The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) Script

Allez avec bon Dieu.





Field notes. Dr Dennis Alan, Rio Negro Botanical Expedition...

... August 15, 1985.

At the clearing of the shaman An Hango...

... regarded as the most powerful spiritual man in the Amazon.

There's something strange in the air today. Even my pilot's nervous.

If I were superstitious, I'd say that something was closing in on me.

The shaman senses it too. He decides, in his own off-the-wall way...

... to show me what it is.

Tell him I'm very appreciative. Harvard thanks him.

His potions will make a good medicine that will be helpful for many people.

Now he wants you to drink it. He says he has something he wants you to see.

You know what you'll see if you drink that shit? Stars, amigo.

Let's get outta here.

Like I said, for the road.

It's good. It's very good.

Thank you.


No! No!




Hey. I thought you'd taken off without me.

I owe you one, pal.

Something much more evil and powerful than the shaman or his men...

... has killed my pilot.

I know this as clearly as I feel the darkness and cold closing in on me.


Hey! Hey!


I'm only home for a week when I get a call from my old professor and friend...

... Earl Schoonbacher.

He's a consultant for a pharmaceutical company...

... and says he has an interesting job offer.

Ah, Dennis. This is Dr Cassedy, the head of Boston Biocorp.

How do you do, sir? Hi, how do you do?

Boy, it's a pleasure.

I'm impressed. 200 miles through the Amazon, on foot, alone?

Not alone. They showed him his animal spirit, his totem.

The jaguar guided him back to us, safe and sound.

Well, we here at Boston Biocorp...

...we deal in science and medicine, not magic.

So whether you came by Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz, who cares?

What I care about is you came back with plants and native medicines...

...that no one has been able to collect.

What do you know about zombification?

Pardon me? Zombification?

The process of making zombies. The living dead.

Just what I've seen on the Late Show.

This is the death certificate of Christophe Durand...

...and the doctor's report.

Mr. Durand displayed negative pulse, no heartbeat, no respirations... pupil dilation, no brain waves, no response to pain, and he was buried.

He was put into a coffin... and buried.

The date on that certificate is seven years ago.

This photograph was taken one week ago at a clinic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

That man is Christophe Durand. The same, and very much alive.

Maybe Durand had a twin.


Hospital error. You know, right name, wrong corpse.


No, we had it verified by Dr Duchamp - the one who sent us the photographs.

If you don't like "zombie", choose another word.

But the fact is that somebody brought him back from the grave.

And I wanna know... how they did it.

You really believe this? The Haitians surely do.

A drug.

It has to be a drug then, right?

Anesthesia. That's what I was thinking.

A new anesthetic that could revolutionize medicine.

Now, what if this zombie drug could be discovered?

40-50,000 lives a year are lost on the operating table...

...not because of surgery, but because of anesthetic shock.

40-50,000 lives a year could be saved in the US alone, Doctor.

And more worldwide, if properly marketed.

It could be more complicated than drugs.

It could be the proof, perhaps, of the soul.

Come on, Schoonie, where is the location of the soul?

Under the hood? Next to the battery?

No, the soul begins and ends with the brain.

This drug, this is something totally new.

We don't have anything that can put somebody in, then back out, of death.

And all we gotta do is... go and get it.

This is one of the poorest countries in the world.

It has revolution in the air. It's got a ruthless dictator in the palace.

So I had expected a certain sense of oppression.

But I hadn't expected that the dark presence from the Amazon...

... would instantly come over me here...

... as real as a cold hand falling on my shoulder.

And I also didn't expect Dr. Duchamp to look like...

... Dr Duchamp did.

Dr Duchamp? - Bonjour.

- Bonjour, je m'appelle... Dennis Alan, I know.

Yes, I guess I am an easy face in this crowd.

Oh, I would have known you even in...

Excuse me? It would be better if we talk inside.

Those were the Tontons Macoutes. They know you are here, of course.

Are you sure handcuffs are the best idea here?

500 patients, three doctors, 15 nurses.

A week's supply of Thorazine.

Handcuffs are the only thing Duvalier makes sure Haiti has enough of.

This is Margrite.

I was expecting... After an illness of three days...

