Horror maven Wes Craven
attempted a slight change of pace from his usual slasher movie milieu with this chiller loosely based on a true story. Bill Pullman
stars as Dennis Alan, a Harvard researcher sent to Haiti by a pharmaceutical company to investigate the zombie legend and any possible connection it might have to a rumored drug that could be used as a new breed of powerful anaesthetic. Once on the Caribbean isle, Alan is aided by a good voodoo priest or "houngan" (Paul Winfield
) and his daughter (Cathy Tyson
), who runs a local clinic. Alan's search also pits him against an evil houngan, Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae
). Peytraud also controls the Tonton Macoute (the Haitian secret police), who are involved with soon-to-be-deposed dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier. The Serpent and the Rainbow
was based on the book of the same name by Wade Davis
, an ethnobotanist whose real-life hunt for the zombie drug was credited with cracking the medical mystery behind the myth.