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“THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW” (Blu-ray Review)

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In the grand scheme of Wes Craven, THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW is easily, pound for pound, one of the filmmaker’s best movies. Eerie, dread-inducing and far from the familiarity of slashers and serial killers, THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW offers seriously engaging drama and incredibly beautiful production design on top of the mounting tension and macabre moments. And while THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW is a favorite among many fright fans, the film has sadly taken quite some time to get to high definition, with Scream Factory taking up the mantle with their brand new Blu-ray set.

For those unfamiliar, THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW follows an esteemed anthropologist who travels to Haiti to find a secretive powder that allegedly has mystical properties and could bring the dead back to life. However, his search for the drug yields unexpected results, including zombie rituals, blood rites, terrifying nightmares, corrupt militants and curses, all of which spells out doom for the man. Soon, he finds himself in a fight for his life as the supernatural reach of an evil bokor plagues his life beyond borders and only the anthropologist can stop them.

As a film, THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW offers an impassioned Wes Craven working at a whole new level, taking Wade Davis’ true-to-life novel and using it as a way to show a unique culture altogether, even within genre confines. Anchored by a fantastic and committed performance by Bill Pullman, THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW shows Craven at his most adept, putting the narrative above the admittedly superb horror elements. It’s a movie that definitely ages better than some of Craven’s less unique cinematic entries, and one whose legacy will be interesting to see develop now that the film will hit a new generation looking better than ever.

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Though I might have buried the lead (pun not intended but appreciated), Scream Factory really went out of their way to make this a fantastic disc, with their top-notch transfer being among the reasons. Scanned from the interpositive, the boutique label provides a rich video transfer, with fantastic clarity and depth while sporting an organic amount of natural film grain, especially considering the film’s natural cinematography. And with a 5.1 DTS Master audio transfer, THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW will be even more nightmarishly immersive for those with impressive home theaters.

Scream Factory also provides THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW with a solid assembly of special features, with the reverence for the film and the production still in strong supply among the participants. The crown jewel of this set is the brand new audio commentary with Bill Pullman himself, who offers many anecdotes about the adventurous shoot, working with Wes Craven and how the film was unlike any he’d done before or since, even holding the genre-heavy moments in high regard. The making-of featurette is also really fantastic, offering many different perspectives on the production, which is as beloved as it was truly different for anything going on at the time (with even Wade Davis praising Wes Craven’s choices as well).

Overall, while Craven fans and high-def collectors will likely already have their copies, those on the fence should be assured that Scream Factory put together a frightfully good release for THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW. With some great new extras and an equally impressive transfer, THE SERPENT & THE RAINBOW gets its due diligence from this Blu-ray disc, and will hopefully give horror hounds a solid reason to revisit this chilling cult classic.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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