...Margrite died and was buried in a village ceremony.

No death certificate, but we have witnesses.

That was 15 years ago.

Last August, she was found wandering in the marketplace.

Her brother identified her by a birthmark.

A classic zombie.

Bonjour, Margrite.

Est-ce que tu te rappelles ce qui t'est arrivé?

Well, she sure can't tell us anything.

I understand Christophe Durand, the man whose death certificate I saw...

...he can speak, right? Yes.

He even speaks English. Christophe is unique. Much of his memory is intact.

I'd like to see him right away.

A warning, that's what I felt in those eyes.

I didn't know of what, but it chilled me to the bone.

Marielle took me to see a man who was very powerful in politics and in voodoo.

He's a full voodoo priest, but he also runs a nightclub for tourists.

In fact, Lucien Celine does a bit of everything, except give out information.

You've come on a good night, Monsieur.

Tonight the spirits are happy.

We asked about Christophe Durand.

Lucien, why are you being so difficult? You have people all over the island.

Someone must have seen Christophe by now.

Perhaps. But what people see and what they say are very different matters.

Haiti is full of contradictions, Dr Alan.

These dancers, for instance, they don't bleed and they don't burn.

Tonight we are calling down Erzulie, the goddess of love.

You will dance tonight? No, Lucien, I will not.

You will. No.

You all right? You have business to discuss.

If he won't help, we'll go to Christophe's village tomorrow.

She'll be fine. She'll be fine.


Yes, he is the one to watch.

Captain Peytraud. He plays at being a bokor, a black magician.

He is beneath contempt.

He is the Chief of the Tontons Macoutes, Duvalier's secret police.

You have seen him before perhaps, hm?

Yeah, someplace. Be careful, my friend.

In Haiti, there are secrets we keep even from ourselves.


Marielle. Yes, favorite of Erzulie.

For Marielle, possession is as natural as breathing.


Watch it.

Are you all right?

Marielle never mentioned what had happened the night before.

But from what I knew of possession, she probably didn't even remember it.

Maybe it was just as well.

We asked in Christophe's village, but not even the voodoo priestess would help.

I told you, he is dead.

What should I know about the dead?

The whereabouts of Christophe remained a mystery, until his sister found us.

Le cimetière.

Let's go.

What his sister said makes sense. Christophe is obsessed with death.

We will find him.

That's what you said about the last three graveyards.





Well, this is ridiculous. Let's get outta here. A goat...

Oh, shit.

Are you OK?

They were just graverobbers. Graverobbers, huh?

That makes me feel a lot better. You should have seen your face.

You think this is funny?

Hey, let's stop jacking around, huh?

We won't find Christophe tonight - if he's even alive.

What do you mean "if"? You saw the photographs.

For all I know, they were taken before he died.

What are you trying to say?

OK, you're my only contact here in Haiti, right?

First you let the evidence go, then we spend a lotta time getting nowhere.

Do you think I'm doin' this for my health? I think this is a scam.

I'm not blaming you. I've seen the clinic. I know you need funds.

But do you think Cassedy's corporation will shell out money for nothing?

You think this is about money? Yeah.

The way Schoonbacher spoke of you, it was as though you could walk on water.

Now I know why. Shit floats.

Yeah, well, why the hell are you getting involved?

Will you talk to me? Christophe!

Christophe, it's me. Dr Duchamp.

You remember me, don't you?

I remember.

This is Dr Alan.

He's here to ask you some questions.


I need you to remember what happened before... you died.

You spoke about it once to me.

I remember... it all.

The coffin, the... the burial.

I... I saw it all.

Were you sick?

What was it that you felt? The symptoms.

I heard the dirt falling, falling over me.

The darkness pressed me down.

He says the bokor, the one that made him like this, beats him with a whip.

The bokor took his soul and sealed it away.

He makes me do evil things.

I'm no longer free. He sends me into people's dreams.

I'll need to... run a blood test and I'd like to get a thumb print.

No, I cannot take him to the clinic. This is my place. Not with the living.

He will find me.

No, Christophe, you're not dead.

Whatever they did to you, they did it to trick you into thinking that.

