Copperhead (2008)

Copperhead (2008)

The deadliest killers are always cold-blooded

A stranger arrives in a small town in the Wild West and warns them all that thousands of copperhead snakes are heading in their direction. No one believes him at first and he has a run-in with the local outlaws. But soon the town must band together when they realise he was telling the truth.

 

Meh – the killer snake sub-genre is quickly becoming one of my least favourite although it’s not like it was ever my favourite to begin with. Like zombie films, there’s only so much you can do with killer snakes (be they giant ones or just normal-sized) so when you’ve exhausted all possible settings and plots, what do you do? Why not do what the zombie genre has done with Undead or Alive and set it back in time in the Wild West? That put a novel spin on the stale zombie theme and it was pretty quirky watching the two genres collide (albeit it in a low budget sort of way).  As atrocious as Copperhead is, the Wild West setting gives it that little extra novelty value. I’ve seen it dubbed Snakes on a Wagon Train in some quarters and although that may be a little too ambitious, the film still does manage to deliver enough of the western setting to give it an edge over similar fare.

Ironically enough, the best bit of the film is the opening twenty minutes or so with the stranger heading into town to confront the gang that killer his friend and warn the town about the snakes. It’s standard western fare with the saloon, poker games, grizzled bartenders, sheriffs with twirling moustaches, shoot-outs and such like all coming to the fore. The sets look suitable, the costumes fitting and the whole thing looks like a professional TV-movie western. No frills or expenditure, just something that looks believable. The western stereotypes are all played up pretty early with the cowardly sheriff, the feisty whores, the dangerous gunslinger and his dim-witted yes men and, of course, the mysterious ‘Wild’ Bill Longley who rides into town and cleans up. The dialogue is all very cliché but at least it sounds like an old western and not just one with a load of modern dialogue. The score sounds like an cheap Sergio Leone western knock-off but it does what it has to do.

So far so good you’ll think but that’s because the snakes haven’t arrived yet. The shoot-out in town is the film’s highlight (which is brief but does as much to rip-off The Good, The Bad and The Ugly than anything else on show here) and things go downhill quickly from there. As soon as the snakes show up and start biting the extras, the film shifts into some goofy sub-par Tremors knock-off. The dialogue becomes less serious, some of the characters develop silly traits and the film just goes off the rails. The surviving townspeople decide to fight back with what they can so cue a visit to the local shopkeeper/inventor who has loads of gadgets waiting for them including a crude flamethrower and a Gatling gun. They’re all set for a showdown against the snakes but what should probably have been the finale actually turns into some run-of-the-mill action scene in which some minor characters get killed off and the rest of the survivors barricade themselves up in the saloon.

So now we’re in Night of the Living Dead territory as the snakes try to get in. But there’s one last surprise for the audience as it turns out there’s a giant snake on the loose too. I see no reason for them to have included it in here as the smaller snakes were doing just fine on their own. The killer snakes are all CGI and they look rubbish too. But what did you expect? There’s also a huge Copperhead snake lurking around too which looks like exactly the same snake as every single giant CGI snake ever made. The Sci-Fi Channel just rolls the same animation out over and over again and simply change the colour.

As per usual with the Sci-Fi Channel, the film was shot in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria to be exact) and features a whole host of bad supporting actors who butcher the English language at every opportunity. At least Brad Johnson, as Bill Longley, makes an effort and is pretty decent in the lead role. Although like the majority of the film, he works best when he’s in western-mode and not in giant-snake-mode. Billy Drago, a veteran of ‘weasels, runts and generally unpleasant people’ characterisations (his most famous role being Frank Nitti, the assassin from The Untouchables) pops up as the leader of the outlaw gang but unfortunately he’s run out of town way too early and before the snakes arrive. The banter between him and Johnson is pretty good during the card game so it’s a shame that this was thrown out of the window too soon to be effective.

 

Copperhead is the same old crappy giant snake flick in a western setting. It’s got a few ok moments and the Wild West setting certainly helps but at the end of the day, once you’ve seen one of these duff snake flicks, you’ve seen them all. Not the worst one out there and definitely worth watching over any of the dreadful Anaconda sequels (or pretty much any killer snake flick released since Anaconda).

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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