January 24th, 2008

THE SNAKE KING (2005) *

You know when you find yourself watching a crummy Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie about a giant mutant snake starring Stephen Baldwin, you’re not asking for quality, just a fun, stupid way to spend two hours. 

 

Well nothing about The Snake King is much fun, but it’s certainly a stupid way to spend two hours.

 

Then again if you find yourself watching a crummy Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie about a giant mutant snake starring Stephen Baldwin, I guess you probably get what you deserve.

 

Scientists find a mummified body in the jungles of the Amazon that they estimate is over 300 years old.  They deduce the reason the guy was so old was because he drank from the fountain of youth, so they send ANOTHER team of scientists back to the Amazon to find the mythical fountain.  Of course their helicopter gets struck by lightning and they’re stranded in the jungle.  Predictably they run into a giant CGI snake that’s also drank from the fountain of youth, which has caused it to grow to enormous size.   It also has the ability to regenerate itself whenever it gets cut and pretty soon, it grows more heads than Ghidrah. 

 

Which makes me wonder if the fountain is really the fountain of YOUTH?  It’s seems like the fountain of mutation to me. 

 

There’s also a lot of rigmarole involving the native tribe that worships the giant snake that gives a new meaning to the word DULL.  Seriously, every time these guys show up, you could probably take a bathroom break, smoke a cigarette, grab some potato chips, or do your taxes until the snake finally rears it’s ugly head again.  Make that heads.   

 

What really makes this flick disappointing is that it was directed by Allan A. Goldstein, the man who gave us the incredible Death Wish 5:  The Face of Death.  Unfortunately, this flick is closer to his 2001:  A Space Travesty than that Charles Bronson classic. 

 

Goldstein gives us the requisite annoying, lime-green tinted Snake-Cam stalking scenes you’d come to expect from a Sci-Fi Channel Original.  He also copies mercilessly from the plot of the immortal Anacondas:  The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, but whereas as that movie was cheesy B Movie Gold, this flick is just plain bad.  The hilariously awful CGI effects are good for a laugh (literally, A laugh), but by the fifth time the cruddy looking multi-headed snake interacts poorly with a human actor, you’ll just be shaking your head in disbelief. 

 

Even though the CGI work is slipshod, the gore is fairly decent, given what they were working with.  We see arms bitten off and people being bitten in half, but mostly the giant snake just swallows his victims whole. 

 

As for the cast, Baldwin is OK, even though he’s MIA for a lot of the movie due to a snake bite (which is probably fortunate for all of us) and Jayne (Sci-Fighters) Heitmeyer gets to act bitchy as the main scientist who realizes in the end that the secret of eternal youth just isn’t worth being chased by a mutated multi-headed snake. 

 

AKA:  Snakeman.

MEGA SNAKE (2007) ***

I’ve seen a lot of Sci-Fi Channel Original Movies about giant reptiles that have ripped off from Jaws, but this is the first one I can think of that rips off of Gremlins. 

 

A snake handling preacher goes to an Indian medicine man/tattoo artist to buy some inventory.  He sees this weird snake the crazy Indian has and inquires about it.  He tells him it’s Mega Snake (actually he gives him some fancy Indian name, but Mega Snake works just fine) and warns the preacher of the three Mega Snake rules:

 

Mega Snake Rule #1:  Never let it out of the jar. 

 

Mega Snake Rule #2:  Never let it eat anything living. 

 

Mega Snake Rule #3:  Never fear the heart of the snake. 

 

He tells him it’s not for sale, but the preacher man steals it anyway.  Predictably he lets it out of the jar, it eats a kitten and pretty soon EVERYBODY is fearing the heart of the snake. 

 

Remember when we were kids and we had those little spongy toys that would magically grow in water?  Mega Snake works on the same principal, except it magically grows whenever it’s skin touches the air.  And it grows A LOT. 

 

Mega Snake starts eating everything in sight, working it’s way up the food chain from kittens to chickens to dogs to goats until he starts biting the heads off of people like they were human gingerbread cookies.  Like in the classic Anaconda, the snake is bulimic and regurgitates his food in order to eat even MORE people.  Mega Snake chows down on a group of campers, swallows up a couple cops, eats a bunch of stupid rednecks, and tosses a few stoners down it’s gullet before finally setting his sights on the opening of the town’s newest amusement park. 

 

All I’ll say about the scene where Mega Snake saddles up to the Matterhorn and chomps the passengers’ heads off one by one as they go around, is that it sets the new standard for giant snake carnage in a Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie. 

 

In the end, our hero (the preacher man’s brother) watches in horror as his girlfriend gets swallowed whole by Mega Snake and HE JUMPS DOWN THE SNAKE’S WINDPIPE to save her.  Luckily, he doesn’t fear the heart of the snake and is able to give it a terminal case of heartburn before ripping a hole in the creature’s tummy and escaping. 

 

The only problem I really had with the movie is the no-name cast.  They aren’t BAD per se, but it’s always more fun to see washed-up B Movie actors getting eaten by CGI snakes then a bunch of people I’ve never heard of.  What’s wrong Sci-Fi Channel, couldn’t you afford Jeffrey Combs, William Shatner or a third tier Baldwin brother? 

 

I guess the money that would’ve gone to hiring a “name” actor went to the special effects because the CGI snake in this flick isn’t half bad.  The effects team blends the practical and digital snake together more or less seamlessly and the briefly seen gore ain’t too shabby either.  There’s a great scene where the snake wraps itself around it’s victim so tight that his brains shoot out the top of his head.  And then there’s of course that great Matterhorn scene.     

 

Director Tibor (The Gate) Takacs, who also directed the excellent Sci-Fi Channel flick Mansquito, scores another hit with this puppy.  He wisely keeps the amber-tinted Snake-Cam to a minimum and knows how to film giant snakes chowing down on rednecks. 

 

A grizzled Nam vet gets some great dialogue like:  “Young lady, I spent seven years in a Vietnamese prison camp.  I think I can handle a couple of animals,” but it’s the wizened Indian medicine man/tattoo artist who gets the movie’s best line:  “It is the body that the snake eats, but it’s the fear that it devours.”