A Voodoo Practice: Mysteries of Zombification

Digging Up the Origin of Zombies

Hand reaching into the darkness
Photography by Lalesh Aldarwish

While zombies have been on the pop culture radar pretty heavily for several decades now, the history of this undead phenomenon has a history deeply rooted in the Haitian Voodoo religion—in fact, the belief in zombies is still a relevant aspect of New Orleans Voodoo. In our western society, we rely heavily upon our knowledge of what is presented to us in movies and television, but the zombie culture we know and love evolved from a very real magical tradition. Original zombification didn’t involve leaks from biological factories, like what happened in Train to Busan (2016), or an airborne virus as was the case in AMC’s The Walking Dead (2010)—it involved a spiritual, magical, and chemical process that arose through voodoo ritual which required the calling of several voodoo spirits (Loa).

Where we see zombies being portrayed as people who have died then coming back to life, the voodoo tradition it is actually a person who is under the powerful influence of psychoactive drugs. These drugs are usually administered to the unfortunate person by a bokor, the voodoo equivalent to a sorcerer or witch doctor. After being dosed with these psychoactive drugs, the victim essentially goes into drug-induced paralysis which mimics death so profoundly that it is rumored that people have been buried alive after being zombified. This is the case in one of the original, classic zombie films The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), where the main antagonist, is buried alive while fully cognizant—which, needless to say would be incredibly terrifying.

The Process of Zombification

Skulls piled on the ground
Photography Renato Danyi

There is a lot of disagreement about whether or not the person who is to become a zombie is actually deceased or not—some believe that the process revives the recently dead into mindless, soulless automatons, while others insist it’s just the effect of psychoactive drugs that leaves the victim in a state of deep, chemical-induced paralysis, which mimics death to the point that even vital signs are not measurable. Within the Voodoo religion, only bokors have the power to create and control zombies, while the methods and ingredient amounts changes from each individual bokor, the process follows the same pattern. Some processes use voodoo dolls, blood and hair from the intended victim, and others use a “zombie” powder—this powder is a concoction of varies herbs and animal parts, most of which are poisonous, as well as human remains.

This powder can then be administered through ingestion or injection and begins to take effect immediately. Immobility, slowed vitals, and reduced oxygen intake occur within minutes which results in the death-like paralysis where the victim is still fully conscious of their surroundings. Once officially declared dead, the victim is buried alive and within eight hours, the bokor digs up the body to keep the victim from actually dying from asphyxiation. Other procedures follow, which result in a mindless and easily controlled zombie which does the bidding of the bokor who created it. The person remains a zombie until the bokor passes away and is no longer capable of administering the drug that maintains the victim’s zombie-like state.

Clairvius Narcisse the Real Haitian Zombie

Creepy old, overgrown cemetary

Photography by NeONBRAND

Zombification is often referred to as either a solely magical or physical experience, but in truth it is a mixture of both, it’s essential for a person to have a belief in voodoo and the ability to be turned into a zombie in order for the process to work in its entirety. This was the case for Clairvius Narcisse, the man who claimed to be a zombie, but returned home after eighteen years and his story was finally told.

In 1962, Narcisse was admitted to the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles, Haiti. He complained of fever, body aches, and ‘general malaise,’ but after being admitted he began to spit up blood. His condition declined rapidly, until two days later when he was officially pronounced dead by two separate physicians. Narcisse’s sister, Angelina, was present when he was declared dead and then notified the rest of the family, a day thereafter his body was buried, and ten days after that a concrete memorial slab was placed atop the grave by his family.

What most the family didn’t know is that Clairvius had actually been pulled out of the grave and resuscitated. He was given the zombie concoction and kept in a zombie-like state for two years, working as slave labor in a region of the country that was much farther north. This was all done at the behest of his brother, after refusing to sell his portion of the family estate to him. After two years of being a zombie, his master had been killed, then he and all of the other zombie-slaves were released from their chemical induced state of submission. Clairvius stayed away from his home for the next sixteen years, knowing that his return would make his brother aware that he was no longer being controlled by another. Once his brother passed, he finally returned home, where he approached his sister Angelina in a local marketplace and introduced himself by his childhood nickname which she and a few other intimate family members alone were aware of.

