Fire Serpent (2007)
"The inferno is upon us"
Firefighter Jake Realm is battling a rash of unexplained fires when his partner Dave is killed by a strange tongue of flame which appeared to deliberately target him. A National Fire Investigator is brought in, under the watchful eye of a shady NSA agent, with the notion that this is the work of a suspected arsonist who keeps appearing at the site of the fires. However, it soon becomes apparent that the culprit is an extra-terrestrial fire creature which needs to find fuel in order to sustain its flame.
There have been some real turkeys in Sy Fy’s never-ending conveyor belt of cheap creature feature films but Fire Serpent is definitely there with the worst of them. Possibly the most generic example of their low thrills budget output, the film features a routine story of aliens and government cover-ups, a monster of unique but ultimately irrelevant origin, a pair of familiar television actors propping up the cast, some weak special effects and lots of filler and padding out in between poor action sequences.
Fire Serpent commits sin #1 of filmmaking – it’s painfully dull. I figured the film would follow the usual monster-on-the-loose conventions with a giant fire monster wreaking havoc on some small American town (as the cover would suggest) but instead what we get is body-swapping shenanigans and an X-Files-esque government cover-up. It’s the kind of story that will have your mind wandering off within the first twenty minutes – there’s no excitement, no thrills and no real engagement with the narrative. There is a decent idea in here somewhere, with the notion that these alien lifeforms have been arriving on Earth for centuries, with their existence inspiring passages in the Bible where they are viewed to be something angelic. The film does toy around with this religious aspect, but it’s mainly included to be the reason for one of the human characters to go all big-bad on the others and provide the film with its token human villain.
And this is the crux of the issue with Fire Serpent. On paper, there are some decent things but the translation across onto the screen is horrendous. The fire serpent itself doesn’t do an awful lot, burning a few buildings when it wants to but mainly restricting itself to blowing up vehicles and spinning around pipes and electric cables. It also leaps inside of people’s bodies and takes them over, giving them the ability to shoot flames from their eyes or hands before incinerating them from within. The body-swapping ability allows the filmmakers plenty of opportunities to avoid showing it in its ‘pure’ original form and save money on costly effects. When it does appear as the serpent of the title, it looks something like a dragon though there’s no logical reason why it would need to have a mouth and teeth if it’s a being made purely of fire which doesn’t need to consume food like we do to survive. There are no big rampage sequences where the monster runs amok in a small town. In fact, there’s very little of the monster at all. On a positive note, the fire effects are fairly convincing even if they are used too sporadically.
With the long-winded and drawn-out investigation taking the bulk of the running time, it’s down to the cast of characters to try and inspire something but the script is just another formulaic run-down of the usual cliches and sayings. In many scenes, I could predict the dialogue before it was said, particularly when it came to the shady NSA agent. His lines were straight out of the procedural rule book. Star Trek: Voyager alumni Robert Beltran and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon are the token names in the cast, with Beltran portraying the NSA agent bad guy whilst Brendon is the firefighter, both men showing precisely why they never progressed further than the small screen.
Two interesting side notes of no real purpose other than to pad out this review – William Shatner is listed down as the creator and executive producer, though quite what his involvement was as ‘creator’ remains to be seen. Also, director John Terlesky was previously an actor back in the 80s, starring in a few films I’ve reviewed such as Chopping Mall and Deathstalker II. Yeah, they weren’t really that interesting side notes, where they?
Fire Serpent is as bland a TV movie as I’ve seen, lacking the money, the vision and the talent to do anything worthwhile. It fits the bill of being friendly enough for the TV channels to throw on during the afternoon to kill some time in the schedules but there’s nothing meaty enough for more desiring genre fans to get their teeth into.
Director(s): John Terlesky
Writer(s): Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Judith Reeves-Stevens, William Shatner
Actor(s): Nicholas Brendon, Sandrine Holt, Randolph Mantooth, Robert Beltran, Lisa Langlois, Patrice Goodman
Duration: 89 mins