Silent Predators (1999)

Silent Predators (1999)

The hunt is on. You’re the Prey.

In 1979, a delivery truck transporting a deadly tropical rattlesnake in southern California is involved in an accident and the snakes manage to escape into the forest. Twenty years later and the construction of a new housing development disturbs a nest of these snakes which head straight towards the town and its residents.

 

John Carpenter supposedly penned this monster-on-the-loose flick as Fangs back in the 70s, presumably when he was slumming as an amateur filmmaker before he hit it big with Halloween. His original vision apparently included a lot of scares and disturbing scenes involving the snakes, which I can fully imagine as Carpenter wasn’t a slouch when it came to his films packing a punch. Fast forward twenty or so years later and the script is dusted off and eventually turned into this TV movie. Unfortunately someone seems to have misplaced the page with the good stuff on because Silent Predators is de-venomised snake mayhem at its TV movie-blandest.

Jumping on board the dreadful spate of recent *insert killer animal of the moment* on the loose flicks, Silent Predators is so by-the-book that it’s a wonder anyone could claim to ‘writing’ it as it seems to have been culled entirely from other sources. There must just be one generic script floating around out there which studios grab a hold of and replace one animal with another one. All of these films play out exactly the same, and are usually awful to boot. Here we’ve got the town which fails to address the obvious problem because it doesn’t want to lose the investment. Usually it’s some sort of festival they can’t afford to cancel and ignore the monster in the hope of saving the town’s finances but the housing development has become just as a big of a cliché. Characters act according to formula and not according to common sense (you know, doing stupid things simply to be put in a position of danger to try and generate some tension or further the plot).

Even their backgrounds and character traits are stock: there’s the hero with the shady past that he’s trying to put behind him; the greedy developer who is just thinking about profit; the local mayor who is stuck in the middle and makes some bad calls to save face. I had a game for the PC called The Movies in which you run your own film studio and could actually write and shoot your own films. You can select how your film will pan out using the various pre-filmed scenes in the game and you can replace characters at your choosing. Well I guess someone has been using a proper version of this game for years because this looks like it was simply patched together from a collection of pre-determined scenes. There’s no sense of cohesion with the film and some of the earlier scenes actually have more tension and purpose to them than the finale.

The choice of title is a bit puzzling when the snakes in question are rattlesnakes, named that because of the loud rattling noise that their tails make – hardly stealth snakes. Secondly they just look like ordinary snakes despite the plot saying that they’re mutated snakes. I guess I shouldn’t grumble too much as at least they are real snakes and not computer generated. The threat that they pose is never given enough time to really convince you that they could do some damage. The attacks aren’t scary and there’s too few of them to really worry about anyway.

I don’t know where he’s been hiding but Harry Hamlin, star of the original Clash of the Titans, stars in this film. I guess he’s a bright spot in an otherwise un-noteworthy cast, although there is a brief role Dominic Purcell who would go on to greater fame as Lincoln Burrows in the awesome TV series Prison Break.

 

The only surprising thing about Silent Predators is that the ending doesn’t leave itself open for a sequel. This is stuff you’ve seen before, and hated before too. I’m still not entirely sold on the ‘John Carpenter wrote this in the 70s’ stuff although the final product resembles nothing that Carpenter would ever have conceived making.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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