Investigating the Haitian Zombie with Hamilton Morris

The following six-part Vice production follows the investigation of The Haitian Zombie, with Hamilton’s Phramacopeia, in order to find the truth behind the folk magic and legends of this walking dead phenomenon; Hamilton follows the scientific trail to the origin of the poisons that are said to cause Zombification in order to bring them back for formal chemical analysis.


Please watch the following footage with discretion–there are scenes and images that some viewers may find disturbing.

These videos are meant to be educational in nature.


Part One

This first episode goes into the initial introduction, including the nature of what Zombification entails.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 05

Part Two

The following video contains graphic footage included in a voodoo ritual, in which an animal sacrifice is made for the Loa, please be advised it may be considered disturbing to some viewers.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 06

Part Three

In this third episode, Hamilton goes to find a Bokor in order to witness the process of Zombification, but results in angering the Bokor and being told the deal is off.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 07

Part Four

Hamilton goes to find the main ingredient of Zombie powder, in this fourth episodes, which is a species of puffer fish.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 08

Part Five

In the fifth part of Investigating the Haitian Zombie, Hamilton meets up with another Bokor who possesses the Zombie powder that they have been searching for and witnesses a real zombie.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 09

Part Six

The final installment of the investigation into Haitian zombies, they travel back to the Bokor who showed them what they had been searching for to come through with the final product they paid for.

Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia Season 01 Episode 10

Knowing what we have learned from different sources, about the process of Zombification, can it truly be said that it is a purely chemical process? These videos in particular have all but debunked the rationale that it can all be chalked up to a chemical reaction, so some aspects of this spiritual process is often contributed to the powerful belief in their magical practices. What do you think about the phenomenon of Zombification? Let us know in the comments below.

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Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

Inuit Spirit of Death: The Keelut

What is the Keelut?

Aggressive Keelut, Inuit Spirit of Death
Photography by Nick Bolton

This creature is an Inuit legend, one who hunts people during the winter, but it’s not actually a predator in the strictest sense–it’s a spirit of the Netherworld. The Keelut (key-loot), also known as the Qiqirn (key-kern) is sometimes referenced as a spirit of death or an evil earth spirit. While it is actually a spirit, it takes the form of what some believe to be a true cryptid. To be honest, it’s hard to say which is a more frightening aspect of this creature, that it’s an immense, malevolent, black, hairless dog with the sole purpose of preying upon humans, or that it’s also a spirit so it doesn’t necessarily abide by the laws of physics. The Keelut’s mythological cousin is the Church Grim or Barguest of Great Britain, who stalks those traveling in the night which results in an untimely death.

The major difference between the Church Grim and the Keelut is the fact that the Keelut doesn’t have any hair, except for on its feet. They say that this makes their tracks in the snow disappear easily, which gives the advantage of stalking prey without being noticed. Aside from their predatory nature, these creatures have other similarities that transcend the separation of culture—both are known to act as a harbinger of death, and otherwise feast upon the dead. In Inuit folklore, the Keelut is known to attack lone travelers, the sight of one would cause disorientation, then eventually hypothermia and death.

Hold the Dark (2018): Bringing Alaskan Horror Legends to Life in a New Way

Hold the Dark Horror book featuring Keelut

This Alaskan creature of terror was made to take the sidelines in William Giraldi’s book Hold the Dark: A Novel (2014) and now a Netflix original film Hold the Dark (2018) when the residents of Keelut, a remote (fictional) Alaskan village, have been the unfortunate targets for a dangerous pack of wolves. These wolves have successfully taken three children before the main story takes place.  It’s certainly a spin to the original tale of the Keelut, but it pays special homage to the Inuit folklore wherein it was born.

While it certainly didn’t get rave reviews from this critic, I have a personal bias when it comes to films that include Alaska and the surrounding culture, even if it’s not terribly accurate.

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Scary Movies and Series

Scary Movies on Hulu Based on True Events

We’ve all seen the dreaded (no pun intended) words in scary movie trailers – “based on a true story.” Some of you may roll your eyes at the phrase, as we all know Hollywood has a way of stretching the truth. But it turns out that more than a few horror masterpieces are legit – based on real-life paranormal events, serial killers and supernatural experiences.