You have a good memory. Tell us what you remember... we can stop the bokors from doing this to anybody else.

Help us, Christophe.

It's a powder.

A poison.

It run through the skin... the soul.


Through the skin.

A powder.

Hé, blanc.

Lucien. We need to ask for your help one more time. We found Christophe.

He told us about the poison... Not another word.

Let's go inside.

If you blunder into this, my people get hurt.

The world should know what is happening here.

You see? She is an idealist.

She simply does not understand how dangerous these times have become.

What I'm after is gonna save too many lives. I'm not gonna back off.

I know you know the man that makes the powder.

One name. Just one.

The one in the hat is our man, I think.

Louis Mozart? This is important?

My friend represents powerful interests, rich American interests.

American? That's right.

They have an enemy they would like to turn into a zombie.

A zombie, huh?

That is all? That's all.


You've come to the right place. Your enemy is as good as dead.

I will catch his soul like a spider catches a fly in his web...

...and pop it in a canari... this one.

You keep the zombie's soul sealed up.

It makes the flesh your slave.

It gives you power. You send it into people's dreams.

Whose soul is that?

This place's previous owner.

Is that right?


I cast a spell, the coup l'aire, tonight.

It's not the spell that I want.

What I'm after is the powder.

The powder.

Some say there is such a thing. Some say it.

I guess Celine was wrong. This guy can't help us out. I'm sorry.

Celine? Lucien Celine?

Well, of course, of course.

Lucien and me, we are like that.

A man should help his friends.



$400, tops.

For Celine...


All right. Let's see what you got.

I have some powder already prepared.

You like it, blanc, huh? It is beautiful.

Come in.

With this powder, you must be very careful.

I make it so there is no second chance.

$500, huh?

How do we know it works?

You want proof? Yeah.


Don't worry. You have enough for ten zombies, huh?


You are very beautiful.

Are you looking for work?

He may keep you better, but I will love you longer.

So you see, blanc? No second chance. So, the money?

The money?

That you get tomorrow, when I see you raise the goat from the dead.

I wanna see the goat alive again. Zombies, remember?

It's too dangerous to wait at the hotel, so we lose ourselves in the pilgrimage.

And though I came for the powder...

... I'm getting into something much, much more.

You know, I still have a hard time putting you and all that stuff together.

I was brought up in the faith. My father was a houngan.

I was dedicated to Erzulie at four.

First ridden - possessed, if you will - at eight.

There is beauty and compassion in it. Oh, yeah, I can understand that.

But you're a psychiatrist first. There is no conflict...

...between my science and my faith.

You can give it whatever words you will, but in Haiti...

...our God is not just in His heaven.

He's in our bodies, our flesh.

There's something you should see.

What is this ceremony? Voodoo or Catholic?

Haiti is 85% Catholic, but 110% voodoo.

For us, Erzulie and the Virgin Mary are the same.




Are you all right, Dennis?

Yeah. It was just a dream. I had a bad dream.

She tells me this is one of the cathedrals of Haiti.

A place not only of great beauty, but of great spirit as well.

And maybe the place is magic.

These waters are healing.

WWBC in Miami reporting. The word is official now.

Responding to months of demonstrations...

... the Duvalier government in Haiti has declared martial law.

Police and military units have imposed a strict curfew from sundown to sunup...

It was crazy. One minute to be in such beauty and peace...

... the next surrounded by secret police, the Tontons Macoutes.

Strangest of all, in the middle of all this...

... I couldn't get my mind off the zombie, Christophe.

Why would they do such a thing to him?

Why would they make anybody a zombie?

Christophe was more than a patient to you. You knew him before.

No, but I knew of him. He was just a grade-school teacher. No one important.

But he wasn't afraid to speak out for freedom.

He was very much admired. That's why they made him what he is.

Instead of inspiring courage, now he only inspires fear.

Doctor Alan. Come with me, please.

Doctor Alan, come with me now. All right, just take it easy.

I'll be all right.

Ah, Dr Alan.

That's right. Why are you in Haiti, Dr Alan?

Like it says there on the passport, I'm a tourist. I came to see the sights.

Yes, happy, happy, happy island people.

Then why visit an insane asylum?

I'm an anthropologist.

It's a tax write-off.

I hope you're not with the IRS.

Did you know this woman, Marielle Duchamp, is a radical?

So was her father.

He was... misplaced.

Did you know that? No, I didn't know that.

So is this man... Christophe Durand.

Christophe who? The man you met in the graveyard.


I don't know what you're talkin' about.

You're not a very good liar, Dr Alan.

Look, I'm a tourist.

I haven't done anything wrong.

Do you mind if I go now?

This country lives on the edge, Dr Alan.

One weakness in the wrong place and over it goes, back into slavery again...

...just like with the French. I'm not...

The United States would like anarchy here, I'm sure.

Well, this isn't Grenada, Dr Alan.

I'm here now.

There are people like me who'd make sure that doesn't happen.

You remember that.

You don't have to prove anything. It wasn't a note slipped under the door.

We'd better wait another day. We haven't got another day.

If we're outta the city, we're OK.

Come, come, come, come. Come.

We are celebrating my success! This good fortune, huh?

So, how's the goat? Oh, business before pleasure, huh?

The American way, no?

You saw it die yourself, but it walks.

Nice animal.

You like him? I throw him in, no charge, huh?


The money for the powder, as we agreed.

You see? Even in America, they know me.

They come for my work.

You're an idiot.

My powders work. Maybe I cast a spell on you.

You wanna know what I think of your powders?

Careful, blanc. No second chance.


It's piss.

You're a dead man.

Dennis, just what do you think you were doing in there?

We gotta stall him for a little time. What do you know about radiator caps?

What is it? Some macho death wish?

My God, what if it had been poison?

It was. Rat poison, probably.

Give me your hand. See your palm?

See the coin? And...

...poof! Oh!

See the poison he really gave me?

Tricks of the trade.

Here he comes.

Wait in the car.

You are still alive.

Yeah, I noticed.

I can make you it. The powder you want.

No tricks this time, blanc. $1,000. The zombie poison. The coup poudre.

All right. But there are rules.

You must make it with me.

There is no other way.

A strong work. Fresh bones. Quickly.

We work here.

You start.

Don't worry, they never bury them deep here.

That is why I use this place.

This isn't a kid, is it? No, no, this is not a child.

No, no, no.

A real prize, this one.

A sorceress.

When she lived, she had great power.

Now... she is just easier to carry.


It stinks. We will start tomorrow night.

Now, we get out of here. Let's go.

I think I still have some of my father's old shirts.

Maybe one will fit you. This shirt's fine.

No, it isn't.

Oh! No! No!

Get in the jeep.


You've got a pretty face.

The girls must like it.

Do you like it?

Your pretty white face?

I asked you a question.

Yeah... I like it.

I like it too.

I leave the face.

You made your point.

I'm on the next plane. I swear.

It's not good enough now. It's too late.

You were warned.

I warned you.

I'm a US citizen. Think about that.

I don't see the ambassador here. Do you?

I'm in medical research.

There's a lot of money in it. There's plenty for you.

I don't want money.

Yeah? What do you want?

I wanna hear you scream.

Oh, no. OK.


You wanna hear me scream? I'll scream.


Not good enough.


For three days, Marielle has been my guardian angel...

... hiding me, nursing me back to health.

The wound Peytraud inflicted was struck for fear, not injury.

I'm alive, intact.

She told me this morning that she wants me to go before they kill me.

But I can't do that.


You shouldn't be out here. You shouldn't even be walking.

Hey, this recipe took a thousand years to get right. I wanna learn it.

Oh. Rest.

He just went through the scrotum, right? A little pain, a little terror.

He scared me, OK?

The ingredients of the powder are terrifically varied.

There is the poisonous sea toad, Bufo marinus...

... the same animal Lucrezia Borgia used...

... made even more toxic by frightening it with a stinging sea worm.

And the puffer fish, which produces one of nature's most powerful poisons...

... tetrodotoxin.

Plus a whole pharmacy of herbs, minerals...

... charred, then ground and mixed with a skill that's astonishing.

All this is woven together with a net of magic beyond anything we know.

The process will take three days and nights.