Grab your popcorn and be ready to be “IRL” scared, because we have the top 10 scary movies and series based on true events that you can now stream on Hulu!

1. The Amityville Horror (2005)

Amityville Horror Movie Poster 2005

Rating: R

Rotten Tomatoes: 23%

Any scary movie enthusiast will know about The Amityville Horror, the 1970’s supernatural horror film that tells the story of one of the most famous mass murders and haunted houses of all time. This remake is a modern telling of what happened after Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his family in 1974, recounting the Lutz family’s paranormal experiences inside the house and all of its spooky history. Being a remake of the famous 1979 Amityville Horror it’s not shocking that Rotten Tomatoes was not favorable as that iconic film will always be a high bar. At least a few critics favored it over the original though.

2. The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

The Haunting in Connecticut 2009 Movie poster

Rating: PG-13

Rotten Tomatoes: 17%

One of the more underrated horror films of the 2000’s, this story is based on true events experienced by the Snedeker family in 1986. Famous paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren claimed that the Snedeker’s house used to be a funeral home in which morticians practiced necromancy, along with many other paranormal experiences. If you want an old-fashioned ghost story and plenty of dead bodies, look no further than this supernatural flick.

3. The Exorcist (TV Series) (2016)

The Exorcist TV Series Poster

Rating: N/A

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

Why they cancelled this series after only two seasons, we’ll never know. It was pretty great. Serving as a sequel to the 1970’s classic scary movie of the same name, which was based on the real-life exorcism of 14-year old Rolan Doe in 1949, the TV series featured plenty of straight-up scares and excellent special effects. 

4. The Clovehitch Killer (2018)

The Clovehitch Killer Movie Poster 2018

Rating: Unrated

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%

From American Horror Story to this indie masterpiece, it seems Dylan McDermott has a talent for playing serial killers. The titular character is based on Dennis Rader, a mass murderer who killed countless people over the span of nearly 20 years before being caught. As a community leader and Boy Scout guide, nobody suspected Rader of being dangerous… until they did.


5. Child’s Play (1988)

Child's play Horror Movie poster 1988

Rating: R

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%

That’s right, the film about a terrifying and murderous doll come to life is based on true events. Chucky is based on the world’s creepiest doll – Robert. He was made in the early 1900’s by a servant who knew black magic and voodoo, and gifted to Key West author Robert Eugene as a child.

The haunted doll began to mutilate Robert’s other toys, speak to him in a terrifying voice and cause havoc around the house. Robert’s parents claimed they saw the doll running through the hallways, as well as the little girl who adopted him after Robert’s death. How do you know he’s worse than Chucky? The doll is still on display in a museum in Florida, in a thick glass case so he can’t escape!

6. The Purge (2013)

The Purge Horror Movie Poster 2013

Rating: R

Rotten Tomatoes: 39%

Spanning 7 years, multiple sequels and plenty of terrifying Halloween masks, The Purge has become a fixture in horror. Though it’s set in a dystopian future America where any and all crime is legal for a certain time period, it’s not as unrealistic as you think. The plot is based on historical records dating back to the time of Roman Pagans, who celebrated a festival called Saturnalia.

What is this, exactly? A weeklong period of debauchery that gave citizens permission to kill, maim and spread terror throughout the city. They were encouraged to drink heavily and act out their desires without fear of retribution – very similar to The Purge. At least that was only 12 hours, and not a whole week of terror!


7. The Possession (2012)

The Possession 2012 horror movie based on a true story poster

Rating: PG-13

Rotten Tomatoes: 40%

Possession films are a dime a dozen, but this one from Lionsgate is based on a highly publicized story reported by the Los Angeles Times in 2004. A small wooden box with Hebrew letters engraved – just like the one in the film – was sold on eBay to museum curator John Haxton. 

Inside were oddities like locks of hair, a granite slab, one dried rosebud and supposedly a “dibbuk,” a spirit popular in Yiddish folklore. The box was said to have caused bad luck and paranormal occurrences with previous owners. However, this means hair falling out and bizarre accidents, not stabbing people with a fork like the little girl in this film.


8.The Act (2019)

The Act 2019 Series Poster

Rating: N/A

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

While this Hulu original lacks paranormal elements, there’s nothing scarier than being betrayed and abused by the ones meant to love you the most. The Act tells the true story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who was forced to fabricate illnesses and disabilities by her mother Dee Dee due to Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and Dee Dee’s eventual murder.

If you need proof of how great this series is, just look at its Emmy nominations and glowing reviews. Gypsy’s story is full of mystery and heartache and is as intriguing as it is terrifying. 

9. Texas Chainsaw (2013)

Texas Chainsaw remake 2013 horror movie poster

Rating: R

Rotten Tomatoes: 19%

A direct sequel that came nearly 40 years after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this slasher flick is all kinds of good fun. You’ll get to see the return of Leatherface, the insane dude with the chainsaw who was based on infamous serial killer Ed Gein.

We won’t lie… this film isn’t exactly a masterpiece, but it’s great for a date night or scary movie marathon with friends.

10. Hounds of Love (2017)

Hounds of Love movie poster 2013

Rating: N/A

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

Can you imagine being kidnapped by a (literal) couple of serial killers? That’s exactly what happens in Hounds of Love, and in real life! The story is eerily similar to that of one of the most high-profile serial killer couples ever – David and Catherine Birnie. They murdered four young girls in 1986 and hailed from Australia, where director Ben Young happens to hail from. Coincidence? We think not!

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Reviews Scary Movies and Series

The Serpent and the Rainbow: Dissecting the Truth of Voodoo in Movies

The Serpent and the Rainbow Movie Poster
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Even if you’ve never been buried alive, rest assured, this movie cannot hope to capture the terror that one must feel waking up to the darkness and heart-stopping fear of waking up in a coffin, with no possible hope of being rescued. If you have not yet seen The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), then perhaps it’s time—this movie has aged well, at the time of this posting, it’s nearly thirty-two years old, still relevant and pretty terrifying through the right lens. Given the fact that this movie was created in the late eighties, it stands to reason that if it were remade, it could be given new life, it definitely has the potential with a higher-rated actor and better cinematography to be a more nail-biting journey to have a glimpse into what zombification in the voodoo culture is truly about. The Serpent and the Rainbow was based on a book with the same name and directed by Wes Craven—a highly regarded thrill-maker in his heyday—and is given the attribute of being inspired by a true story, which is believable considering the attention to detail that was paid to even the most insignificant aspects of the story.

“In the legends of voodoo
The Serpent is a symbol of Earth.
The Rainbow is a symbol of Heaven.
Between the two, all creatures must live and die.
But because he has a soul
Man can be trapped in a terrible place
Where death is only the beginning.”

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Set during the political unrest of Haiti in 1978, Dr. Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman), an anthropologist turned field-researcher has just come back from exploring for medicinal herbs and plants; he’s hailed as a hero at the biological research company, at which he works because he’s brought back medicines that no one before has ever been able to collect. No rest is given for the weary though and he’s immediately asked to go investigate the mysteries of zombification in Haiti—they have just come across evidence of a case eerily similar to that of real-life Clairvius Narcisse. Christophe was a man who died and was brought back to life. So, Dr. Alan sets off to find this mysterious zombification powder, something his bosses hope to find useful in their medical research.

Surprisingly, much of the lore of voodoo is represented quite faithfully, which has a lot to do with the fact that most of the movie was filmed on location during a time of political and social unrest; the scenes in which voodoo rituals occur, they were actually filming voodoo practitioners who were in a trance state. The authenticity of these scenes sets this movie apart from any other movie about voodoo that is out there, it can’t get more realistic than this without being an outright documentary. The whole movie was based loosely around The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) a non-fiction book was written by Wade Davis. The author is to this day, an anthropologist who initially made himself famous by his research in the field of psychoactive plants; he was one of the first outsiders to gain access to the secrets of zombification and how the powder was created, which are highly guarded secrets in the community of voodoo in Haiti.