Already there is no doubt in my mind that for all his joking...

... Mozart could give any Harvard PhD a run for his money.

You cannot eat the powder in food. That would kill completely.

The flesh would never rise to serve you.

Squeeze. The bones are brittle. It will come.

This is the last. Soon, it is done.

A good work.

It is a very frightening thing, blanc.

The first time, you can't tell good from bad.

Then, after a while, it is the very thing that sets you free.

It must be buried with her for one more day.

You want this enemy of yours pretty badly, to go through such pains, blanc.

I'm all right.

Did he take your woman or money? No.

Then why would you stand up to a crazy man like Peytraud?

Oh, yes. I hear these things.

The poison's not for him.

The poison's for nobody.

I wanna use the poison for good, to... help people who are sick.

My poison can be used in such a way, huh?

Yeah, I think so.

I think it can be known all over the world.

You will tell them about me? You will tell them the name of Louis Mozart...

...and they will know my work all over the world, huh?

All right, blanc. Come back in 24 hours and you will have your powder.

24 hours usually doesn't seem like such a long time.

In more relaxed times, I've felt a day go by like an hour.

But, as sweet as Marielle was...

... the day and night at the beach house lasted a lifetime.


Get outta here!

Dr Alan?




Marielle. Marielle.

We gotta get outta here.

Not this time, Doctor, we're beyond that now.

These canari hold the souls of those who were masters in the realm of the spirits.

Now their spirits serve me.

She knows I'm telling the truth, that such things are possible.

I know the price you will pay for what you have done.

The photographs we took today are quite convincing.

If you return, you'll be tried for the murder of Christophe's sister.

The courts will take your life, but that will be only the beginning.

After you're dead...

...I'll take your soul.

What'll happen to Marielle?

You go home.

She's home. She's Haitian.

I have no reason to hurt her once you're gone.

Just... leave, Dennis.

It is the only way.

By the way, Dr Alan, what did you dream about this afternoon?

The woman in your arms? The sea at your doorstep?


You dreamt of me and of the grave. I know because I was there.

And I can be there every time you close your eyes.

The pain I caused you in the room upstairs... nothing to the pain I can cause in your own mind.

Remember that, Dr Alan.

You promised me $1,000.

Did you forget your promise?

No, I haven't got it.

They took all my money.


...take it anyway.

But you will tell them about me, blanc.

You will make them know my name.

I will.

I'll let 'em know you're a man to be trusted.

On account, huh?

Fair enough.

You used baboon? I put the powder in the palms.

It went into the blood. 20 minutes later they were dead.

Or at least, they looked dead.

My God, are these numbers accurate?

Oh, yeah. The shift seems radical.

It's triple-checked. These are typical brain scans from our subjects.

It's very focused. It targets only certain areas of the brain.

Air and vital functions: Breathing, heart rate.

Looks like somebody turned it off with a switch.

But in the areas controlling sensory awareness, thoughts and emotions...


So the animals know what's happening to them?

Yeah, the entire time. A man would, too.

You'd hear, see, maybe even feel, think.

But you couldn't do anything about it. You'd just lie there, lookin'...

Dead... and be buried.

But you'd be alive.

And, I reminded myself, the tests revealed the powder wore off...

... after 12 hours or so, leaving the victim completely normal again.

Except by then he'd be six feet under in the airless black...

... clawing and screaming, with no one to hear his suffocation.


It's incredible how rumor’s spreading.

It's unbelievable. The company stock closed up a point and a half today.

All based on rumor about what Dennis brought back.

Thank you, darling. I'm just glad you got out all right.

The news says the whole country is in turmoil.

Yeah, I guess it is.

We're kickin' around a name for the product.

I can't believe I employ people who wanna call an anesthetic "Zombanol".

I mean...

It's... really good.

I gotta get some air. I'm sorry.

Excuse me for a moment.

I'm sorry.

We need to talk.

Something's wrong. I can feel it.

I've been trying to call for three days. There's no answer.

She could be away. Yeah. She could be in trouble, too.

I gotta go back there. Listen to me.

There's a door to the mystical, and you've just walked through it.

Right now, you are very vulnerable. I wouldn't go back to Haiti now.

You'd be a grade-school boy in a world of Nobel Prize winners.

I'd stay as far away from Haiti as I could.

What you have done is a major breakthrough. It's quite mind-boggling.

The only thing I don't understand is how did Christophe Durand survive?

How was he able to speak?


Well, as far as we can tell, somehow, I don't know how...

...someone dug him outta the grave so no brain damage occurred.

Is something wrong with your soup?

No. No, it's all right, I...

...I'm not hungry. Albert?

Dr Alan is finished with his soup.

Perhaps monsieur would like some salad instead?

No, I, uh...

...I've been having some stomach problems.

Occupational hazard - dysentery, botfly, malaria.

A toast? A toast?

To Dennis... his adventures, and to this marvelous discovery.

He rang to a... a new... a new... Debra? Sit down, Debra.

You're going to die. You've been warned. You're going to die.

Debra, Debra.

He's gonna get to me, wherever I am. I know that now.

I've stolen his darkest and most powerful secret.

He'll want to get even and if he can't get me, he'll go for Marielle.

Hey, I'm a US citizen!

I'm a US citizen! Somebody!

Hey, somebody!


Lucien snatched me from under the nose of the Tontons Macoutes.

Marielle was safe. She was guarded by his men at her clinic, he said.

But for Mozart and me, it was a different matter.

This will give you some protection, that's all.

Just like your scientific objectivity.

In this country, I haven't felt protected by anything.

You don't know what hasn't gotten to you.

I'm not afraid for myself.

A good thing. Up.

Remember, when the battle comes, it won't be fought in the streets.

It will be fought in your mind, in your soul.

Marielle was right. This must end.

These people, Peytraud, Duvalier...

They're not Haiti, they are mad dogs.

The madness must stop.

You're makin' a mistake. The president and me, we are like this... like this.

Something's wrong, isn't it?

We are in our spirits' hands now, you and I.

Remember, whatever happens...

...death is not the end.


Oh, fuck.

Help me. Please, help me.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Don't... don't let them bury me.

I'm not dead.

Anything? Pressure? Pulse?


We've lost him.

Write the time on the tag.

We'll notify the embassy tomorrow. No need for that, Doctor.

I've made all the arrangements.


He's dead. I trust somebody on your end will take care of the proper paperwork?

No, no, no. No rest.

You'll see it all. You'll feel it.

The cold in the coffin... is worse... much, much worse.

Lucien Celine, the great houngan... He serves me now, too.

Lucien can't protect you. I hold him fast!

Lucien will turn your blood to worms.

Oh, yeah? Do you hear me, blanc?

Her head will be taken as an offering tonight.

No, wait.

To keep you company.

When you wake up, scream, Dr Alan. Scream all you want.

There is no escape from the grave.

Ohh! Oh, God.


Here! Here!

Agh! Agh!

Oh, God.

You're alive.

You're alive.

I know it's bad, the poison.

You see things the living can't see.

This is WWBC in Miami reporting.

We've just received word from Haiti...

... that "Baby Doc" Duvalier, his wife Michelle and his family...

... are en route to the airport.

It's happening in the middle of the night...

... and no one knows what it means for sure.

It is confirmed now the Duvaliers are fleeing.

The scene at the airport was one of barely controlled panic.

Word is that revolution is sweeping the country...

... as news reaches the smaller towns and villages.

Liberté! Liberté!

- Liberté! Where is your power now?

The loas themselves are having their vengeance.

Liberté! Liberté! Liberté!

Your soul is mine.

Get up, Dr Alan. I control your thoughts now.

Get up!

Dennis! Dennis!

Help me.

Marielle. Help me.

Help me. Marielle.

Help me.


It's your fault.

It was your work... It was your work...

...that caused this. It was your work that caused this.










No. Help us, Lucien, please!


Hold on a second. I'm not gonna leave that thing in one piece.

No rest for you!

No rest for you, blanc!

You're coming with me!

You're coming with me to hell!

Son of a bitch!

I'm tired of this shit.

What do you want? I wanna hear you scream.




Are you all right?

- Liberté! Liberté! Liberté!