So, while simultaneously staying true to much of what voodoo is about and not intending to create a horror movie, director Wes Craven was somehow able to make the movie a psychological experience that kept it both interesting and entertaining, long enough to get to the meat and bones of the plot. Insights into the poorly staffed insane asylums and the psychological state of a person who had undergone the trauma of being drugged, declared dead, buried alive and then being dug up and made to serve a master, created an environment early in the movie that this entire expedition was going to be a dangerous one for Dr. Alan. Like a well-trained and eager anthropologist, our antagonist goes above and beyond what any sane field researcher would do, finding himself in graveyards searching for a mentally unstable resurrected Christophe, attending voodoo rituals in which he witnesses men chewing on fire and women eating glass, and running into an evil witch doctor, Peytraud, who does not want him to be successful in finding the secrets to zombification. It’s important to watch this movie without any lens of bias, as far as what valid religion and spiritual practice are, it requires people to be open to what is possible when belief in the strange and unnatural is strong and unwavering.

Possessing the knowledge that Wes Craven never intended this movie to be a horror flick, it’s quite easy to see past the dated effects and experience Dr. Alan’s nightmarish visions with the depth of fear that someone that has had the superstition of the land seeded into his brain. With an added element of complexity, Dr. Alan falls for the beautiful psychiatrist who aids him in his journey to the highly sought-after zombification powder, which allows him to be more easily manipulated by Peytraud who later has Dr. Alan in his clutches. The cinematography in the torture room of Peytraud is intense, especially considering the time in which the movie was made, the gore wasn’t a necessary element to induce fear in audiences. We know what is going to happen to our antagonist when we find him being strapped into a chair, with his underwear around his ankles, when Peytraud reveals a coffin nail and tells Dr. Alan that he wants to, “hear (him) scream.”

Dr. Alan drowning in blood in a nightmare
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Not to be deterred, we see the effects that Peytraud has had to Dr. Alan’s mental state, his nightmares and visions get worse—he’s being buried alive in his dreams, he screams as blood begins to fill the coffin and quickly consumes his body. Political tactics are taken to scare Dr. Alan into leaving Haiti without what he came for, which nearly works if it weren’t for his hidden ally who ends up sneaking it to him after he has been forced into a plane that will take him home. Threats of being arrested and executed have been levied on him, which means he has to leave his lover, Marielle (Cathy Tyson), behind despite the danger she would be in for her associations with him. The brief time back in Boston is punctuated with the powder having been researched, which the movie is also incredibly true to its source, noting that the subject would be aware of everything that was going on, while still appearing clinically dead. Peytraud shows himself through magical means, making it clear that he can reach Dr. Alan wherever he may be—his visions have not ceased since arriving back home. Dr. Alan returns to Haiti in order to make sure Marielle is safe, he finds the ally that gave him the powder has been executed for what he has done—this is where things truly turn bad for him.

Don’t let them bury me. I’m not dead.

Dr. Alan – The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

After having zombie powder blown into his face by one of Peytraud’s associates, Dr, Alan stumbles through the village and eventually falls to the ground, pale and apparently dying–he utters the words that the movie is famous for, “Don’t let them bury me. I’m not dead.” The fear in his eyes is not overplayed, in fact, this part was incredibly well done. After being declared dead in the hospital, we see Peytraud has taken control of his body and is seeing to it that Dr. Alan is put in the grave.

“When you wake up, Dr. Alan—scream.
Scream all you want, there is no escape from the grave.”

Peytraud – The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Before watching this movie, I read reviews of it, so this is always where I was led to believe that the movie ended—our hero, the noble anthropologist, seeking secrets for the future of medicine gets buried alive and that’s that—the ultimate fear of someone who is claustrophobic, meeting their demise in a cramped box with severely limited oxygen. Except, this isn’t where we end—Christophe, comes to Dr. Alan’s rescue when he awakens from his drug-induced trance and begins to scream. In a moment of unexpected vulnerability, Christophe consoles the anthropologist, “You’re alive. You see things the living can’t see. In a daring rescue of his lover, Dr. Alan squares off against Peytraud where he encounters several setbacks and finally overcomes the mind control of his nemesis, defeats the bad guy, rescues the girl, and saves the day. His visions cease and we’re led to believe that he goes on to live a happy and full life.

All in all, this movie has stayed relevant over the past three decades and is highly recommended for being both unique and authentic in its representation of zombies. You’ve got to check this one out!